Norfolk Stories: George Roberts MP

george roberts          george roberts.a

George Roberts was born in Chedgrave in 1869, the son of the local shoemaker.  In 1906, he was elected Labour MP for Norwich, one of the first thirty men who formed the Parliamentary Labour Party.  He remained MP for the city for almost twenty years.  He soon diverged from the official Labour Party in his view of the defence question.  In spite of his position as Chief Whip, he was one of eight Labour MPs who rebelled against their party line by voting against a proposal to cut spending on re-arming the navy in July 1912

When the First World War broke out, the Labour Party was split: many members, including its leader, J Ramsey Macdonald, opposed the war.  Roberts immediately and unhesitatingly declared his support for the war, thereby earning himself many enemies in the Norwich party, where the anti-war movement was strong.  He said:

  I made up my mind that my country was in the right, and being in the right, I determined to support it until peace comes.

Roberts played a full and varied part in the war.  He accepted office in the wartime coalition governments, visited the Western Front and wrote articles about his experiences, and inspected the camps for German prisoners of war in Britain.

After the war, Roberts moved to the right, eventually taking the Conservative whip: he was defeated in the 1923 election, dying five years later.

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