George Lansbury was a British politician and social reformer. He led the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Originally a radical Liberal, Lansbury became a socialist in the early 1890s. His main causes were the promotion of social justice, women’s rights and world disarmament. He spent his final years travelling through the U.S. and Europe.
About George Lansbury in brief
George Lansbury was a British politician and social reformer. He led the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935. Originally a radical Liberal, Lansbury became a socialist in the early 1890s. His main causes were the promotion of social justice, women’s rights and world disarmament. Lansbury’s pacifism and opposition to rearmament put him at odds with his party. He spent his final years travelling through the U.S. and Europe in the cause of peace and disarmament, and later emigrated to Australia with his wife and three children. He was the third of nine children born to a railway worker, also named George Lansbury, and Anne Lansbury. His father’s job involved the supervision of railway construction gangs; the family was often on the move, and living conditions were primitive. He attended schools in Bethnal Green and Whitechapel. He then held a succession of manual jobs, including work as a coaling contractor in partnership with his elder brother, James, loading and unloading coal wagons. In 1881, the first of his children, Annie, was born; another daughter, Annie Bessie, followed in 1882. The family decided to emigrate to Australia, where they lived in Queensland for the rest of their lives. In 1880, he married Elizabeth Brine, whose father owned a local sawmill. The couple eventually married at White-Chapel, where the vicar, J. Franklin Kitto, had been his spiritual guide and counsellor.
Apart from a brief period of ministerial office during the Labour government of 1929–31, he spent his political life campaigning against established authority and vested interests. In 1912, he helped to establish the Daily Herald newspaper, and became its editor. Throughout the First World War the paper maintained a strongly pacifist stance, and supported the October 1917 Russian Revolution. He devoted himself to local politics in his home borough of Poplar, and went to prison with 30 fellow-councillors for his part in the Poplar ‘rates revolt’ of 1921. After the political and economic crisis of August 1931, he did not follow his leader, Ramsay MacDonald, into the National Government, but remained with the Labour party. As the most senior of the small contingent of Labour MPs that survived the 1931 general election, he became the Leader of the Party. In the 1935 Labour Party conference, he resigned the leadership, and when his position was rejected at the party’s annual meeting, he went on to serve as an MP for Poplar until his death in 1958. He died in London in 1958, and was buried at St Paul’s Cemetery, in the East End of London. He is survived by his wife Annie, his two daughters, and his son-in-law, the former MP and the former Prime Minister of London, David Blunkett. He also leaves behind a wife and a daughter, Anne Bess Bess, who he married in 1881.