Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hayes Labour Association

The impact of the first ten years of the Hayes Labour Association 1910-1920
“Not his masters voice - but the workers voice”


Hayes in 1901 was a sleepy agricultural village in West Middlesex owned by just a handful of landlords. With a population of 2,594. However, at the turn of the twentieth centaury it was transformed in the space of ten years into one of British Empires major centres for the mass production of the new technologies of the day, such as gramophones, typewriters, and printing. Its population increasing from 4,261 in 1911 to 8,394 by 1921.

It was the decision of Hayes Development Company to acquire land adjacent to Great Western Railway (GWR) in 1899 to build modern factories upon. The choice of Hayes for the site of so many new factories was according to the local newspaper no accident “The Advertiser February 1907” for the following reasons: -
a) The short distance from London
b) Accessibility to rail and canal routes
c) Lower council rates
And ironically
d) Because the labour market in London was not controlled by the London Trades Union Council

Ironic because, Hayes would become one of the most trade unionised areas in Britain, exerting considerable influence on a local Labour party which itself would dominated Hayes politics for the next one hundred years.

The formation of Hayes Urban District Council The original Hayes Parish council was established in 1894, it was reported that the councillors consisted of “five socialists and four gentlemen” this is however very doubtful. With the national re-organisation of Local Government the Hayes Urban District Council was formed in1904 but with only limited voting rights for men and non for women.

As with many other councils at the time, a number of local dignitaries were elected to govern. Indeed such was the lack of political debate on the new council that the councilors referred to themselves as the “happy family”.

The landlords of Hayes were renound for their refusal to sell land for small holdings or to build houses and accordingly were viewed with bitterness by the local working people of Hayes who were expected to “doff their hats and curtsey” to Shackle family and other landlords, a bitterness that remained palpable amongst a number of early Labour Party activists well into their old age such as Clara Barney.

During this period key debates at council meetings revolved around issues such as the treacherous state of the Hayes roads, often impassable because of mud and the hazard to health of Hayes pond.

Early yeas of twentieth century their was increasing unemployment in the West Middlesex area, George Lansbury who would later become famous for the Poplar Council revolt, spoke on unemployment at Uxbridge town hall October 1905. But the only real option for many poor in the district was migration to Canada and Australia.

By 1905 the Liberals felt strong enough once again to challenge the Conservative monopoly of on the Uxbridge Division, It had not even contested the previous election. As perspective Parliamentary Liberal candidate Sidney Pocock pointed out “Liberalism had been dead and dormant in the division for 20 years” . Locally on Hayes Council attempts to maintain the “happy family” in power were helped by the lack of political activity.

At the 1906 Hayes Council election it was stated “Election fever is apparently unknown to Hayes”At present no radical candidate is before the constituents and it really is not a matter of surprise, it is no joke to fight in the radical interest in this division”

But things were starting to change George Moses a Grocer of stood as a “progressive” and was elected in 190 he was joined by George Lowe a famous horticulturalist in 1908, as was the staunch independent but progressive leaning Israel Ellis, Headmaster at the Hayes Industrial School for Jewish boys.

One of the key reasons for the move to secure the election of progressive candidates to local councils, was in order to secure trade union rates of pay for council employed staff, this was known as “fair wages” and it was around this that political debates on Hayes UDC crystallised in July 1908.

The local newspapers attitudes to political developments was polarised with the Gazette wholeheartedly supporting the Conservative Party and taking every opportunity to attack the emerging Liberal, Labour and Socialist movements. Meanwhile the progressive forces had in Mr Hanson the editor of the Middlesex Advertiser from 1906 a close friend of the Labour Party founder Kier Hardie The Gazette warned in 1908 for example that

“The coming enemy is socialism and socialism of the Victor Grayson, Blatchford, H.G Wells and G.B.Shaw are not to be answered by a policy of sops they must be met by a railing back to the united principle that have led the United Kingdom and the Empire on a path of sure and sane, if apparently slow progress”.

Meanwhile the progressive cause recievied a major injection of radicalism, when the newly completed factories required skilled and un skilled labour. These positions were often filled by unemployed workers from the Midlands, North of England and Wales. These workers not only brought with them a strong commitment to trade unionism but also to the newly emerging Labour Party.

While work could now be found in Hayes accommodation and lodgings were hard to come by and of dubious quality. It was estimated that two thirds of the workers employed in the new factories traveled from the surrounding conurbations of Southall and Acton. An early survey conducted by the Hayes Labour Association highlighted the level of the problem. According to the Association over 2,000 men traveled to Hayes by rail and a further 1,000 by bicycle, tram or walking. The Association noted that some workers traveled over 21 miles to work in Hayes. It is therefore unsurprising that housing would later become such a dominant issue in the rise to power of Labour Party in Hayes and would leave an indelible mark upon the future geography of Hayes.