​​
A Brief Introduction |  The Early Years | Blackburn 1900-1906 | Blackburn 1906-1918 
After Blackburn from 1918-1937 | Conclusion | An Epilogue | Sources | Appendix


 
  ​ ​Philip Snowden
​Viscount Snowden of Ickornshaw
 
“He came limping into the lists on foot a pallid hatchet faced young man, and leaning heavily on a stick, one foot dragging helplessly on the ground.  Philip Snowden wrought a miracle.  That election will never be forgotten by those who saw it, men in their greasy caps, and carrying their ‘kits’ (a metal container for carrying liquid, usually tea, the top of which could be taken off and used as a cup and were often enamelled) hurried from the mills to his meetings, and sat as if hypnotised”.
 
Thus wrote A. G. Gardiner in his book ‘Prophets, Priests, Kings’.  He had been Assistant Editor of the Northern Daily Telegraph in 1900 when Snowden stood for election in Blackburn.
 
He went from a working-class family to Chancellor of the Exchequer and became the first Labour M.P. for Blackburn. One of the Party’s first twenty-nine M.P.’s, who would end expelled from the Party he helped to form.
 

 
 
 

The Early Years 

 
jPS09.jpg 
This is Cowling where Philip Snowden was born, as it looks today.
 
Philip Snowden was born on the 18th July 1864 in Ickornshaw, a textile community in the village of Cowling near to the West Yorkshire town of Keighley.  Both his father John, and his mother Martha were weavers in the local mill, as were later his two elder sisters.  His family were very much involved in village life, mainly through the Wesleyan Chapel.  John, his father later became Superintendent of the Sunday school, where at five Snowden started his education.  At ten he moved to the local Board School, not to the mill as was usual.  He said that he refused to start work in the mill.  By thirteen he was a pupil teacher being taught by the headmaster before he taught the younger children.  He was also a teacher at the Sunday school, and together with most of the village took “the pledge”.  His family expected him to become a schoolteacher but this was not to be; the mill closed in 1879, and the family moved to Nelson.  Snowden’s full-time education ended.
 
Nelson at the time was a Radical centre, and soon Snowden was drawn towards politics.  He obtained a job with an insurance company in Burnley.  During the next six years he went to practical meetings and lectures, his opinions tended towards the Radical Liberals.  He did however take up the idea of ‘Free Trade’, and his views on this were maintained throughout his life.  In 1885 at the age of twenty-one he took, and passed the entrance exam for the Civil Service.  Twelve months later he accepted the position of Assistant Revenue Officer, in the Customs and Excise Service, at a salary of £50 per year, plus 2s. 0d. (10p) per day expenses.  His first posting was Liverpool, then Aberdeen; he was seconded from there to the Orkneys.  In 1891 he was working in Redruth on £67 a year, plus his two shillings a day expenses.  Whilst in Redruth he bought a cycle for work and pleasure.  He began to suffer from back pain and sometimes had difficulty walking.  That August he became paralysed from the waist down, the result, he said, of a fall from his bicycle.  It was thought, however, that he was suffering from “Potts Disease”, tuberculosis of the spine.  He was placed on sick leave returning to Cowling to be nursed by his mother.  He was walking again within three months.  The speed of the recovery caused a relapse, and he spent most of the next twelve months flat on his back.  He put the time to good use by reading political books and writing for the local newspapers.  Revival was slow; in fact he was never to fully recover, needing the help of sticks for walking for the rest of his life.  On the 14th November 1893 he was discharged from the Civil Service with a gratuity of £30 16s. 
 
