Thomas Marlowe

Thomas Marlowe was born at 39 St James's Street, Portsmouth, on 18th March 1868. He was educated in Dublin, at Queen's College, Galway, and at the London Hospital. He did not complete his medical training, but abandoned medicine for journalism. After working as a reporter in Dublin and Manchester he moved to London and joined The Star in 1888. (1)

Marlowe developed a reputation as a "young hothead" who often got involved in fights in public houses. It is claimed that on one occasion he got involved in a dispute with a "boxer who had gone a hundred rounds" with John L. Sullivan and "was only saved from extinction by a fellow journalist, who dragged him, struggling, from the bar-room floor". (2) Another journalist described him as "a fierce-looking Irishman, unkindly described as a sheep in wolf's clothing." (3)

In 1889 he married Alice Warrender, second daughter of John Morrison Davidson, the radical journalist. They had four sons and four daughters. Marlowe was a friend of Kennedy Jones, who introduced him to Alfred Harmsworth and his brother, Harold Harmsworth. They were so impressed with him that he was given a job with the Evening News, a newspaper they recently acquired. (4)

The Harmsworth brothers decided to start a newspaper based on the style of newspapers published in the USA. By the time the first issue of the Daily Mail appeared for the first time on 4th May, 1896, over 65 dummy runs had taken place, at a cost of £40,000. When published for the first time, the eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included "A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny", "The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper" and "All the News in the Smallest Space". (5)

Harmsworth made use of the latest technology. This included mechanical typesetting on a linotype machine. He also purchased three rotary printing machines. In the first edition Harmsworth explained how he could use these machines to produce the cheapest newspaper on the market: "Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what would otherwise appear a mystery." (6) It was later claimed that these machines could produce 200,000 copies of the newspaper per hour. (7)

The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. Most importantly, all its news stories and articles were short. The first day it sold 397,215 copies, more than had ever been sold by any newspaper in one day before. (8)

For the first three years Alfred Harmsworth edited the newspaper with the help of S. J. Pryor, who he appointed as managing director. On the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 he sent Pryor to organize the war coverage. While he was away Harmsworth gave the managing director job to Marlowe. "It was now unclear which of them was in charge, so they would race each other every morning to get to the editor's chair first and stay there, with Northcliffe looking on and enjoying the joke. Marlowe emerged victorious: it is said he got up earlier and had the foresight to bring sandwiches for his lunch; maybe he also had the stronger bladder." (9)

Lord Northcliffe was constantly writing to Marlowe about the newspaper: "No good printing long articles. People won't read them. They can't fix their attention for more than a short time. Unless there is some piece of news that grips them strongly. Then they will devour the same stuff over and over again." Northcliffe was also anti-Semetic: "Marlowe, would you see that the social editor keeps his Jews out of the social column. What with his Ecksteins, Sassoons and Mosenthals, we will have to set the column in Yiddish." (10)

This became an important issue in 1914 when Lord Northcliffe wanted to promote the need to go to war with Germany. Wickham Steed, the foreign editor of The Times, was often used to apply pressure on Marlowe. In 1914, when attempts by members of the government, to follow a neutral policy in Europe, Steed described these people as "a dirty German-Jewish international financial attempt to bully us into advocating neutrality". Northcliffe agreed with him but Marlowe urged caution against attacking the government on this issue. (11)

The First World War

On the outbreak of the First World War the editor of The Star newspaper claimed that: "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war." Once the war had started Northcliffe used his newspaper empire to promote anti-German hysteria. It was The Daily Mail that first used the term "Huns" to describe the Germans and "thus at a stroke was created the image of a terrifying, ape-like savage that threatened to rape and plunder all of Europe, and beyond." (12)

As Philip Knightley, the author of The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker (1982) has pointed out: "The war was made to appear one of defence against a menacing aggressor. The Kaiser was painted as a beast in human form... The Germans were portrayed as only slightly better than the hordes of Genghis Khan, rapers of nuns, mutilators of children, and destroyers of civilisation." (13) In one report the newspaper referred to Kaiser Wilhelm II as a "lunatic," a "barbarian," a "madman," a "monster," a "modern judas," and a "criminal monarch". (14)

On 15th May, 1915, The Daily Mail launched an attack on Lord Kitchener and under the heading "British Still Struggling: Send More Shells" it argued that the newspaper was in a very difficult position for if it published "the truth about the defects of our military preparations". It claimed that under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) the newspaper could be accused of aiding the enemy; and if it didn't, it was not fulfilling its responsibility to keep the public informed of the situation. (15)

Lord Northcliffe decided to make a direct on Lord Kitchener for not supplying enough high-explosive shells. In an article he published on 21st May, 1915, Northcliffe wrote a blistering attack on the Secretary of State for War: "Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them." (16)

The following day The Daily Mail continued the attack. The paper stated that "our men at the Front have been supplied with the wrong kind of shell and the result has been a heavy and avoidable loss of life". A shortage of shells at the beginning of the conflict was understandable and excusable, but the inability of officials to supply adequate munitions after ten months for Britain's fighting men was "proof of grave negligence". (17)

Lord Kitchener was a national hero and Northcliffe's attack on him upset a great number of readers. Overnight, the circulation of The Daily Mail dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. A placard was hung across The Daily Mail nameplate with the words "The Allies of the Huns". Over 1,500 members of the Stock Exchange had a meeting where they passed a motion against the "venomous attacks of the Harmsworth Press" and afterwards ceremoniously burnt copies of the offending newspaper. (18)

