chapter  3
The consolidation of the party, 1900–6
Pages 5

The organization formed in February 1900 was weak and impoverished. It had only 187,000 affiliated members in May. Even the unions which had voted for its formation in 1899 were in some cases slow to attach themselves. The new party of labour seemed to represent only a small and marginal element of the labour movement as a whole. It began life without accommodation or paid officials. A general election followed immediately after its inauguration, for which it had no chance to prepare. In the middle of the Boer War, labour and domestic issues were not easily given prominence, while the merits of the war itself engendered some disagreement in the labour movement. The LRC managed to bring forward fifteen candidates at the polls, but only two of them were victorious, and entered a Commons where they were still greatly outnumbered by Lib-Labs. Furthermore one of the two, the railwaymen’s leader, Richard Bell, ran under Liberal rather than Labour colours. For some two years the banner of independent Labour representation was carried by the solitary figure of Keir Hardie.