For the next seven years Snowden’s income came from doing the accounts of neighbouring farmers, and small businessmen, writing for newspapers, and giving political lectures.  He joined the I.L.P. (Independent Labour Party) in 1894 and secured his first public office, membership of the Cowling Parish Council.  He came to the notice of the Labour and Socialist activists of Keighley, and was soon speaking at their meetings; he also began to speak at public meetings in other towns.  In the summer of 1895 he won a seat on the Cowling School Board campaigning as a Socialist.  The I.L.P. had gone national at a conference in Bradford in 1893, at which Keir Hardie had been elected leader.  Snowden was to stand for the I.L.P. at Keighley in the 1895 election, but funds ran low and he withdrew.  He continued to give public speeches for the I.L.P. about the north of England, and in 1898 became a member of its National Administration Council.  The same year he took over the editorship of the Keighley Labour Journal at a salary of 8s. 0d. (40p) a week, no wonder he continued to write for other newspapers.  In 1899 he was elected to Keighley Town Council, and the School Board.  On the outbreak of the South African war the I.L.P. condemned the policy of the British Government, Snowden’s Keighley journal entered the so-called Boer camp.  He thought that a war was alien to the Socialist creed.  It was a mean war he said, the power of a mighty empire used to crush the independence of a farmer state.  He was against the cost of the war, and distrusted the government’s imperial adventure.  In February 1900, Snowden was part of the I.L.P. delegation to the conference of Socialist organisations, and trade unions held in the Memorial Hall, Farrington Street, London who set up the Labour Representative Committee, the immediate predecessor of the Labour Party.  At this meeting he became cautious to the Labour Party, and had little respect for the trade union leadership.  Though he been prospective I.L.P. candidate for Keighley for sometime, he agreed to fight the General Election of autumn 1900 in Blackburn.
 
 
jPS07.jpg 
 The cottage in which Philip Snowden was born is at the top of this lane.
 
 
back to top
 
 

Blackburn 1900-1906 

 
 
  This is number 2 Leopold Street where the Snowden's stayed when they were visiting Blackburn.
 
It’s strange that Philip Snowden should choose to enter the 1900 election in Blackburn, rather than in his native Yorkshire.  His political message was more akin to Liberal Keighley, than Tory Blackburn.  Since becoming a two seat constituency in the 1832 Reform Act, the town had returned mainly Tory members to Parliament drawn from the elites of millowners, or local yeomanry.  The two sitting members in 1900 came from the ‘millocracy’.  Sir Harry Hornby, and Sir William Coddington.  It was seldom that Blackburn Members of Parliament troubled the scribes of Hansard.  ‘Sir Harry’ spent twenty-three years in the House, never making a speech, though elites held the Tory Party together in the town, they provided the jobs, most of the social outlets, the pubs and clubs, they were even behind the town’s successful football team.  The local Liberal’s were totally disillusioned and would not contest the election.  As for the working-class movement, it was small, and worse still fragmented.  There had been a branch of the Social Democratic Federation (S.D.F.) in the town since 1833, but by 1900 could only muster about a hundred members most of them from the lower middle-class.  A branch of the Fabian Society had been formed in 1892 only to fail, re-emerging the following year as the local branch of the Independent Labour Party (I.L.P.) The third working-class movement in the town was the Trades Council made up from local trade unions, it operated separate to the I.L.P., and S. D. F.  The largest trade union in the town was the Weavers Association whose membership included 16,000 women; one of its branches had expelled a member for being too Socialist.  Some progress had been made on the Town Council, in 1900 it included four members from the Trades Council, and two were from the I.L.P. and S.D.F.  The latter had combined to publish the Blackburn Labour Journal.
 
Though Snowden had spoken to I.L.P. meetings in the town prior to the election, he was virtually unknown to the electorate.  The election known as the “Khaki Election” was contested at a time in the Boer War when things were going well for the British.  This did not stop Snowden from speaking against the conflict; he called it “a mean war”.  When asked about this his reply was “what are empire, and glory to a weaver with a pound a week”.  This, the first of his election campaigns was perhaps his best, with little cash, and few helpers he became the most talked about man in the town.  He made Socialism, a serious threat to the complacent Tories, who issued posters and leaflets saying “Down with atheism, Socialism, and anarchy”.  Though he came bottom of the bottom of the poll, his 7,095 votes were the best by the I.L.P. candidate in the country.
 
The Result: Hornby (Conservative): 11,247.  Coddington (Conservative): 9,415.  Snowden (Labour): 7,096.
 
