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George Lansbury

George Lansbury, born 22 February 1859 Halesworth, Suffolk, was a British politician and socialist and poor-law reformer.

The Lansbury family moved to the East End by the end of 1868, and it is where Lansbury spent the majority of his life. His work for poor-law reform is seen when he was elected Poor Law guardian for Poplar, where he proposed a programme of reform to make the workhouse an agency of help, rather than a place of despair. In 1905 Lansbury was appointed to a Royal Commission on the Poor Laws. He along with Beatrice Webb of the Fabian Society, argued to the complete abolition of the Poor Laws, and they were abolished by the Local Government Act 1929.

In 1910 he became a Labour MP but resigned two years later and focussed his attention to fighting for the suffragette movement. He openly defended violent methods at the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) rally at Albert Hall in April 1913 and was sentenced to three month’s imprisonment for this.

Lansbury founded the Daily Herald in April 1912, a paper he personally edited until 1922, and after this time the Daily Herald became the official Labour party newspaper.

Lansbury became the first Labour mayor of Poplar in 1919 and also led the Poplar Rates Rebellion in 1921. The council decided not to pay its precepts, choosing instead to apply these revenues to the costs of local poor relief. This action led to legal proceeding and 30 Labour councillors including five women went to jail.

He was re-elected as Labour MP at Bow and Bromley in 1922 but was left out of government when Labour won the election in 1924. He went onto become the leader of the Labour Party in 1931, a position he held until 1935. Lansbury died in 1940 aged 81.

Black and white photo of councillors outside council offices including George Lansbury on the left next to his wife Bessie

[P09145] Black and white photo of councillors outside
council offices
including George Lansbury on the left next
to his wife Bessie