Guilty and Proud Of It

Guilty and Proud Of It: Poplar's Rebel Councillors and Guardians, 1919-25 by Janine Booth

Janine Booth’s recently published book “Guilty and Proud Of It!” is a story about how a group of socialist Labour councillors in Poplar, East London, refused to bow to the “norms” of capitalist economics and politics, and stood up for the working-class people who voted them in. They went to prison rather than accepting inequitable taxes. Newly-enfranchised working-class voters elected Labour to run the Council in 1919. For the next two years, it improved life for Poplar residents, coming into ever-increasing conflict with the central authorities and the local government funding system.

The crisis came in 1921. With unemployment rising, Poplar Borough Council could not provide relief drawing only on the limited wealth of one poor London borough. Poplar councillors, including future Labour leader George Lansbury, demanded that rates from richer areas should help. Rich Kensington had a hugely greater rateable value and far fewer jobless people: it could afford to pay more. So Poplar refused to pay over rates to the London County Council, and thus began the Poplar Revolt. Poplar’s fight took its Councillors to prison in September 1921. After six weeks, the courts released them from prison and the government changed the law to redistribute funding from richer to poorer boroughs: they had won! Over the following years, they continued to battle, but lost momentum.

Buy the book here.

 

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