The Labour Group in the Commons: a postcard from February 1906

On 13 February 1906 the Labour Group of MPs gathered on the terrace of the House of Commons for a photograph. The general election which had concluded five days earlier had seen the Tory Party lose more than half its seats, the Liberals under Henry Campbell-Bannerman sweep to a landslide victory, and the Labour Representation Committee, as it then was, massively increase in numbers to return 29 MPs.

That photograph – depicting the first ever Parliamentary Labour Party – would be turned into a postcard, a slightly battered copy of which appears below.

Postcard showing the Labour Group in the House of Commons 1906
‘The Labour Group in the House of Commons. Photographed Feb 13th, 1906.’ Click for larger image

The reverse of the postcard notes: ‘This is a reproduction of a photograph taken on the day of the Opening of Parliament on the Famous Terrace of the “House” overlooking “Old Father Thames” where the Ladies meet to take Tea and discuss their husbands speeches. In the centre you will recognise the Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie M.P. the others in this fine photo are easily identified by the photos of individuals which follow.’

The text suggests that there may have been a set of cards of which this was just one. A full list of those pictured is set out here, along with their dates of birth and death, and the constituencies they represented:

  • George Nicoll Barnes (1859–1940); Glasgow (Blackfriars);
  • Charles William Bowerman (1851?–1947); Deptford;
  • John Robert Clynes (1869–1949); Manchester North East;
  • Will Crooks (1852–1921); Woolwich;
  • Charles Duncan (1865–1933); Barrow-in-Furness;
  • Alfred Henry Gill (1856–1914); Bolton;
  • Thomas Glover (1852–1913); St Helens;
  • James Keir Hardie (1856–1915); Merthyr;
  • Arthur Henderson (1863–1935); Barnard Castle;
  • John Hodge (1855–1937); Gorton;
  • Walter Hudson (1852–1935); Newcastle upon Tyne;
  • John Hogan Jenkins (1852–1936); Cardiff;
  • Frederick William Jowett (1864–1944); Bradford West;
  • George Davy Kelley (1848–1911); Manchester South-West;
  • James Ramsay MacDonald (1866–1937); Leicester;
  • John Thomas Macpherson (1872–1921); Preston;
  • James O’Grady (1866–1934); Leeds East;
  • James Parker (1863–1948); Halifax;
  • Thomas Frederick Richards (1863–1942); Wolverhampton West;
  • George Henry Roberts (1868–1928); Norwich;
  • James Andrew Seddon (1868–1939); Newton, Lancashire;
  • David James Shackleton (1863–1938); Clitheroe;
  • Philip Snowden (1864–1937); Blackburn;
  • Thomas Summerbell (1861–1910); Sunderland;
  • Will Thorne (1857–1946); West Ham;
  • Stephen Walsh (1859–1929); Ince, Lancashire;
  • George James Wardle (1865–1947); Stockport;
  • Alexander Wilkie (1850–1928); Dundee;
  • William Tyson Wilson (1855–1921); West Houghton, Lancashire;

It is, of course, worth noting that the electorate for the 1906 general election fell far short of universal adult suffrage. William Gladstone’s Third Reform Act of 1884 had added 3 million mostly working-class men (male householders over the age of 21) to the electorate, but even then four in ten men – and all women – were excluded from voting in parliamentary elections. It would be 1918 before the vote was extended to all men and to women over 30; and it was not until 1928 that all men and women over 21 were enfranchised.

  • A better preserved copy of the postcard can be found in the National Portrait Gallery, along with further pictures of many of those shown here. Click here to see it.
  • Most of those in the photograph are also the subjects of entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Click here to read more.