Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
General Secretary of the Labour Party
Thr post of Party Secretary was created in 1900 at the birth of the Labour Party. The first holder of that position was Ramsay MacDonald, later Prime Minister. In these early years, the post was a very important one, effectively leading the Party outside Parliament. MacDonald and his successor, Arthur Henderson, were both Members of Parliament and for a period were both Chairmen of the Parliamentary Labour Party whilst Party Secretary.
Upon Henderson's retirement in 1934, after the 1931 debacle which had seen MacDonald expelled from the Party, it was decided that the position should be separated from the parliamentary party, and power should not be concentrated in the hands of one person. Therefore Henderson's successor would not be allowed to become a Member of Parliament. This ruled out the strongest contender, Herbert Morrison, and others with parliamentary ambitions. Finally, Jimmy Middleton , assistant secretary since 1903, was chosen. He was a quiet-spoken man and the job lost much of its previous importance. However, the National Executive Committee grew in influence.
During World War II, Morgan Phillips became General Secretary and went on to oversee two general election victories. A Welshman, he had been a miner but was instrumental in widening Labour's appeal to the middle classes. He also built a professional Party, with key employees working on policy development and electoral organisation.
When Len Williams , the General Secretary of the early Wilson years, retired in 1968, he was expected to be replaced by someone younger who could transform the Party and lead it to a third successive victory. However, the Party chose Harry Nicholas , a long-serving left-wing T&G union figure who would be unlikely to continue to renew and reinvigorate the Party. The Party lost the 1970 general election.
The 1970s and early-1980s saw developing confrontations between the left and the right in the Party. Jim Mortimer and Larry Whitty worked hard to keep the Party together after the formation of the Social Democratic Party and the rise of Militant Tendency. Whitty oversaw the reforms of Neil Kinnock and stayed on until the election of Tony Blair as Leader. It would be Tom Sawyer who would put in place Blair's contraversial New Labour reforms, with the creation of the National Policy Forum , the change to Clause IV and the perceived erosion of the power of grassroots members. He opened new offices in Millbank and created a highly-professional, media-savvy, youthful staff and Party that worked for Labour's landslide victory in the 1977 general election.
Margaret McDonagh became Labour's first female General Secretary in 1998. She had been a rising star and formidable organiser in the run-up to 1997, but her fearsome style did not endear her to Party members and the left. Her handling of the selection of candidate for the Mayor of London elections badly damaged her reputation and she left after the 2001 general election victory]].
Since 2004, Matt Carter has been General Secretary, the youngest-ever.
The General Secretary heads a staff of 200 in the two head offices, in London and Tyneside, and in the many local offices around the country. The Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties are headed by their own general secretaries, in practice subordinate to the national general secretary.
The General Secretary is responsible for employing staff; campaign and media strategies; running the Party's organisational, constitutional and policy committees; organising the Party Conference; liasion with the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists; ensuring legal and constitutional propriety; preparing literature.
Labour Party Secretaries 1900-present
- Ramsay MacDonald 1900-1912
- Arthur Henderson 1912-1934
- James Middleton 1935-1944
- Morgan Phillips 1944-1961
- Len Williams 1962-1968
- Harry Nicholas 1968-1972
- Ron Hayward 1972-1982?
- Jim Mortimer 1982?-85
- Larry Whitty 1985-1994
- Tom Sawyer, Baron Sawyer 1994-1998
- Margaret McDonagh, Baroness McDonagh 1998-2001
- David Triesman, Baron Triesman 2001-2003
- Matt Carter 2004-
- A Short History of the Labour Party (1961), Henry Pelling, ISBN 333-14303-5
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details