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Lansbury, George

George Lansbury (lănz´bərē), 1859–1940, British Labour party leader. During the 1880s he was influenced by Christian socialism, and he later joined (1892) the Social Democratic Federation. A reformer, he campaigned constantly for the amelioration of poverty and for woman suffrage. He was a member of the royal commission on the Poor Laws (1905–9) and signed the famous minority report. He helped to found the Daily Herald (1912), which he edited until 1922, when it became the official Labour party newspaper. A Labour member of Parliament (1910–12, 1922–40), he served as commissioner of works (1929–31) and as leader of the opposition (1931–35) against the National government of Ramsay MacDonald. A lifelong pacifist, he had defended conscientious objectors during World War I, and in 1935 he resigned as party leader over the issue of League of Nations sanctions against Italy, a move he thought would lead to war. He advocated unilateral disarmament by Great Britain during the 1930s, and in 1937 visited Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in an attempt to avoid war.

See his autobiographical Looking Backwards—and Forwards (1935); biographies by R. W. Postgate (1951), R. Holman (1990), and J. Schneer (1990).

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Lansbury, George

Lansbury, George (1859–1940). Christian socialist and pacifist. Lansbury came from working-class stock, and after flirting with Liberalism in London's East End in the 1880s identified himself with socialist politics, more especially in the context of local government. In 1921 he and other members of Poplar Borough Council suffered imprisonment rather than authorize the payment, to the London County Council, of monies which they claimed impoverished London boroughs could not afford. Perhaps for this reason, Lansbury was excluded from the 1924 Labour government, but in 1929 he became first commissioner of works. In 1931 he managed to retain his parliamentary seat at Bow and Bromley, and was elected Labour leader in the Commons. His obsession with pacifism in the early 1930s led him to oppose sanctions against Italy following Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia, and in a dramatic but empty gesture he resigned the leadership at the 1935 Labour conference, striding defiantly out of the conference hall after being denied access to the microphone.

Geoffrey Alderman

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