One of the earliest women MPs for Labour, suffragist Dr Marion Phillips, turned up to speak at this meeting in support of Cambridge Labour’s newly-selected MP-candidate Hugh Dalton.
Dalton, a close friend of the then recently deceased poet Rupert Brooke, and a former student at King’s College, Cambridge, would go onto become Minister of Economic Warfare in Winston Churchill’s wartime government in 1940, and Chancellor in 1945 under Clement Attlee.
Transcribed from the British Newspaper Archive above.
“A largely-attended mooting of the Women’s section of the Cambridge Labour Party was held the Higher Grade School [today, Parkside School in the Parkside Federation] Melbourne Place, Cambridge, Monday night.
Mrs [Leah] Manning presided, and the principal speakers were Mr Hugh Dalton, the prospective labour candidate for the borough, and Dr Marion Phillips (Chief Woman Officer of the National Labour Party). There were also on the platform; Mrs [Ruth] Dalton, Mrs A. D. McNair, and Mrs Rackham.
Sir Eric Geddes and The Cooperative Tax.
[Note Sir Eric Geddes was the MP for Cambridge and Minister of Transport]
Mrs. Councillor Rackham, in the course of a short preliminary speech, alluding to the proposals to tax Co-operative Societies, said the Borough Member. Sir Eric Geddes, had been written to on the subject, but the answer received from him told them just nothing at all about what his views were on the question. In further remarks, Mrs. Rackham said the Women’s Section of the Labour Party wanted, in the first place, all women workers, women co-operators, and the wives trade unionists, to join them.
“In the second place, they wanted some more women candidates for the Town Council. urged that for the sake themselves, their children and their homes, among many other reasons, the women should join the Labour Party.
The Coming Fight.
“Mr. Hugh Dalton began by expressing his conviction that the great political fight that was coming would be between Labour and the Coalition Party, which, whatever they might call themselves, would be the same old gang who had messed and muddled and held things back during the last four or five years. The Labour Party in the House of was small but very active, and if all the Bills had been passed that they had brought forward should be getting on a long way towards the new and better world they had beard to much about.
“But their Bills bad been hung and obstructed, and until sufficiently strong labour Party was returned to Parliament we should never get things done, but would have to go on in the same bad old way as hitherto.
“Mr. Dalton reminded his hearers that the Labour Party was the only Party that had stood consistently for the political rights women from the first, and went on allude the remarkable growth of women’s trade unionism in recent years, and in this connection congratulated the Cambridge college servants upon having formed a trade union.
“Coming to the co-operative movement, Mr. Dalton declared that the Labour Party were absolutely clear that they wore going to fight any proposal impose taxation upon co-operative societies. The proper method of taxation was direct taxation of those who were best able to pay. (Applause.) It was not fair to tax co-operators, already very heavily taxed indirectly, and many of them below the income tax limit.
Co-operation and Nationalisation
“The Labour Party looked forward to seeing the co-operative movement gradually take over the whole of the retail trade of this country, and possibly other developments that he would not go into that night. In connection with nationalisation, they looked the cooperative movement to nominate their representatives representing the workers organised as consumers, to give them their counsel and coming and sitting upon the bodies that direct the industries that were nationalised.
“The Labour Party were not going to have the co-operative movement handicapped and weakened by any attempt to tax it, and believed this would bring the co-operative and Labour movements into closer union than ever before. (Applause)
“Coming to the subject of high prices. Mr. Dalton said the causes were within their control. He noticed that in the case of beer and spirits the Government, anxious to retain the favour the consumers, bad been careful fix a maximum price, that the whole the extra taxation was not passed the consumer. If they could do that in the case of beer and spirits, they could do it with tea, sugar, etc. (Applause.)
‘They could also help to reduce prices by making with Russia. It was time they stopped subsidising people to fight against each other, and time that peace was re-established throughout the world, and the nations begin to trade together and establish friendly relations once more. (Applause.)
The Government’s Financial Position.
“Turning to the Government’s financial policy. Mr Dalton urged that the Government ought have conscripted wealth during the war in the same way they conscripted the lives of the youth of the country, and helped to pay a larger part of the cost of the war out of taxation, instead of borrowing two-thirds of the money. As a result of the Government’s policy borrowing from the banks and giving them paper money in return, we had a great flood of paper money in the country.