The Snowden experience gave to a boost to the working-class movement in the town; the I.L.P. opened its own club, to join the established S.D.F. club.  Both were used for political and social events, Snowden often coming back to the town, intending to stand again at the election.  Council elections were contested, and by 1905 they had twelve councillors to the Liberal nine, but as yet they were no real threat to the Tory majority.  In 1902 he contested Wakefield in by-election, but failed to win the seat.  The next year he became Chairman of the I.L.P., and took over the Labour headed from Keir Hardie.  Due to his dynamic management the circulation increased from 13,000 to 24,000.  Under his chairmanship membership of the party increased, he also improved the party’s publicity, he himself producing 1d. pamphlets.  One of these, an attack on Chamberlain’s tariff reform idea’s sold 40,000 copies.  On the 17th March 1905 aged forty he married Ethel Annakin a school-teacher in the Otley Registry Office, she was twenty-four.  Ethel was well into Women’s Suffrage, and soon Philip began to speak on the matter.
 
In 1905 he returned to Blackburn starting his campaign one month before the January 1906 election, this time he would face opposition from one Liberal, and two Tory candidates.  It was a strenuous crusade he spoke to a least two meetings a night, on the 8th January, a dual meeting was held at the Exchange, and Town Hall, where he was supported by Keir Hardie. 
 
The conservatives put out posters saying: - "Vote for Hornby and Drage’, ‘Th’ Old Gam’ Cock and the Young Gam’ Cock’. 
 
Labour’s replied:- ‘We want a Gam’ Cock that con feight’, ‘Snowden con.  He’s o’reight’.
 
Snowden fought his campaign against protectionship, and against the expansion of the Empire saying “the money spent on Empire could have been better used to help the nations poor”.  Hornby was taken to task over his attitude to trade unions.  On election day (16th January) the rain was incessant yet 95% of the electorate voted.  The result was a triumph for Snowden, he came second, and Blackburn had elected its first Labour Member of Parliament.
 
The Result: - Hornby (Conservative) 10,291, Snowden (Labour) 10,282, Drage (Conservative) 8,932, Hamer (Liberal) 8,892.
 
The Liberal Party won the election; Snowden became one of the twenty-nine Labour M.P.’s enough to form a distinct group with Keir Hardie as leader.  For Philip Snowden it was a double achievement a working-class man elected to Parliament, and doing so as a cripple.  He was forty-one years old.
 
 
 
 

Blackburn 1906-1918 

 
jPS05.jpg 
 ​This is a cartoon which was printed in 'The Workers' Tribute in September 1909.
 
 
Snowden made his maiden speech on the 12th March 1906 in favour of Free Trade it was well received by what could be a most critical assembly.  In 1909 Lloyd George introduced his ‘Peoples Budget’, Snowden claimed that most of the ideas in the budget were Labour's.  No wonder then that the House of Lords threw it out.  Parliament was dissolved and Snowden came back to Blackburn for a new mandate.
The town’s working-class movement though stronger in numbers was short of money to fight the election.  In an effort to raise cash, 3d. (1 ½p) (1) stamps were sold, which supporters stuck in their caps, (another source asserts that 10,000 6d. (3p) (2) pieces were collected).  Another dialect poster was printed saying: -

Wey sed eawr Gam’ Cock cud feight
Hesn’d he done?
Well vooate o’reight.
 
 Sir Harry Hornby at odds with the Conservative’s over its attitude to Free trade would not stand.  Snowden had been a good constituency M.P. and was well supported by the working-class movements.  Once again he came second in the poll.
 
Result January 1910: - Barclay (Liberal), 12,064, Snowden (Labour), 11,916, Cecil (Conservative), 9,307, Bowles (Conservative), 9,112.
 
This government only lasted eleven months; it tried to reform the House of Lords, failed, and fell.  During the Parliament, though the ‘House’ had approved a Women’s Suffrage Bill, Asquith refused to give it any time so it fell.  Snowden warned that there would be trouble ahead, the Suffragettes would make this so.  Both Ethel, and Philip would be heckled at some of their meetings, and they supported the women’s cause.  He was on a lecture tour in America when the second election of 1910 was called, only arriving back in England a week before Polling Day.  A well-planned welcome had been arranged; he was taken in an open carriage from the railway station to the market square escorted by a torchlight procession.  Here 40,000 (3) people were waiting for him.  It was impossible for him to make a speech due to the cheering, singing, and chanting of the crowd.  'I am here to celebrate a certain victory' was all he could say.  This time he topped the poll.
 
