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John Burns.

John Burns.
John Burns.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: H5140
Description: John Burns (1858-1943) was born in Lambeth. In 1879 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and found employment with the United Africa Company. Horrified by the way the Africans were treated, Burns became convinced that only socialism would remove the inequalities between races and classes. He returned to England in 1881 and helped form the Battersea branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). Burns was elected to the executive council of the SDF and in the 1885 General Election was their unsuccessful candidate in Nottingham West. The following year he led a demonstration in London against unemployment. The march degenerated into a riot and Burns was arrested and charged with conspiracy and sedition. He was acquitted but in November 1887, he was arrested during the Bloody Sunday demonstration in London. This time he was sentenced to six weeks in prison. When the London Dock Strike started in August 1889, Ben Tillett asked Burns to help win the dispute. Burns helped to rally the dockers when they were considering the possibility of returning to work. He was also involved in raising money and gaining support from other trade unionists. During the dispute Burns emerged with Ben Tillett and Tom Mann as one of the three main leaders of the strike. After five weeks the employers accepted defeat and granted all the dockers' main demands. Burns was now a well-known labour leader and in the elections for the newly created London County Council, he was elected to represent Battersea. In the 1892 General Election John Burns was elected MP for Battersea. He attended the meeting in 1900 that established the Labour Representation Committee, the forerunner of the Labour Party, but refused to join and continued to align himself to the Liberal Party. Burns knew that the Liberal Party might win the next election whereas the Labour Party would take a long time before it was in a position to form a government. When the Liberals won the 1906 General Election, the new Prime Minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, offered Burns the post of President of the Local Government Board. In 1914 Burns was appointed as President of the Board of Trade. Burns was opposed to Britain's involved in World War One and resigned from the government. He played little active role in politics from that moment on.
Creator: Unknown
Date: Early 20th century
Credit line: People's History Museum, Manchester
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