Today’s leaflet in my series on old election leaflets is a centrally produced Labour party 4-pager from 1929. As with the Conservative leaflet from 1931 which I previously featured, the design may be very different from good modern leaflets, but the content has some very familiar overtones.
The May 1929 contest was the first general election in which women under 30 could vote and also one of only three elections in the modern era where the party with the most votes did not also win the most seats. Despite being slightly out-polled by the Conservatives, Labour won more seats in what was a hung Parliament. That was a massive anti-Conservative swing from the previous election, caused in large part by the very grim economic backdrop. There was also a modest revival for David Lloyd George’s ‘We Can Conquer Unemployment’ Liberal Party.
Following the election, Labour formed a minority government, one that was subsequently to be much attacked by opponents for its economic record.
Despite the “June 1929” date on the front page, the leaflet’s contents make clear that is actually from the May 1929 contest. and much of it could have been written today, such as Labour’s attack on the Tories: “The Tories have helped the rich at the expense of the poor”, “The Tories do not care what happens to the unemployed” and “[The Tories] reduced the Supertax on large incomes by £10,000,000 a year”.
There is even a reference to tax and £10,000… save that in the 1929 incarnation £10,000 is a very rich person so that time round Labour was attacking help for those earning £10,000 as being help for the rich. (Mind you, the complexity of the argument in the left-hand column of p.2 on this point is such that I doubt the attack had much of an impact on anyone.) Issues such as housing, pensions, schools and help for “the small income tax payer” all feature, reminding us that the core issues of British politics show an awful lot of continuity.
That Ramsay MacDonald and Labour devoted all of page 3 to ‘we’re not extremists, honest’ is also a pretty big clue as to what one of the most frequent and most effective attacks on the party at the time was.