Result in December 1910: - Snowden (Labour), 10,762, Norman (Liberal), 10,754, Boyd-Carpenter (Conservative), 9,814, Riley (Conservative), 9,500.
 
The period 1910-1914 was one of much industrial unrest.  The miners, dockers, and railwaymen held strikes; there was even a call for a national strike.  Snowden claimed that change must come through the ballot box, that strikes only hurt workers, union bosses did not trust him, and the feeling was mutual.
 
When war came in 1914 the Snowden’s were lecturing overseas, he returned when the war was in its ninth month.  In February 1915 he spoke to a meeting in the Princes Theatre, Blackburn, his speech was very much anti-war, he said those making money from it, should pay for it.  He was never the pacifist with a capital ‘P’, but disliked war because of its cost both in money, but more importantly young men’s lives.  The Mayor of Blackburn, Alderman Thompson asked Snowden to assist the recruiting campaign, he declined saying: -
“I refuse to ask any young man to sacrifice his life before me.  I am not going through eternity haunted by ghosts of slain young men who lost their lives because of my inducing them to join the Army”.
 
In 1916 the Government introduced conscription for single men, Snowden made a bitter speech against it.  The local Trades Council regularly passed resolutions of support, and he was still trusted by ordinary folk, even those who disagreed with his views on the war.  In 1917 a long-cherished dream of Snowden’s was achieved when Parliament introduced universal suffrage for men at twenty-one, and votes for women over thirty.  When the German accepted armistice terms in November 1918, Lloyd George called an election on a wave of jingoism, and anti-German feelings.  Snowden came north knowing that his anti-war sentiments would do him harm.  Not even he could have envisaged the humiliation to come.  He was faced by two coalition candidates, one of whom just happened to be a war hero, having won been awarded the Victoria Cross at Zeebrugge.
 
Result: - Norman (Liberal Coalition), 32,078, Dean V.C. (Unionist Coalition), 30,158, Snowden (Labour), 15,274.
 
Thus ended Philip Snowden’s political connection with Blackburn.
 

 
 

 After Blackburn from 1918-1937 ​

 A photograph of the first Labour Cabinet in 1924. Philip Snowden is pictured third from the left.
 
His Blackburn experience behind him, Philip Snowden must have wondered about his future, he was fifty-four years old, and both he, and the Labour Party seemed light years away from Parliamentary power.  He still had two years left, as I.L.P. Chairman, and both he, and Ethel were able to earn good money from the lecture circuit both home and abroad.  They both wrote for newspapers.  In 1920 he gave up the Chairmanship of the I.L.P., and became its Treasurer for twelve moths.
 
Parliament beckoned again, he was asked to stand in the 1922 General Election for the Colne Valley.  He won, and defended it three times, increasing both share of votes, and majority each time.  It seems that Colne Valley fell under the Snowden spell just as Blackburn had.  In 1923 the Conservatives went to the country on a ‘Protectionist’ platform, Labour who had more ‘Free Trade M.P.’s than the Liberals formed a minority government.  Snowden became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and introduced what was called the “Housewife's Budget”.  Duty was reduced on some foods, (e.g. 1 ½p off sugar) and unemployment benefits were increased by 3s, (15p), for both men (15s-18s, 75 to 90p), and women (12s-15s, 60p-75p) at the same time children’s allowance was doubled to 2s (10p).  In October 1924, the Government fell due to the messy handling of the Campbell case, he, the editor of the ‘Workers Weekly’, published an article regarded as an incitement to soldiers to mutiny.  The Public Prosecutor was told to bring proceedings but after a cabinet meeting these were withdrawn, the Government lost a vote of confidence, and resigned.  A letter published in the ‘Daily Mail’ terminally hurt Labour’s election campaign.  The letter later found to be a forgery, was purported to have been sent to the British Communist Party, by the President of the Communist International giving advice on subversive activity.  It was alleged that the government were suppressing the contents of the letter (zinovier letter).  During the 1926 National Strike, Snowden, not surprisingly made no intervention bringing from Churchill the comment “he remained as mum as a mouse”.  He resigned from the I.L.P. in 1927 after it had criticised his rigid economic policy.
 
