Harold Wilson

The triumph of the Labour Party

Last updated: 23 September 2008

Historian John Davies looks at the triumph of the Labour Party in Wales.

A minority party in 1914, Labour won half the constituencies of Wales in 1922. This was partly the result of the parliamentary reform of 1918 which increased the representation of the industrial areas and granted the vote to young males who were not householders.

More significant, however, were the wounds which the war inflicted upon the Liberal Party. Dedicated to individual liberty, the party's involvement in total war did much to undermine confidence in it, as did the split consequent upon Lloyd George's acceptance of Conservative support in his successful bid for the premiership in 1915.

Liberalism remained strong in rural Wales. As late as 1945, seven of Britain's 12 Liberal MPs represented Welsh rural constituencies, but support for the party in industrial areas collapsed.

Since 1922 the Labour Party has enjoyed an unbroken predominance in Welsh politics. In 1931, when the Parliamentary Labour Party was reduced to 52 members, the 16 seats it won in the South Wales coalfield constituted its largest stronghold.

Support for the party reached its peak in the general election of 1966, when it won 32 of the country's 36 constituencies and 61% of the popular vote.

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