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The Right Honourable
 Arthur Henderson


In office
1 September 1931 – 25 October 1932
Monarch George V
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Stanley Baldwin
Succeeded by George Lansbury

In office
7 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Austen Chamberlain
Succeeded by 1st Marquess of Reading

In office
23 January 1924 – 4 November 1924
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Preceded by William Bridgeman
Succeeded by Sir William Joynson-Hicks

Born 13 September 1863
Glasgow, Scotland
Died 20 October 1935 (aged 72)
London, England
Political party Labour
Religion Methodism

Arthur Henderson (13 September 1863 – 20 October 1935) was a British Labour politician, who was the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; he served three short terms as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1908-10, 1914-17 and 1931-32.

Contents

Early life

Arthur Henderson was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1863, the son of a textile worker who died when Arthur was only 10 years old. After his father's death, the Hendersons moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England.

Henderson worked in a locomotive factory from the age of 12. After finishing his apprenticeship at seventeen, Arthur Henderson moved to Southampton for a year and then returned to work as an iron moulder (a type of foundryman) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He converted to Methodism (having previously been a Congregationalist) in 1879. This had a major impact on Henderson and he became a Lay preacher. In 1884, Henderson lost his job, and concentrated on his education, and preaching commitments.

Union leader

However by 1892, Henderson had entered the complex world of Trade Union politics, when he was elected as a paid organiser for the Iron Founders Union, and was also a representative on the North East Conciliation Board.

Henderson believed that strikes caused more harm than they were worth, and tried to avoid them whenever he could. For this reason he opposed the formation of the General Federation of Trade Unions, as he was convinced it would lead to more strikes.

The Labour Party

In 1900, Henderson was one of the 129 trade union and socialist delegates, who passed Keir Hardie's motion to create the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), and in 1903, Henderson was elected treasurer of the LRC, and was also elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Barnard Castle following a by-election.

In 1906, the LRC changed its name to the Labour Party and won 29 seats in the general election of that year (which was a landslide victory for the Liberal Party).

In 1908, when Hardie resigned as Leader of the Labour Party, Henderson was elected to replace him, and was leader for two fairly quiet (from Labour's perspective) years, before resigning in 1910.

Cabinet Minister

In 1914, the First World War broke out, and the then-Labour leader, Ramsay MacDonald, resigned in protest. Henderson was elected to replace him, and in 1915, following Prime Minister Asquith's decision to create a coalition government, became the first member of the Labour Party to become a member of the Cabinet, as President of the Board of Education.

In 1916, David Lloyd George forced Asquith to resign and became Prime Minister. Henderson became a member of the small War Cabinet with the job of Minister without Portfolio. Other labour and union representatives to join Henderson in Lloyd George's coalition government were; John Hodge and George Barnes. John Hodge became Minister of Labour whilst Barnes became Minister of Pensions.[1] Henderson resigned in August 1917 when his idea for an international conference on the war was voted down by the rest of the cabinet; shortly afterwards he resigned as Labour leader.

The coupon election and the 1920s

Henderson lost his seat in the "coupon election" of December 14, 1918, an election announced within twenty four hours of the end of hostilities in World War I that resulted in a landslide victory for a coalition formed by presiding Prime Minister Lloyd George[2] Henderson returned to Parliament in 1919 after winning a by-election in Widnes. After his election, he became Labour's chief whip, only to lose his seat in the 1922 general election.

Again, he returned to Parliament via a by-election, this time representing Newcastle East, however he lost this seat in the 1923 general election, but returned to Parliament two months later after winning a by-election in Burnley. He was appointed Home Secretary in the first ever Labour government (led by MacDonald). This government was defeated in 1924, and lost the following election partially because of the Zinoviev letter printed in the right-wing broadsheet the Daily Mail.

Unusually, Henderson was re-elected in 1924, and he refused to challenge MacDonald for the party leadership, despite being apparently begged by other MPs to do just that. Worried about factionalism in the Labour Party, he published a pamphlet called Labour and the Nation, in which he attempted to clarify the Labour Party's goals.

One interesting note is that the Communist Party and its leaders in the USSR, specifically Lenin himself, considered Henderson a dupe and held him and his positions in very low regard. In a 10 February 1922, letter to the Soviet Foreign Affairs Commissar Georgy Chicherin in relation to the Genoa Conference, Lenin wrote pejoratively:[3]

"Henderson is as stupid as Kerensky, and for this reason he is helping us. ...

