Abersychan and Garndiffaith Local History Group


From time to time, we will display some of our old photos, documents, and selected articles from our journals.

We hope you enjoy your visit to this historic industrial area situated in the most eastern valley of the South Wales Coalfield, Wales, United Kingdom.

Abersychan and Garndiffaith District Local History Group


The following is the opening from a summary of politics 1900-1939 prepared for Melting Pot 2, the follow up from the sold out Melting Pot book - the history of our area up to 1900. This summary will be used to contribute excerpts to the envisaged publication. Inserted January 2011

Local Politics 1900 - 1939

Political Scene from 1900-18

By the start of the 20th Century, the trade union movement was growing stronger all the time, and in our area this was a natural progression from the days of the Scotch Cattle and the Chartists. Britainhad long been a two party state of the Conservatives and Liberals (Tories and Whigs) who had dominated the political scene, but times were changing and neither party was felt to really represent the aspirations of the working class movement. Confusingly, the Conservative Party was often associated with Unionists, but this was in the nationalist sense of the union of Great Britainand nothing to do with trade unionism. The pact between the churches and chapels and the Liberal Party (a broad based centre left mass party for the period of this summary), particularly in south Wales, which had greatly aided the working class movement, was no longer sufficient for the emerging trades unions, and the 1914-18 World War added impetus in the desire for change. The political history of our Eastern Valley area for 1900 to 1939, like the industrialised valleys of South Wales, was dominated by the Labour Party. At overall national level it was the Conservatives.

The Labour Party grew out of the trade union movement, strongly influenced by the Miners Unions, because it was recognised that Parliamentary representation was essential to change. In 1899 the Trades Union Council (TUC) expressed an intention of establishing a distinct Labour Group in Parliament to balance the power of industrial and land owning vested interests in the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. Wales contributed a great deal to the emergence of the Labour Party during the first part of the 20th century, as shown by the 1918 general election where 50 out of the 57 victorious Labour candidates were trades union sponsored, and also helped in its continuation in the dark days of the 1931 general elections.

The Welsh Nationalist party was not really active in the industrial heartlands of South Wales, and the Conservative Party has been in the minority there for all of the 20th Century. As will be seen later, the Welsh Nationalist Party was only really born in 1925.

There were four general elections from 1900 to December 1910 with the old order largely prevailing, but great change was in the offing with the Great War and the passing of 1918 Representation of the People Act. Both Liberal and Conservative Parties were strongly opposed to any form of Socialism. The 1910 General Election was the last run under the 1885 Representation of the People Act. Both parties fielding candidates in North Monmouthshire Division (later the Pontypool Division) campaigned against anything Socialist. Lord Llangattock, President of the North Monmouthshire Conservative and Unionist Association, remarking that Colonel Williams (Conservative and Unionist candidate) >would secure the votes not only of the Unionist Party, but also of all moderate men who did not wish to be governed by Irishmen and Socialists.

Turnout at General Elections

In the period covered in this summary from 1900 to1939, most people exercised their right to vote at general elections. Electoral turnout has fluctuated considerably across the century in the United Kingdom but pre WW2 it was higher than it has generally been since. The highest turnout was in 1910, when 87 per cent of the electorate voted, while the lowest turnouts were in the general elections of 1922, 1923, 1935 and 1997 when only about 71 per cent of people voted (it would of great comment if we got anywhere near >only=71 per cent today), and in 1918 when 59 per cent voted. The Conservative Party was in government for longer in the twentieth century than any other party.

Representation of the People Act 1885

To put local politics in the context of the turn of the century situation it is necessary to go back to the Representation of the People Act 1885. Then Wales was divided into 34 Parliamentary Constituencies which could be sub-divided into County and Borough - Monmouthshire had 3 divisions: North, East and South with Monmouthshire boroughs being based on Monmouth, Usk and Newport. Our Pontypool area was central in the North Monmouthshire Division. Many people, including almost all women, were still disenfranchised, with property owning group the largest entitled to vote.

Last Modified on: 05-12-2018