LABOUR AND THE POLITICS OF DRINK IN INTERWAR BRITAIN
Speaker: Dr Peter Catterall (University of Westminster)
The idea that drink, drinking cultures and public houses had a material effect on nineteenth-century politics has long been familiar, not least through works such as Brian Harrison’s Drink and the Victorians (1971). That drink continued to have an influence into the inter-war years has been pointed out, for instance, in John Ramsden’s chapter on the 1922 Newport by-election in Cook and Ramsden’s edited work on By-Elections in British Politics (1997 ). The interaction between drink and drinking interests and political activity in inter-war Britain has not yet, however, been more fully explored.
This paper seeks to address this gap by examining the ways in which both drinking interests – including working-class organisations such as the Club & Institute Union – and temperance campaigners tried to mobilise voters to their respective causes. In the process, it demonstrates that the Labour party sought to and eventually succeeded in defusing drink as a political issue, such that by the end of the 1930s the Morning Advertiser, the newspaper of the licensing victuallers’ trade, was endorsing large numbers of Labour as well as Tory general election candidates.
This need to defuse this issue was partly because of the diversity of opinion within Labour itself, reflecting the hybrid origins of the party and the different social groups to whom Labour hoped to appeal. Accordingly, the paper also casts light on the way in which Labour was able to penetrate traditionally Tory as well as Liberal working-class culture in the inter-war years.
Dr Peter Catterall is a Reader in the Department of Social and Historical Studies at the University of Westminster. He has edited and co-edited a number of works, including Understanding Post-War British Society (1994), The Making of Channel Four (1999) and Northcliffe's Legacy: Aspects of the British Popular Press, 1896-1996 (2000); he has also edited the published versions of former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's diaries and contributed articles to journals including Twentieth Century British History, Contemporary British History and Political Quarterly.
Time and Date: 5:15 PM, Monday, 11th March.
Location: Bloomsbury Room (Room G35), Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
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