The General Strike 1926

Today’s picture shows a souvenir programme produced by the Newton Division of the Labour Party, for their May Day Celebrations of 1926.

You may be asking why I have chosen a document showing an event in Earlestown organised by Newton Labour Party when the project I am working on at the moment is all about the West side of Warrington. If you look again at the scan of the programme you will notice that on its reverse is an advertisement for Burtonwood Ales.

The advert is a simple one “Burtonwood Ales, Guaranteed Pure”, followed by a little verse:

“That Burton beer is England’s best

Acclaimed is by the crowd;

And Burtonwood claims kinship there

And has its claim allowed.”

In terms of the advertisement, an interesting little foot note is that a child has drawn and written across it. One of the things they have written is “Burtonwood is the richest & best”, a phrase which isn’t used on this advert. This suggests the slogan was well known to the child. Apparently it was a successful slogan. Perhaps advertising on all manner of local publications, such as this commemorative programme, was paying off?

Aside from this Burtonwood Brewery advert, which is the reason for the item being in our collections, the programme is interesting for the moment in history it commemorates. The country’s first labour government had been elected just two years earlier in 1924.

The Conservative government under Stanley Baldwin had called an election to increase their mandate for major tariff reforms. Unexpectedly, instead of a massively increased mandate, they ended up losing a large number of seats. The result was a hung parliament, with all three parties having a similar number of seats. A vote of no confidence led to Baldwin being ousted and Labour’s Ramsay MacDonald was appointed Prime Minister.

The Labour government only lasted about 9 months, the Liberal party collapsed and much of their vote shifted to the Conservatives, giving them a majority once again. But regardless of its short term, this event did mark a turning point in British politics, a third party in the political field.

All of this happened two years before our document, but it shows the growing influence of this new Labour Party. By 1926 itself, when the flyer was written, we have another major event in British history unfolding, the General Strike.

Final negotiations were taking place between the government and trade unions on the very day of this event. Those negotiations failed and on the 3rd May the General Strike began. The causes of the strike are too complicated to go into here, but it is worth noting that just 3 days after this May Day fayre, between 1.5 and 1.75 million workers were on strike in the UK. The government brought in the army and appointed a militia of special constables to limit the effect that strikers could have on transport and food supplies and to prevent potential riots.

The picture below shows an armoured vehicle used at Warrington during the strike.

This article was originally posted on Monday July 3rd, 2017.