Cartoons and British imperialism during the Attlee Labour
Charlotte Lydia Riley
This chapter explores the post-Second World War Labour government's imperial policies through their depiction in newspaper and magazine cartoons. The chapter uses cartoon representations of news stories to explore the popular perception of the Labour Party's approach to imperial affairs. In doing so, it is focused on high party politics and imperial foreign policy, but it approaches this subject from a popular cultural viewpoint; in this way, it aims to reinsert the ‘ordinary’ reader's gaze into a political history.
The Chartist movement, stretching from the 1830s to
the 1850s, may be seen as the first national exercise in independent working-class
politics of a ‘mass’ kind in modern Britain. 1 From the demise of Chartism to the end of the century the institutions of
the labour movement characteristically supported the radical wing of the Liberal Party and
the election of ‘Lib-Lab’ working-class trade union candidates to parliament.
‘Lib-Labism’ was particularly strong among
would have to be made that the German Social Democratic Party before 1914 was
critical of German colonialism. The Social Democratic press constantly attacked
the fiscal policy of the Reich, which relied on indirect consumption taxes falling
heavily on the working class to finance a rapidly growing navy, increased army
spending and other expenditure related to colonialism and Germany's imperial
ambitions. Social Democratic politicians were also vocal in exposing human rights
The golden age of the German satirical press occurred during the Second Reich, and particularly during the Wilhelmian era (c.1890–1914), and a number of the great satirical reviews of the time are still held in high regard today, such as the famous Simplicissimus . Der Wahre Jacob , a publication affiliated with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is less well known today than Simplicissimus ; however, it was the satirical review that enjoyed the greatest popular success in the Wilhelmian era.
observers, rather than the
quantitative methods and findings of opinion pollsters and some political scientists.
The focus on elections, moreover, has constituted a necessary rather than a
sufficient basis upon which to construct more general arguments about the character, aims,
similarities and differences and shifting fortunes of the ALP and BLP and their relations with other political parties, the state and
different social groups. In order to attain, or at least strive towards, a sufficient
measure of explanation, a
South Wales from 1976 to 1988, and regained Queensland (albeit after being in the
political wilderness from the Split onwards) and Tasmania in 1989. From the mid 1990s to the
end of the decade Labor suffered defeats in most of the states, although it recaptured its
former hegemony in New South Wales. The ALP , however, has dominated
state governments during the first decade of the new millennium. On balance, the party has
fared much better at the federal and state levels from the 1980s to the present than it did
converted: those who made up the conservative, Anglocentric White Australia of the Old Bully; who voted for Menzies over Ben Chifley's Labor Party in 1949 (see Figure 14.4 ); and who saw in Australia's involvement in Korea a continuation of the Anzac Legend founded in the two world wars ( Figure 14.5 ).
Ted Scorfield, ‘Going my way – on a full petrol-tank?’, The Bulletin , 30 November 1949, p. 5
future conduct of the war effort. The failure of the conscription referenda in 1916 and 1917
was accompanied by the irrevocable and disastrous split in the ALP
and the mainly enforced departure from the party of pro-conscription and pro-British leaders
such as ‘Billy’ Hughes. There subsequently occurred a fundamental realignment in
Australian politics, with ex- ALP ers and anti-Labor figures coming
together in the Nationalist Party, formed in 1917, in order to ‘Win the War’. In turn, during the
nostalgia and amnesia that characterised some of the early analyses of the domestic impact of decolonisation.
Some RCS members and speakers positioned themselves in direct opposition to figures like Bryant and sought to challenge nostalgic narratives of imperial pride. Speaking at the society in 1968, leader of the Liberal Party Jeremy Thorpe said that the future of the Commonwealth depends on ‘recognising that what is past, is past … It is still possible and eminently desirable’, he argued, ‘to make of the Commonwealth something more than a club for
who, ultimately, was the responsible party carrying out the
repatriation: the individual patient, the British government, the
medical authority recommending the repatriation or Elder Dempster, on
whose property the patient resided during the voyage home? On top
of the difficulties posed by this question, the answer had to be
agreeable to all parties and make more sense than simply not