Furthermore. This is ultrasecret. It suits us that Genoa be wrecked... but not by us, of course. Think this over with Litvinov and Ioffe and drop me a line. Of course, this must not be mentioned even in secret documents. return this to me, and I will burn it. We will get a loan better without Genoa, if we are not the ones that wreck Genoa. We must work out cleverer maneuvers so that we are not the ones that wreck Genoa. For example, the fool Henderson and Co. will help us a lot if we cleverly prod them. ...

Everything is flying apart for "them". It is total bankruptcy (India and so on). We have to push a falling one unexpectedly, not with our hands."

(Emphasis added.) There is no information as to whether Lenin's disparaging comments about Arthur Henderson have some relation to the coining of the phrase "useful idiot".

Foreign Secretary

In 1929, Labour formed another minority government, and MacDonald appointed Henderson as Foreign Secretary, a position Henderson used to try to reduce the tensions that had been building up in Europe since the end of the War. Diplomatic relations were re-established with the USSR and the League of Nations was given Britain's full support. The government was able to function properly, even without a parliamentary majority. However this did not last. The Great Depression plunged the government into a terminal crisis.

The MacDonald "betrayal"

The crisis began in 1931 when a key committee discovered that the budget was facing a serious deficit. This generated a crisis of confidence in the British financial system which threatened the Pound's position on the Gold Standard. The Labour Cabinet agreed that it was essential to maintain the Gold Standard and that the Budget needed to be balanced, but divided seriously over some of the measures proposed. Henderson found himself at the head of a minority of nearly half the Cabinet who could not accept a cut in unemployment benefit. With the Cabinet so clearly divided it decided to resign office. On 24 August 1931 it was announced the MacDonald was forming an emergency National Government with members of all parties in order to tackle the crisis. However the Labour Party repudiated this government, and the National Executive expelled from the party MacDonald and all other Labour members who supported him (Henderson cast the only vote against this). Henderson now became leader of the party as it became ever more hostile to the Government. With the economic and political situation still uncertain, the National Government decided to call a general election, and in the largest landslide in British political history, it won an overwhelming majority. Labour was reduced to just 46 MPs, and yet again Henderson lost his seat. The following year he relinquished the party leadership.

Later career

Henderson returned to Parliament after winning a by-election (Clay Cross), and spent the rest of his life trying to halt the gathering storm of war. He chaired the Geneva Disarmament Conference and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934.

Arthur Henderson died aged 72 in 1935. Two of his sons also became Labour politicians. His second son William was created Baron Henderson in 1945 while his third son Arthur was made Baron Rowley in 1966.

References

  1. ^ Hopkins, eric, A Social History of the English Working Classes, 1815-1945, Hodder and Stoughton 1979. p219
  2. ^ http://politics.guardian.co.uk/electionspast/story/0,15867,1450370,00.html
  3. ^ Handwritten note at the Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History, fond 2, opis 2, delo 1,1119. Published as Document 88 in The Unknown Lenin, ed. Richard Pipes, Yale University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-300-06919-7

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Joseph Pease
Member of Parliament for Barnard Castle
19031918
Succeeded by
John Edmund Swan
Preceded by
William Hall Walker
Member of Parliament for Widnes
1919–1922
Succeeded by
Christopher Clayton
Preceded by
Joseph Nicholas Bell
Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne East
1923–1923
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Aske
Preceded by
David Irving
Member of Parliament for Burnley
1924–1931
Succeeded by
Gordon Campbell, VC
Preceded by
Charles Duncan
Member of Parliament for Clay Cross
1933–1935
Succeeded by
Alfred Holland
Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Pease
President of the Board of Education
1915-1916
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Crewe
Preceded by
The Lord Newton
Paymaster-General
1916
Succeeded by
Sir Joseph Compton-Rickett
Preceded by
William Clive Bridgeman
Home Secretary
1924
Succeeded by
Sir William Joynson-Hicks
Preceded by
Sir Austen Chamberlain
Foreign Secretary
1929–1931
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Reading
Preceded by
Stanley Baldwin
Leader of the Opposition
1931–1932
Succeeded by
George Lansbury
Party political offices
Preceded by
New position
Treasurer of the Labour Party
1904–1912
Succeeded by
Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by
Keir Hardie
Chairman of the Labour Party
1908–1910
Succeeded by
George Nicoll Barnes
Preceded by
Ramsay MacDonald
General Secretary of the Labour Party
1912–1934
Succeeded by
James Middleton
Preceded by
Ramsay MacDonald
Chairman of the Labour Party
1914–1917
Succeeded by
William Adamson
Preceded by
Ramsay MacDonald
Treasurer of the Labour Party
1929–1936
Succeeded by
Arthur Greenwood
Preceded by
Ramsay MacDonald
Leader of the Labour Party
1931–1932
Succeeded by
George Lansbury
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

