E.Robinson (b.1894): Politics, Protest & Class – Writing Lives

E.Robinson (b.1894): Politics, Protest & Class

E. Robinson was born and raised in a working class background in South East London, due to his father’s inability to find work. The fact that his family were constantly forced to move around the area to find cheaper housing shows the harsh conditions the working class were faced with during the break of the 20th Century. Within his autobiography, Robinson puts his lack of academic interest down to the class system, as all of the men who he knew from a working class background had jobs which required no education or schooling.

Map highlighting Robinson's move out of the city of London to Deal, Kent
Map highlighting Robinson’s move out of the city of London to Deal, Kent

However, Robinson moved up the social scale on his return to the Post Office, after he was signed off from the Army. He became more involved within the company, and was eventually granted a promotion, to Assistant Inspector of Postmen. The role enabled him to gain more authority and responsibility, but also increased his wage. With his income increasing, Robinson was able to move away from the city, and into a more “upper class” (pg 75) area, as he describes it, to the Deal district of Kent. His move signalled his rise out of the working class, propelling him into the middle class.

Throughout the text however, Robinson’s writing style and ideology toward life stays at the same as what his father taught him, showing how his ascent through the social classes has not affected him. He knows what being at the bottom of the social scale feels like, and he shows no signs of taking his more complete lifestyle for granted.

Labour Party Plaque from Caroone House, London
Labour Party Plaque from Caroone House, London

In terms of his political stance, Robinson followed his father’s views and became an avid supporter of the Labour Party. The social democratic views of the working class population were shared through the Party’s originally strong left-wing beliefs, and in the late 19th Century the Labour party began to come to fruition. It was in 1899 when Thomas Steels proposed that the Trade Unions created a party that shared their views to represent them in Parliament, being officially announced into politics in 1900. With the socialist ideology the party had, it became popular with the working class, and became one of Britain’s most powerful political groups. However it wasn’t until 1924 the Labour Party had their first Prime Minister, with Ramsay MacDonald taking over from the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin, due to the Liberal and Labour parties working together due to a hung Parliament.

Robinson talks of his political views in great depth, often being very critical of the right wing Conservative Prime Ministers. He signed up to the Mitcham Labour Party, based in South London, in 1918 to support then then Labour leader William Adamson. Although he served in the Army during the First World War, Robinson believed the Liberal Government handled the situation completely wrong, only looking out for “their best interests, rather than those of the country” (pg  68).

He also speaks of World War II, berating the political direction of Winton Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. Robinson saw Churchill as a great leader of men, whipping the British public into defeating the German opposition; however he still believed a full Labour government would have been more efficient, rather than the Coalition formed between the Labour and Conservative parties during the war. On 26th July 1945, just

Former Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967) featured in Times Magazinne (c. June 1954)
Former Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967) featured in Time Magazine (c. June 1954)

over two months after Victory in Europe Day, Churchill’s Conservative government were beaten in the General Election by Labour’s Clement Attlee, which is regarded as one of the biggest election upsets as Attlee won in a landslide victory. Robinson speaks of his admiration for Attlee, as although Churchill was a popular Prime Minister amongst the British Public, Attlee’s working class views and ideology brought him a prominent rise into office with Labour. Robinson also later became a Labour Councillor for Deal, Kent from 1943 to 1946.

Robinson also speaks about an encounter with women demonstrating for the Suffrage movement in the early 20th Century. The Suffragettes were campaigning to enable women to vote in the elections. Robinson was “pelted with a bag of flour” (pg. 28) during his job as an errand boy by women protesting in the streets, forcing him to go home and change clothes which his manager did not take to kindly to. He tells of how he did not fully understand the motives of the women protesting at the time due to him only being 14, but looking back realises the importance of what the Suffragettes were doing.

A Suffrage Movement Rally (c.1915)
A Suffrage Movement Rally (c.1915)






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