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Keir Hardie

James Keir Hardie (1836-1915) was a Scottish born socialist and labour leader, the first Labour MP to be elected to the UK parliament.

Hardie was born near Holytown, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was the eldest of nine children and by the age of ten was working in the Lanarkshire coal mines. Consequently he never had a formal education as a child and was taught to read by his mother who also instilled in him the Christian values which would influence his later political thinking.

By the age of 22 Hardie had been blacklisted by many Lanarkshire coal mine-owners due to his activity in organising workers in securing better wages, improved safety and better housing.

Initially a Liberal, by the late 1880s Hardie had become convinced of the need for a distinct political organisation representing the interests of workers. By this time he was also active in publishing radical workers newspapers.

In 1892 Hardie was elected an Independent Labour member of the House of Commons representing the West Ham South constituency in London. Hardie caused a stir when he first arrived at parliament as he was attired in workers clothes rather than the formal day suit and silk hat then thought necessary for the smooth conduct of parliamentary business.

In 1893 the Independent Labour Party was formed and Hardie became its first chairman. In 1895 he lost his West Ham South seat, but was re-elected to Parliament in 1900 to serve the Merthyr Tydfil[?] seat, which he held until his death. Around this time the Labour Movement was ceasing to be so fractured and by 1906 the Labour Representation Committee[?] had managed to get 29 Labour members elected to Parliament.

In 1906 the modern Labour Party was born and Hardie became its leader.

Hardie died in 1915, his health and heart broken by the outbreak of World War I, which he had bitterly opposed but had been helpless to stop.

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