Small glazed terracotta bust of James Keir Hardie (1856-1915) From the Tony Banks collection, 3rd May 2007 Bonhams.
The first Socialist MP in Parliament and Labour MP for West Ham South.
James Kier Hardie was born on 15th August, 1856 in Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Keir Hardie in Parliament.
An extract from his Election Address of 1892 reads as follows:
"I have no sympathy whatever with a system which robs the nation of its wealth, acts as a drag on industry, and cheats Labour of its own.
'I would cordially support all forms of legislation which would rid honest industry of the useless idler, whether personified in the absentee landlord, the sweating shareholder, or the gambling and swindling stockbroker.
'My first concern is the moral and material well-being of the working classes, and, if returned, I will in every case place the claims of Labour above those of Party. I reserve to myself the absolute and unconditional right to take such action, irrespective of the exigencies of Party welfare, as may seem to be needful in the interest of the workers". - J. Keir Hardie, 1892
In the 1892 General Election Hardie stood as the Independent Labour candidate for the West Ham South constituency. The result was:
J. Keir Hardie ... 5,268
Major G. E. Banes (Con.) 4,036
He campaigned for the reform of Parliament the payment of MPs and the abolition of the House of Lords. In 1893 Hardie helped form a new socialist group, the Independent Labour Party (ILP). At the opening conference, he was elected chairman and leader of the ILP.
In the 1895 election he lost the seat to Major Banes, the Tory candidate he had beaten in 1892. Major Banes held the seat until 1906, virtually forcing Hardie off the local political stage. However, in the 1900 General Election, Hardie was elected as MP for Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, one of only two Labour MP in the House of Commons.
Later political career.
After loosing his parliamentary seat in 1895, he devoted most of his energy to improving the organisation of the Independent Labour Party. For a long time Hardie believed that trades unions and socialist groups should join forces and form one large political party. In 1900 a meeting took place in London that resulted in the formation of the Labour Representation Committee. This developed into the Labour Party.
Hardie spent many years trying to build up the Labour Party, eventually becoming leader of the Parliamentary Labour party. In 1906 Labour won 29 seats and in the 1910 election 40 Labour MP's were returned.
Hardie also disagreed with many members of the Labour Party over the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. He was a pacifist and tried to organize a national strike against Britain's participation in the war. Despite being seriously ill, Hardie took part in several anti-war demonstrations and as a result some of his former supporters denounced him as a traitor.
James Keir Hardie died on 25th September, 1915.
West Ham did not forget Keir Hardie: in 1907 he was presented with an illuminated address from his friends, admirers and supporters, and the Keir Hardie housing estate in Canning Town is named after him.
From Newham Heritage & Archives collection