"ARTHUR HENDERSON (1863-), British Labour politi - cian, was born in Glasgow of working-class parents Sept. 15 1863; but his work and interests subsequently lay at Newcastle (where he served an apprenticeship as moulder at Robert Stephenson & Co.'s works), and in the county of Durham. He gradually became prominent in connexion with his own trade union and in the trade-union movement generally. After a while he took a leading part in local affairs, and was for some years a member of the Newcastle city council, and Darlington borough council. He was mayor 1903; and was made a magistrate for the county of Durham. He entered Parliament for Barnard Castle as a Labour member, at a by-election in 1903. When the Labour party were first returned to Parliament in force, in 1906, he soon made his mark as one of their leaders. In 1907 he took a prominent part in advocating the ending, rather than the mending, of the House of Lords; and in 1908 he was elected chairman of the party, a post which he held for two years and to which he was reelected in the autumn of 1914 when the then chairman, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, had to resign owing to his pacifist views. As chairman, at the opening of the new session in that autumn, Mr. Henderson promised the full support of organized labour in maintaining the " splendid unity " of the nation.

When Mr. Asquith formed the first Coalition Ministry in 1915, he included Mr. Henderson in the Cabinet as President of the Board of Education, and also adviser of the Government on Labour questions arising out of the World War. Indeed his functions as Labour adviser so occupied his time and attention, that it was thought desirable to relieve him in Aug. 1916 of the Board of Education, and give him the practical sinecure of Paymaster-General, so that he might be free to devote himself to the more congenial part of his work. Throughout the Ministry Mr. Henderson showed himself resolved on a strenuous prosecution of the war. He warmly advocated both the Munitions bill and the Registration bill, and had no hesitation in taking the further step of compulsory service, asserting, on the first Military Service bill, that the choice was between compulsion and defeat, and on the second bill, that the first had brought in more men than was expected and, therefore, that there was every reason to anticipate the success of the second. He followed up this action by strongly urging the Labour party to rally in Dec. 1916 to Mr. Lloyd George, and by accepting himself the position of an original member of the War Cabinet of four without portfolio. In consequence of his prominence as a labour protagonist of the war, his life was threatened, along with the Prime Minister's, by the conspiracy of a Derby family of anarchists, who were duly convicted, and sentenced to considerable terms of penal servitude, in March 1917.

After the revolution in Russia in the spring of 1917 Mr. Henderson visited that country on behalf of the British Government. He found there, as he subsequently explained, the most confused ideas current as to the aims of the Allies in the war, and deliberate perversions circulated by enemy agents. The then Provisional Government at Petrograd favoured an international Labour and Socialist Conference, which was being promoted by the International Socialist Bureau and was to meet at Stockholm. They pressed Mr. Henderson to use his influence with British Labour to attend this Conference; and he, believing the Conference to be inevitable, came to the conclusion that, provided it were merely consultative, it would be better that British representatives should go, rather than permit Russian representatives to meet German representatives alone. He returned with these ideas to England, and, being still secretary of the Labour party as well as a member of the War Cabinet, used his influence as secretary to promote British Labour participation in the Conference. But though the majority of Labour men were apparently in his favour, public opinion in other classes was strongly against any conference with Germans in the midst of war. The Sailors' and Firemen's Union refused to carry the delegates. Mr. Henderson visited Paris in the company of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald to discuss the situation with Labour over there, but found that neither French, nor Belgian, nor Italian, nor American Labour was disposed to join. Moreover, all Mr. Henderson's Labour colleagues in the Government opposed his views; and on Mr. Lloyd George expressing the surprise of the rest of the War Cabinet at his action and their dissent from his policy he resigned and was succeeded by Mr. George Barnes.

The attitude of Labour internationalism was maintained by Mr. Henderson out of office, and he warmly espoused the Labour policy of the latter part of 1918, to take the Labour men out of the Government and appeal for support on a Labour platform, in conjunction with the pacifist wing of the party. This policy cost Mr. Henderson his seat in Parliament at the General Election of Dec. 1918. He was defeated by a candidate of the National Democratic party in East Ham, and none of the Pacifist Labour men with whom he had made common cause found their way into Parliament. He himself returned to the House of Commons at a by-election for Widnes in Sept. 1919. He strongly promoted the League of Nations in the early part of that year; he attended the International Socialist Conference at Berne; and in Dec. 1920 he paid an informal visit to Ireland in the hope of promoting peace. (G. E. B.)


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