Born between Halesworth and Lowestoft, politician George Lansbury was the son of George Lansbury of Oxford, a railway sub-contractor, and Mary Ann Ferriss of Radnorshire, Wales. The family moved to East London early in George's life and he began a long association with the area.
In 1884, now married with 3 children, he moved for a short time to Australia, but found life there difficult and failed to settle, returning in 1885. Lansbury felt angry over the apparently misleading and inaccurate propaganda which, had encouraged him and many others to seek a permanent home there. Joining the campaign against this policy of spreading false information to prospective emigrants was his first real experience of politics.
He became a Labour MP in 1910, but resigned two years later and turned his attention to fighting for the suffragette movement. In April 1912, Lansbury founded the Daily Herald, which, after a considerable time and many changes of ownership, became The Sun newspaper. He personally edited it until 1922, after which time the Daily Herald became the official Labour party newspaper.
In the same year, he was re-elected for his seat at Bow and Bromley, but was left out of government when Labour won the general election in 1924. In 1925 Lansbury created his own left-wing publication, 'Lansbury's Labour Weekly'. This proved a considerable success and rapidly reached a circulation of 172,000.
George Lansbury eventually became the Labour Party leader in 1931 and continued to hold the post until 1935.
From 1930 onwards Lansbury is pictured frequently in the Grays and Tilbury Gazette speaking at a number of local public events. These range from a meeting of the Tilbury Labour Club and the opening of a school fete at Becontree in 1931, to the S.E. Essex Labour rally in the grounds of Rook Hall, Dell Road, Grays in 1933. This last occasion was the 10th annual rally and gala, and took place on July 15th. George Lansbury was met at Grays Station by the Grays Temperance Silver Prize Band, who then formed a procession along the road to Rook Hall. Fine weather encouraged a large crowd to gather for Lansbury's speech. He began by commenting on the beautiful surroundings, and said that he then thought of the immediate docks and of the poverty that prevailed in the midst of plenty. He went on to wonder where was the intelligence of the people who would persist in voting Tory so that things should be kept, as they were - poverty amidst plenty. The main body of Lansbury's speech featured what the Gazette described as 'caustic comments' on the efforts of the delegates attending the World Economic Conference in London.
Proposing a vote of thanks to George Lansbury, Mr J. R. Oldfield (Labour candidate and late M.P. for the Division) deemed his speech inspirational, and said that whilst in age he was what one would term an old man, he had made a young man's speech, with a young man's vigour. All joined in singing 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow'. Sports, games and competitions were held in the afternoon, with dancing in the evening; it was estimated that between 800 and 900 people paid for admittance to the fete and approximately £275 was raised.
In the Gazette dated November 18th 1933 are two pictures showing George Lansbury on November 11th opening Lansbury Gardens in Tilbury, a road of 12 bungalows for the elderly. A further 4 had been built in Chadwell-St-Mary as part of the same scheme. A large crowd gathered in Central Avenue and George Lansbury was greeted with cheers, before being received by Mr W.J. Bennett, Chairman of Tilbury Council. The builders of the bungalows, Pavitt Bros of Aveley, were also represented. Mr Bennett spoke of the Council's intention to make the gardens one of the 'beauty spots' of Tilbury and a 'true haven of rest'. George Lansbury reminded the many children present that it was Armistice Day, and said that he hoped they 'would all grow up and make up their minds that that sort of thing [a world war] would never, never happen again.' Lansbury was accompanied by his daughter Mrs Posgate and his grandson Oliver Posgate, and entertainment was provided by the Tilbury Town Silver Prize Band. After planting a commemorative tree by the central pathway, the party went to nearby St Chad's School for refreshments. In 1936 he was elected Mayor of Poplar, a post that he had previously been awarded in 1919.
He spent the last years of his life trying to prevent a 2nd World War, by travelling around Europe and speaking to many European leaders. Even after a meeting with Adolf Hitler, the pacifist Lansbury remained convinced that war was not inevitable. He died 8 months after war was declared.
- Grays and Tilbury Gazette 1930-33
- Dictionary of National Biography 1931-1940
- Who Was Who 1929-1940
- This Sceptred Isle: Twentieth Century (Christopher Lee, BBC, 1999)
- English History 1914-1945 (A.J.P. Taylor, Oxford University Press, 1965)