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Our History Memorial celebrates Labour's protest past

Mary Barbour's statue teaches a history lesson

A NEW memorial will put paid to “nonsense” claims that Labour is not connected with the tradition of political protest, campaigners have told the Star.

Mary Barbour, who led Glasgow’s 1915 rent strike, is to be commemorated with a statue in the Govan area of the city.

The leftwinger campaigned against unscrupulous landlords who took advantage of the wartime economy. Rents skyrocketed as thousands of workers flocked to Glasgow’s shipyards and munitions factories.

Many of the 20,000 tenants who took part in the strike were women whose husbands were away fighting in the trenches or held in prisoner of war camps.

When bailiffs were sent to evict non-paying tenants campaigners organised to stop them.

The rent strike led to a change in the law which held rents down for the rest of the war across Britain and for the six months after the armistice.

Barbour went on to be elected a Labour councillor in Glasgow and was crucial to the foundation of the first family-planning centre in the city.

The Remember Mary Barbour Association was founded in 2013 to create a lasting memorial to the political legend.

Association chair Maria Fyfe, a former Glasgow MP, told the Star the campaign was born of annoyance that “Mary Barbour’s name is not known in the history books.”

Donations from the public soon “grew and grew,” Ms Fyfe said, and the “bulk of the funding came from people putting their hands in their pockets.”

She said Barbour’s message was just as relevant today.

“People are organising again in Glasgow, not just about rents but about overcrowding and living conditions. They’re taking inspiration from Mary Barbour’s story and I hope people will all over the country.”

During the two recent leadership campaigns, critics of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that his ambition to create a social movement was at odds with the party’s parliamentary tradition.

“People say Labour is a parliamentary party not a party of protest,” Ms Fyfe said. “What nonsense. Labour grew out of protest.”


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