Blast from the past – how much has changed though?

Just a quicky post re the Election.  I was talking about this to someone this morning and got out my great-grandfather’s electoral address for the 1892 London County Council elections.  He stood with Lawrence Stevens for the two seats in the Southwark (Rotherhithe) division as candidates for the Progressive Party.  Both he and Stevens won their seats.  Sadly Stevens died in office and my great-grand-father resigned two years later.

The Progressive Party was set up in 1888 and centred around the Liberal party and the leaders of the labour movement and had support from the Fabian Society (Philip Webb stood on the Progressive Party ticket for the first LCC elections in Jan 1889).

My great-grandfather, Dr James Macnamara, was the dockers’ man.  The issues seem to be health, housing, living wage, fat-cat landlords and employment.  Not much has changed it would seem in over 100 years.  I also note that he makes a lot of the fact that he and Stevens were ‘workers’ – not career politicians, or rich men with nothing else to do.  James Macnamara was a medical doctor, born and educated in Ireland he came to London to begin work as a Doctor.  He was also involved with the Board of Guardians and finished his career as Medical Officer of the Ladywell Institute in Lewisham (this was a new type of ‘workhouse’ that acknowledged that the old and infirm were entitled to their rest rather than to work until they dropped).

“To the Electors of Rotherhithe


Having been selected by a Public Meeting of the Progressive and Labour Organisations of Rotherhithe to contest this Division at the forthcoming County Council Election in the interests of the workers and the cause of reform, we now, in asking your support, desire to state as briefly as possible the principles which shall guide us if elected by you.

  1. We shall endeavour at all times to so limit the hours of labour for employees of the Council that every opportunity shall be afforded to them of enjoying those mental and physical recreations necessary to the development of good citizens. As a means towards that end we shall insist on one day’s rest in seven.  We shall also see that they be paid the rate of wage acknowledged as fair in each particular trade and calling.
  2. We shall use every effort to secure for the Council all those powers which will make it a veritable Parliament for London, with full authority in accordance with the wishes of her people to control the Water, Gas and Electric Supply; also Docks, Tramways, Omnibuses, and Markets, and perhaps most important of all, to control and revise our Hospital system.
  3. We shall push forward the important question of providing suitable dwellings for the workers, to compete with, and, if possible, supplant the six-per-cent-philanthropy hovels where necessity now compels them to reside.
  4. The question of Sanitation, of municipal lodging-houses, of the proper supervision of our Theatres and Music Halls, and their provision if necessary by the Council, shall have our earnest support.
  5. In the equitable adjustment of taxation, we as workers ourselves take a strong interest, and earnestly believe that ground rents and values should pay a larger proportion of the rates now levied on the occupiers for the permanent improvement of our City, thereby relieving the already over-burdened ratepayers, the shopkeepers who are fleeced by their landlords for the right to live, and who in turn are driven to inflict a tax upon toilers that these same landlords may live in luxurious ease in West End Mansions. We must end all this, and you workers of Rotherhithe can do your share towards that end by returning us at the head of the poll.  We desire that the shopkeeper, the artisan, the labourer shall live in comfort and in peace, and not be starved into premature graves in order that, as we have said   before, a few landlords and capitalists may be able to indulge in a cheap kind of 6 per cent. Philanthropy.  Are there any other points on which you require information?  If so, we shall be only too pleased to see you, and answer them at the various public meetings we intend to address.

Do you wish the Council to have control of the police?  Then give us your support.

Are you anxious that no honest toiler shall be without work, and consequently without bread, if the Council can prevent it?  Then go to the poll and make your friends go too, and record their votes for STEVENS and MACNAMARA. We do not appeal to you for your support.  We simply say the record of our services demands it from you.  That record is before you.  One of us claims to have given you three years’ faithful service to you on one of the Local Vestries, and two years’ service to the poor on the St. Olave Board of Guardians.  Do these services deserve your recognition?  It is for you to decide.  We make one appeal to you, and one alone.  Do not allow personal considerations to weigh with you.  We do not ask your support on personal grounds.  We ask you votes because the principles we profess, which principles we believe are most conducive to the welfare of the community, and if you support them it is your duty to vote for both of us.  The man or woman who does otherwise stultifies the vote of Rotherhithe on the Council, and retards rather than advances the cause of Progress.  Remember, therefore: NO PLUMPING. Vote for the men who forward your cause to the best of their ability.  Again we say: GIVE ONE VOTE TO STEVENS AND ONE TO MACNAMARA.  Return us at the head of the poll.  Do your duty to yourselves, to Rotherhithe, and to London, and believe us, whilst you are true and faithful, it shall always be our pleasure and our pride to remain,

Your obedient servants,J T Mac but taken in Ipswich



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