In 1929 the second Labour Government was formed under the leadership of Ramsay McDonald, Snowden returned to the Treasury, in this minority administration.  From the start the government was beset by economic and unemployment problems, to which it had no solutions.  Forced to find additional revenue he increased direct tax in his 1930 Budget, and the following year made no important changes.  He was forced into setting up the May Committee, whose report was instrumental in the government’s downfall.  Sir George May recommended reductions in government spending including a cut of 20% in unemployment benefit by ten, and not the twenty per cent asked for.  He took Britain off the Gold Standard on the 21st September 1931; eight days later he was expelled from the Labour Party.
 
The National Government went to the country on the 27th October for a new mandate and was preceded by a bitter campaign.  Snowden, angered by what he thought was a betrayal by the Parliamentary Party and the unions, called the economic party of the Labour Party “Bolshevism gone mad”, in a broadcast he made on the 17th October.  This broadcast is given credit for the defeat of Labour at the election, but moved up to the House of Lords, as Viscount Snowden of Ickornshaw the first prominent Socialist to do so.  He became Lord Privy Seal in the new government, but resigned in September 1932 when it abandoned ‘Free Trade’.
 
He was not a well man, but continued to write for newspapers getting £100 for one monthly contribution to the ‘Sunday Express’.  In 1935 he made an election broadcast on behalf of the Liberal Party.  He died of a heart attack on the 22nd May 1937 two years before the Second World War, a war he had predicted at the Twenty-Seventh Annual I.L.P. Conference in 1919.  He had said:
“The terms to be submitted to Germany are not peace terms.  They will not end the war.  The new war has already begun.  The Armageddon has not yet been fought.  The final struggle has yet to be decided”.
 

 
 
 ​​Conclusion 
 
 A photograph of Philip Snowden which appeared in 'The Blackburn Labour Journal in Spetember 1909.
 
Philip Snowden came from that branch of the Labour Movement whose idealism was more Methodist, than Marxist.  He was an individual in what was becoming a collectivist organisation; he was never a team player.  This perhaps made his political downfall inevitable.  Those early Socialist evangelists have never been given the credit they deserve and Snowden was one of them.  They were willing to take on the political system of the time, and to change it.  With no media support, little money, and few members they still managed to crack the system.  When they started their endeavours Britain was a two party system, Tory and Liberal.  From the twenty-nine Labour M.P.’s of 1906 came the nucleus of that first Labour government of 1924, who replaced the Liberals in the two party state.
 
Snowden was a product of that small Yorkshire textile community steeped in its traditions of Non-conformism, teetotalism, and the fear of debt.  He came from a people whose meagre savings were for the bad times, and their old age, a most independent people.  Chance brought him to politics, at first a Radical Liberal, who later became a Socialist, not of the confrontational kind, more the co-operative.  In the early days of the I.L.P. and Labour Party financial matters were left to Philip, which may explain his orthodox stubbornness at the time of the economic crisis of August 1931.  Here was a Socialist government coming to the aid of the capitalist system, and there was no other option.  He had seen what had happened in Germany in the early 1920s, how the poor had suffered the most from hyper-inflation, this was not going to happen to the ordinary people of Britain.  He taken almost all of the flak for the economic disaster of autumn 1931, yet in truth the finger could be pointed at others.
 
