GUILTY AND PROUD OF IT! POPLAR’S REBEL COUNCILLORS AND GUARDIANS 1919-25
By Janine Booth
In the aftermath of the First World War, thirty Labour councillors went to prison rather than accepting inequitable taxes.
With unemployment rising in 1921 in Bow, Limehouse, Millwall and Old Ford, Poplar Borough Council could not help provide relief drawing only on the limited wealth of one poor London borough.
Poplar councillors, including future labour leader George Lansbury, demanded that rates from richer areas should help. Rich Kensington had a hugely greater rateable value and fewer jobless people; it could afford to pay more. So Poplar refused to pay over rates to the London County Council, and thus began the Poplar Revolt.
Drawing on archive research and on newspaper reports, this book tells the story of the support mobilised by Poplar Council.
The story begins when newly-enfranchised working-class voters elected Labour to run the Council in 1919. For the next two years, it improved life for Poplar residents, coming into ever-increasing conflict with the central authorities and the local government funding system.
The crisis came in 1921, when Poplar Council refused to levy a portion of its rates. Poplar’s fight took its Councillors to prison in September 1921. Released after one month, they continued to battle but the struggle lost momentum. The book ends with a survey of outcomes and considers how this story has meaning today.
“In the 1920s, Poplar’s Councillors and Guardians chose to fight. Had they chosen differently, we would not even remember them.”
‘Booth has done Poplar proud with her immensely well researched, lively and readable account… The book is especially good at bringing to light many of the lesser known characters in the struggle. It also reflects critically on the lessons of Poplar, which still resonate today.’ — Labour Research.
Contents here …
Merlin Press: http://www.merlinpress.co.uk
Janine Booth – lives in Hackney, east London. She is a member of the RMT trade union and of Workers’ Liberty. She contributes to the socialist feminist Stroppyblog and has been a socialist candidate for Hackney Council and the Greater London Authority.
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