“Mr. Dalton quoted Prof. Pigou [Arthur Pigou, economist at Cambridge University and a contemporary of John Maynard Keynes – he appealed against being called up during the First World War] the effect that as much as 30 per cent of the rise of prices in this country was due the Government’s financial policy during the war, and the issue of all this paper money. Another cause of high prices was the removal war time controls just when they ought to have been kept on. Mr Dalton particularly instanced the case of the control of wool.
“In conclusion. Mr Dalton emphasised That the Labour Party wanted the help of women in connection with public health, housing, education and women’s work of every kind; they wanted them to help humanise politics; they wanted them help foreign affairs, particularly international policy, believing that the will of the women throughout the world was for peace, and not for war. (Applause.)
“If women would only come forward this way, they believed that there would much less likelihood of any more war. One of the greatest things women could was turn their eyes towards the outer world, and all the millions of fellow-men and women in other countries. and help become partners and comrades with them.
“They would help wipe out the cruelty and muddle and sinfulness the past, and wipe the slate clean, and write upon it new and happier chapter of world history.
“Everyone con do something; by every woman working and doing her little bit she can help to build up the new world mean to have.” concluded Mr. Dalton. “If ourselves cannot enter into it, at any rate our children shall.” (Applause.)
Nationalisation of Industries.
“Dr Marion Phillips dealt at some length with profiteering, and urged that the root of the evil lay in present capitalistic system, which encourages everyone in trade to get at much possible out of it. She alluded to the findings of the Commissions that had inquired into the operation of the great yarn and cotton spinners, and declared that the result of the operations of trusts was that free competition came to an end.
“The only kind of trust that country ought to tolerate was the one for which everyone was equally responsible – a trust of the whole nation. Instancing the ease of cotton threat, she said that if they tackled this they would either have to make the present trust come under the control of Government and have all its costings controlled from beginning end, and the price of cotton settled without allowing undue profit, or the nation would have to take over the whole of the cotton trade. (Applause.) That was really the simple proposition that Labour made when it talked about the nationalisation of industries.
The Woman in the Home
“Dr Phillips pointed out that there was one class of worker in the community that worked longer hours than anybody else, doing manual labour and brain work as well—the woman in the home.
“She had to do very hard and difficult manual work, and had tax her brains try to bring up her family and raise its standard of life on an inadequate wage. As her family grew, it needed more, and as it became better educated it desired a higher standard of life. That was brain work which very few people would care to tackle if they knew beforehand exactly what it was like. Yet what did she get for her work?
“The. better she did it the less leisure and money she had to spare. Why did she do it? Because of the love she bore to those around her, because she wanted that little group around her in the home to be happy she could possibly make it. And doing this she was doing a great service to the community.
“In similar way. Dr. Phillips went on submit, if the wage earners of the country felt that they were working, not to make greater fortunes for one class of the community only, but for the people to get the value and the use of the goods they produced, she was certain that every wage-earner would work with far greater heart and success. (Applause).
“In further remarks. Dr. Phillips declared that the Labour Party had always stood for a strong Food Ministry, control of all source commodities, and seeing that food was not only good in quality, but right in weight.
“In conclusion, she drew a moving picture of the plight of the Central Empires and its effect on the economic ‘position of the whole’ world, and made an eloquent plea for good feeling between all the peoples of the world. The Labour Party wanted to see better men and women the world over, and believed that the only way to secure this was by re-organising on the basis of co-operation, by ending the fierce rivalry between the nations, and by substituting friendship and understanding between our people and between other peoples even to the ends of the earth.
The meeting terminated with a vote of thanks to the speakers.”
Note Dr Marion Phillips’ call for a society and economy based on co-operation is similar to the call that Eglantyne Jebb made in December 1914, shortly after war broke out. See Eglantyne’s article here.
Supporting my future research on the story of Cambridge the town
If you enjoyed this article and are interested in the history of Cambridge the town and the people who made our modern city, please support my research in bringing their records of achievement to wider audiences. Click here if you would like to make a donation or take out a small subscription to support my ongoing work.