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The art of the possiblePolitics and governance in modern British history, 18851997: Essays in memory of Duncan Tanner$
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Chris Williams and Andrew Edwards

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090714

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090714.001.0001

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Cartooning the rise of Labour, 1900–21

Cartooning the rise of Labour, 1900–21

(p.67) 4 Cartooning the rise of Labour, 1900–21
The art of the possible

Chris Williams

Manchester University Press

J.M.Staniforth (1863-1921) was for the best part of three decades one of Britain’s most prominent and popular cartoonists, his work reaching a wide audience at home and abroad. This essay examines Staniforth’s response to the rise of the Labour party. As a Conservative himself, Staniforth observed the labour movement’s flexing of its muscles within the constraints of the informal Lib-Lab alliance with wry detachment. Sympathetic to the older, more moderate generation of leaders, he was more antagonistic towards explicitly socialist and independent labour elements. Hostile depictions of Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald were the norm. Working-class male voters and trade unionists, however, were often represented, before the Edwardian ‘labour unrest’, as guileless, prone to be misled and misused by their self-serving leaderships. In the last decade of his life Staniforth moved away from depicting the essential innocence and naivety of the British working man to a more suspicious and fearful representation focusing instead on volatility, bloody-mindedness and the threat that the organized working-class was held to present to the safety and security of the British people as a whole. A study of this influential cartoonist offers insight into certain elements of contemporary public opinion regarding the rise of labour.

Keywords:   Cartoons, Rise of Labour, Representation, Public Opinion, Newspaper Press

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