The Churchill decision to go on to the Gold Standard in 1925 at the pre-war (1914-1918) rate, it was far too high making our exports overpriced.  Then we have the doyen of economists, Keynes who first held Free Trade views, only later to become Protectionist, who said to keep off the Gold Standard, and then told Snowden to stay on it.  The terrible May Report that started the run on Britain’s gold.  Should not the London banks take their share of the blame, it was they, who borrowed short, to lend long.  The seeds of Britain’s ills were sown on Wall Street on the 24th October 1929.  Both Labour Governments of 1924, and 1929 were minority administrations that had to satisfy both sides of the House of Commons or fail.  In the end they could not please their own members, Snowden put his country first while the Labour Party backed its own narrow agenda.
 
That then is the answer to the question.
 

 
 
 

​​An Epilogue 

 
jPS02.jpg 
 
 On the 22nd May 1937 a crowd of upwards of three thousand people climbed Padcote Hill on Ickornshaw Moor, on a cold, wet, windy day.  They had come to witness the scattering of the ashes of Philip Snowden on the place that he in his childhood had spent so many happy hours.  Only two Members of Parliament were present, Sir Ben Turner and Mr. Ben Riley, both old comrades from the I.L.P.  There were no representatives from the Labour Party, or its Blackburn branch.  This would probably have pleased Snowden, for he amongst ordinary people, returning his love for them.
The following summer, Lord Sankey, another old comrade unveiled the Memorial Cairn that stands in solitary splendour to this day.
When Ethel Snowden died on 22nd February 1951.  She was also cremated and her ashes were scattered about the cairn.  There is a memorial tablet to her below that of her husband.

  
 
 
 
 
 

​​Sources 

 
(1) ‘Snowden’, Colin Cross.
(2) ‘The Blackburn Times’, 13th November 1909.
(3) ‘The Blackburn Weekly Telegraph, 3rd December 1910.
Most of the primary sources for this study were found on two visits to Keighley Public Library, from the Snowden Collection.  His autobiography, ‘Keighley Newspapers’, and the Keighley Labour Journal.
Other primary material was gathered at the Public Library in Blackburn from microfilm of the ‘Northern Daily Telegraph’, ‘Blackburn Labour Journal’ and ‘The Blackburn Times’, and ‘The Blackburn Weekly Telegraph’.
Secondary Sources
‘Philip Snowden’, Colin Cross.
‘Philip Snowden’, Keith Layburn.
‘Philip Snowden, His Early Political Career’, J. M. Hodson.
‘To Build a New Jerusalem’, A. J. Davis.
‘The Development of the British Economy 1914-1980, 3rd Edition’, Sidney Pollard.
‘The Decline of Power 1915-1964’, Robert Blake.
‘England in the Twentieth Century’, David Thomson.
Secondary sources were used in the main for cross-referencing purposes.
 
 
 
In 2002 I became a “reader” in the Special Collections of the John Ryland’s University Library of Manchester situated in Deansgate [Manchester]. For the next few years while doing courses in Manchester I would spend Tuesday afternoons at the library trawling through the English Manuscripts or Charter and Deeds guides. There was never a dedicated search; just any item that attracted my attention, some of those I would have photocopied. Here I must thank the counter staff of the library who drew out and photocopied with such good grace. The photocopies were then put in my files for further use.
One collection that of Ramsey MacDonald was of particular interest, he was the first Labour Party Prime Minister. His chancellor was Philip Snowden on whom I had researched for a project at Blackburn College. This was later put on Cotton Town. In the collection were a number of letters from or about Snowden or his wife Ethel.
The First of these is a letter from Snowden to MacDonald reproduced here;
 
 
01 Letter form Snowden to MacDonald RMD_1_2_60.jpg

Joseph Chamberlin “Radical Joe” had been a Member of Parliament for Birmingham since 1876; he had a stroke on the 13th July 1906, and was expected to resign form Parliament. Snowden had been created M.P. for Blackburn in 1906, “but,” he said, “This part of the country is not so important as Birmingham.” What would the Labour Party members of Blackburn have thought about this sentence? They had worked hard since 1900 to get Snowden elected as one of Blackburn’s M.Ps. The more I thought about this apparent disregard of Blackburn I realized why. Snowden was one of the early “evangelist socialists” they who had tramped the north of England spreading the socialist gospel. Had he not forsaken socialist Keighley to come and fight “Tory Blackburn”? Birmingham would be a new challenge, in the event this never happened, for “Radical Joe” carried on as a member of parliament until 1914. Yet Snowden was right, for when Birmingham went Labour, so did most of the Midlands.
The second Letter is one from Snowden to MacDonald written in 1907.
 
