In the 1880’s it was clear that most working class people’s problems related directly to the recession. In 1873 the British Economy was in trouble.
Stock prices went down and businessmen lost money. As a result of this many working class people became unemployed, and Britain went into a recession.Around the 1880’s the Working class had nobody to voice their opinions in parliament. Class divides and snobbery from the upper classes meant that unless you were a land owner, had a large income or a title you couldn’t gain a seat in parliament. The upper classes dominated parliament and working class people had no one to stand up and represent them.
A seat in parliament was exclusive to upper/middle classes which left the working class at a disadvantage because this meant no-one would stand up for their rights, as the upper/middle classes looked down on them and saw no reason to help people who weren’t in the same class bracket as them.In 1870, the Forster’s education act gave workers more power to vote with. They now had the right to vote, but despite this, there was still no party which they felt understood their needs and no party which they could relate to.
The Liberals and Conservatives were very upper class and there was certainly no place for the working classes growing list of needs in either of the party’s manifestos.At the time, one of the most influential groups around was the trade union. Workers would pay a fee, and this would cover them in case they were off work sick or injured. However, the trade union was only for skilled workers, and not people in manual labour jobs, such as Dockers. A lot of strike action took place thanks to the trade union’s input. In 1888 there were 500 strikes in Britain. This was good for the workers but didn’t help either business or the economy.
One of the most famous strikes that has ever taken place was the London Dockers strike. The London Dockers did lots of easy, unskilled work, but were treated extremely bad and the pay was terrible. The workers went on a march all through London.
This gained an unprecedented amount of media attention and support. To show just how poor they were, the Dockers carried Fish heads with them. A lot of the Dockers were on such little pay, that they couldn’t afford to eat properly. They would eat whatever they could find, which invariably tended to be bits of fish that they had found around the docks. The fish that they carried on the march was to symbolise what most of them were forced to eat for dinner each night. This strike was one of the most important ones because it was the first to gain such coverage and attention from the media worldwide.Around 1888, a socialist group called The New Trade Union was set up.
This basically gave unskilled workers the powers that only the skilled workers had before with the original trade union. They Organised members on an Industrial basis and raised political and economic questions. They believed in no class divide, putting working class and upper class people on a par, and giving them the same rights.By 1900 the Trade Union Congress was formed and by 1900 it had 2 Million members. This group was made by the working class, for the working class. For a while things were good, the TUC organised strikes whenever there were unsatisfactory working conditions. However, in the 1901 Taff Vale case a number of Dockers went on strike for extra pay and succeeded.
The employer of the Dockers felt it was unfair that he had to pay them extra money, and he appealed to the House of Lords. The House of Lords is made up of wealthy land owners who inherited their titles which in turn earn them their position in government. These wealthy land owners showed no favour to the working class Dockers and supported their employer. They ruled in favour of the employer and the workers had to pay ï¿½23,000 in compensation.This acted as a major wake up call for the TUC, as they now realised that they could no longer just strike when they felt like it and get what they wanted. They realised they needed some form of representation in parliament.This was now possible, as the TUC could now pay the wages of their representatives in parliament without them having to keep a job as well.
In 1903, the independent labour party formed a secret pact with the liberals, later renamed the lib-lab pact. This combined the ILP’s growing popularity amongst the working classes and the liberal’s experience with regards to handling elections. Their plan was to dislodge the conservative party from power in Britain permanently. The ILP later became the Labour Rep Committee due to growth.
In conclusion, I feel that at that time the workers didn’t have many options open to them, and that is why there was great need for the LRC. They had the power to vote but there wasn’t a party which they felt represented their needs. They needed a party that understood them, and hopefully, one which could do something about their current plight.The Taff Vale case showed workers that they could no longer just strike to get what they wanted, and that they desperately needed representation in parliament. It proved to be a major turning point in history, and one which had great repercussions.Also, now that workers could get a wage to represent in parliament, there was no real reason why workers shouldn’t step up and represent the working class in parliament.