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Vernon Hartshorn

John Simkin

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Vernon Hartshorn who was a Primitive Methodist, joined the Independent Labour Party. In 1905 he was elected miners' agent of the Maesteg district of the South Wales Miners' Federation. In the 1910 General Election Hartshorn was the unsuccessful ILP candidate for Mid-Glamorgan. The following year he was elected to its executive council and to the national executive council of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. As his biographer, W. L. Cook, has pointed out: "Harshorn... was one of a number of young radicals who displaced more established figures, following the Cambrian combine strike of 1910–11. He took a leading part in the minimum wage strike of 1912 and was prominent in local government business."

However, during the First World War, Hartshorn supported the war effort and served on the coal trade organization committee, the coal controllers' advisory committee, and the industrial unrest committee in South Wales. His loyal support resulted in him being awarded the OBE in 1918. As Herbert Tracey has pointed out: "A new spirit of insurgence, aggravated by the spectacle of gross profiteering, manifested itself, and, outrunning the tactics of the official leaders, kept affairs in a state of constant turmoil. Hartshorn, for one, had deliberately sacrificed much of his ascendancy through his steady adherence to a national line of conduct. It was not difficult to foment distrust of a man who had been made an OBE, and during the latter part of the war and the first year or so subsequently Vernon Hartshorn saw the rebellion against his leadership become formidable."

In the 1918 General Election, was returned unopposed as the first member for the newly formed Ogmore division of Glamorgan. In 1920 Hartshorn resigned from the national executive council of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain because of a a disagreement over the tactics employed in the strike. He returned in 1922 after being elected president of the South Wales Miners' Federation.

In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservative Party had 258 seats, Herbert Asquith announced that the Liberal Party would not keep the Tories in office. If a Labour Government were ever to be tried in Britain, he declared, "it could hardly be tried under safer conditions". Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. MacDonald had the problem of forming a Cabinet with colleagues who had little, or no administrative experience. MacDonald's appointments included Vernon Hartshorn as Postmaster General.

In 1927 Harshorn. was appointed to the seven-man Indian Statutory Commission, chaired by, Sir John Simon. In the 1929 General Election the Labour Party won 288 seats, making it the largest party in the House of Commons. Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister again, but as before, he still had to rely on the support of the Liberals to hold onto power. MacDonald announced that a place for Hartshorn would be found as soon as the commission had completed its work and in 1930 he was appointed lord privy seal with special responsibility for the government's policy on employment.


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