Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden

Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden.jpg

Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden, PC (/ˈsndən/; 18 July 1864 – 15 May 1937) was a British politician. A strong speaker, he became popular in trade union circles for his denunciation of capitalism as unethical and his promise of a socialist utopia. He was the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931. He broke with Labour policy in 1931, and was expelled from the party and excoriated as a turncoat, as the Party was overwhelmingly crushed that year by the National Government coalition that Snowden supported. He was succeeded as Chancellor by Neville Chamberlain.

Snowden was born in Cowling in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His father John Snowden had been a weaver and a supporter of Chartism, and later a Gladstonian liberal. Snowden later wrote in his autobiography: "I was brought up in this Radical atmosphere, and it was then that I imbibed the political and social principles which I have held fundamentally ever since".[1] Although his parents and sisters were involved in weaving at the Ickornshaw Mill, he did not join them; after attending a local board school (where he received additional lessons in French and Latin from the schoolmaster) he stayed on as a pupil-teacher.[2] When he was 15 he became an insurance office clerk in Burnley.[2] During his seven years as a clerk, he studied and then passed the civil service entry examination; in 1886, he was appointed to a junior position at the Excise Office in Liverpool.[2] Snowden moved on to other posts around Scotland and then to Devon.[2]

In August 1891, when he was aged 27, Snowden severely injured his back in a cycling accident in Devon and was paralysed from the waist down.[2] He learned to walk again with the aid of sticks within two years.[3] His Inland Revenue job was kept open for him for two years following the accident; however, owing to his condition, he decided to resign from the civil service.[2] While he was convalescing at his mother's house at Cowling he began to study socialist theory and history.[2]

Snowden joined the Liberal Party, and followed his parents in becoming a Methodist and a teetotaller. In 1893, in the aftermath of the formation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in neighbouring Bradford, he was asked to give a speech for the Cowling Liberal Club on the dangers of socialism. Whilst researching the subject, Snowden instead became convinced by the ideology. He eventually joined the executive committee of the Keighley ILP in 1899, and went on to chair the ILP from 1903 to 1906. He became a prominent speaker for the party, and wrote a popular Christian socialist pamphlet with Keir Hardie in 1903, entitled The Christ that is to Be. His strident rhetoric, well-laced with statistics and evangelical themes, contrasted the evil conditions under capitalism with the moral and economic utopia of future socialism. He condemned as "bloodsuckers and parasites" local textile company executives. In 1898, he launched the Keighley Labour Journal, using it to denounce waste, pettiness, and corruption. However, he ignored the concerns of the trade unions, which he judged to be conservative and fixated on wages.[3] By 1902, he had moved his base to Leeds and toured Britain as a lecturer on politics and corruption, with his own syndicated column and short essays in numerous working class outlets. By the time he was elected Labour MP for Blackburn in 1906, he had become a well-known socialist figure, standing at the national level alongside both Keir Hardie, Professor Arnold Lupton and Ramsay MacDonald.[3][4]

Snowden married Ethel Annakin, a campaigner for women's suffrage, in 1905. He supported his wife's ideals, and he became a noted speaker at suffragette meetings and other public meetings.[3]

Snowden unsuccessfully contested the Wakefield constituency in West Yorkshire in a by-election in March 1902, where he received 40 percent of the votes.[5] In 1906, he became the Labour MP for Blackburn.[6] He continued his writing and lectures, and now was advocating more radical measures than the ruling Liberals were implementing. He even devised his own "Socialist budget" to rival David Lloyd George's 1909 "People's Budget".[3]

Snowden was in Australia on a worldwide lecture tour when the First World War broke out in August 1914; he did not return to Britain until February 1915. He was not a pacifist; however, he did not support recruiting for the armed forces, and he campaigned against conscription. His stance was unpopular with the public and he lost his seat in the 1918 general election. In 1922, he was elected to represent Colne Valley.[3]

This page was last edited on 5 May 2018, at 03:03 (UTC).
Reference:,_1st_Viscount_Snowden under CC BY-SA license.

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