David Shakleton had been asked to become President of the Trades Union Congress, but had refused. Snowden had stood down to allow Shackleton to win the Clitheroe bye-election in 1902. In the letter he says he thinks Shakleton is after some concession, a sign of weakness. “Do you think that from our point of view it would be best to have a weak man if we are to have a mere trade unionist?” He seems to have got his way, for Shakleton became president of the T.U.C. in 1908. In 1910 Winston Churchill asked him to join the civil service, and Shackleton left Parliament.
 
The Third Letter is from John Bruce Glasier, editor of the Labour Leader, written on the 30 May 1907, to Ramsay MacDonald.
He writes about Ethel Snowden’s book, “Women and Socialism”, wanting a woman to review it. He doesn’t want to do it as, “I don’t like the book and am avowedly prejudiced against the writer. The most of our militant writers are what our forefathers would have called “barren bitches”. The idea of state payment of mothers for children seems to me the negation of human social physiology.” He further states, “It’s the capitalist system of paying for goods received.” In a note on the side of the letter is written; “So the writer has made Mrs Philip Snowden a member of the Woman’s Fabien League executive. Oh me!” Ethel Snowden was never a popular person with the “left wing” of the Labour Party. In 1919 a delegation was sent to Russia by the Labour Party. She was almost alone in not being taken in by the Communist Government, making them detest her even more.
 
The forth letter is from Snowden to MacDonald, written on the 10th October 1907.
The Tory papers of this time were calling the Labour Party a “party of Atheists and Free-lovers”. Snowden wanted a Socialist Manifesto signed by the clergy of all denominations to refute this, in pencil at the bottom of the letter MacDonald agrees.
 
The fifth letter is from Snowden to MacDonald, written on the 11th September 1907. It is a follow up to one written in July of that year. Albert Victor Grayson had been elected to Parliament by the Colne Valley constituency in the summer of 1907. Though fighting the seat for the Independent Labour Party, he refused to sign the Labour Party constitution. Snowden writes; “He bluntly told me his intention was to force the rupture in the Labour Party and that he should use his opportunities by private conferences with I.L.P. branches to agitate for that end. He is gone off his head-his position will require re-consideration before we can pay him £210 a year to ruin the I.L.P.” Grayson seldom attended the House of Commons, and he lost Colne Valley in 1910, losing his deposit. Grayson suddenly disappeared in 1920, in mysterious circumstances which are still unexplained. Snowden must have made good contacts in Colne Valley for after loosing Blackburn in 1918 he became their M.P. until 1931.
 
Transcript of the above Letter.
 
10 Barons Court Road
West Kensington W.
17 Oct. 07
 
Dear MacDonald.
I have long been of opinion that if we can break the chamberlain spell in Birmingham the whole Midlands will be ours, with Chaimberlain’s withdrawal from public life our opportunity comes. We must do it. But who is to do it?
I would like to take the job on but it is a serious matter and one requiring careful consideration. Do you believe in Fate, or Ruling influence or whatever you care to call the thing? I have long had a desire to go in for attacking Birmingham. But there is Blackburn. I have been there since last Thursday and have had wonderful meetings, the enthusiasm is at Election height. But this part of the country is not so important as Birmingham. We must take it over seriously.
I saw the report of your great meeting at Bradford. We must fight this anti-Labour party more.
Sincerely yours
Philip Snowden
 
 
Thanks are due to the John Ryland’s University for their kind permission to reproduce the letter RMD 1/2/60. Snowden to RMD re Blackburn. Also from the following letters;
RMD 1/2/78. Snowden to RMD re Shackleton.
RMD 1/2/26. J. Bruce Glasier to RMD re Ethel Snowden.
RMD 1/2/61. Snowden to RMD re Parsons
RMD 1/2/35. Snowden to RMD re Colne Valley.