Thomas Marlowe informed Lord Northcliffe of the more than one million drop in circulation. He was also given a copy of The Star that defended Kitchener from Northcliffe's attacks. Northcliffe responded by arguing: "I don't know what you men think and I don't care. The Star is wrong, and I am right. And the day will come when you will all know that I am right." (19)

Removal of H. H. Asquith

Lord Northcliffe joined with David Lloyd George in attempting to persuade H. H. Asquith and several of his cabinet, including Sir Edward Grey, Arthur Balfour, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe and Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, to resign. It was reported that Lloyd George was trying to encourage Asquith to establish a small War Council to run the war and if he did not agree he would resign. (20)

Tom Clarke, the news editor of The Daily Mail, claims that Lord Northcliffe told him to take a message to Thomas Marlowe, that he was to run an article on the political crisis with the headline, "Asquith a National Danger". According to Clarke, Marlowe "put the brake on the Chief's impetuosity" and instead used the headline "The Limpets: A National Danger". He also told Clarke to print pictures of Lloyd George and Asquith side by side: "Get a smiling picture of Lloyd George and get the worst possible picture of Asquith." Clarke told Northcliffe that this was "rather unkind, to say the least". Northcliffe replied: "Rough methods are needed if we are not to lose the war... it's the only way." (21)

Those newspapers that supported the Liberal Party, became concerned that a leading supporter of the Conservative Party should be urging Asquith to resign. Alfred George Gardiner, the editor of The Daily News, objected to Lord Northcliffe's campaign against Asquith: "If the present Government falls, it will fall because Lord Northcliffe decreed that it should fall, and the Government that takes its place, no matter who compose it, will enter on its task as the tributary of Lord Northcliffe." (22)

Asquith was in great difficulty but he did have Cabinet ministers who did not want Lloyd George as prime minister. Roy Jenkins has argued that he should have had a meeting with "Cecil, Chamberlain, Curzon and Long might have had considerable effect. To begin with, he would no doubt have found them wavering. But he was not without influence over them. In the course of the discussion their doubts about Lloyd George would have come to the surface, and the conclusion might have been that they would have stiffened Asquith, and he would have stiffened them." (23) Lloyd George's biographer, John Grigg, disagrees with Jenkins. His research suggests that Asquith had very little support from Conservative Party members of the coalition government and if he had tried to use them against Lloyd George it would end in failure. (24)

On 4th December, 1916, The Times praised Lloyd George's stand against the present "cumbrous methods of directing the war" and urged Asquith to accept the "alternative scheme" of the small War Council, that he had proposed. Asquith should not be a member of the council and instead his qualities were "fitted better... to preserve the unity of the Nation". (25) Even the Liberal Party supporting Manchester Guardian, referred to the humiliation of Asquith, whose "natural course would be either to resist the demand for a War Council, which would partly supersede him as Premier, or alternatively himself to resign." (26)

Asquith came to the conclusion that Lloyd George had leaked embarrassing details of the conversation he had with Lloyd George, including the threat of resignation if he did not get what he wanted. That night he sent a note to Lloyd George: "Such productions as the leading article in today's Times, showing the infinite possibilities for misunderstanding and misrepresentation of such an arrangement as we discussed yesterday, make me at least doubtful of its feasibility. Unless the impression is at once corrected that I am being relegated to the position of an irresponsible spectator of the War, I cannot go on." (27)

Lloyd George denied the charge of leaking information but admitted that Lord Northcliffe wanted to "smash" his government. However, he went on to argue that Northcliffe also wanted to hurt him and had to put up with his newspaper's "misrepresentations... for months". He added "Northcliffe would like to make this (the formation of a small War Committee) and any other arrangement under your Premiership impossible... I cannot restrain nor I fear influence Northcliffe." (28)

At a Cabinet meeting the following day, Asquith refused to form a new War Council that did not include him. Lloyd George immediately resigned: "It is with great personal regret that I have come to this conclusion.... Nothing would have induced me to part now except an overwhelming sense that the course of action which has been pursued has put the country - and not merely the country, but throughout the world the principles for which you and I have always stood throughout our political lives - is the greatest peril that has ever overtaken them. As I am fully conscious of the importance of preserving national unity, I propose to give your Government complete support in the vigorous prosecution of the war; but unity without action is nothing but futile carnage, and I cannot be responsible for that." (29)

Conservative members of the coalition made it clear that they would no longer be willing to serve under Asquith. At 7 p.m. he drove to Buckingham Palace and tendered his resignation to King George V. Apparently, he told J. H. Thomas, that on "the advice of close friends that it was impossible for Lloyd George to form a Cabinet" and believed that "the King would send for him before the day was out." Thomas replied "I, wanting him to continue, pointed out that this advice was sheer madness." (30)

Asquith, who had been prime minister for over eight years, was replaced by Lloyd George. He brought in a War Cabinet that included only four other members: George Curzon, Alfred Milner, Andrew Bonar Law and Arthur Henderson. There was also the understanding that Arthur Balfour attended when foreign affairs were on the agenda. Lloyd George was therefore the only Liberal Party member in the War Cabinet. Lloyd George wanted Northcliffe to become a member of the War Cabinet, however, Henderson told him that if this happened he would resign and take away the support of the Labour Party from the government.

The Daily Chronicle attacked the role that Lord Northcliffe and the other Conservative Party supporting newspaper barons had removed a democratically elected government. It argued that the new government "will have to deal with the Press menace as well as the submarine menace; otherwise Ministries will be subject to tyranny and torture by daily attacks impugning their patriotism and earnestness to win the war." (31)

On 9th December, 1916, The Daily Mail front page, under the headline, "THE PASSING OF THE FAILURES" had a series of photographs showing the outgoing ministers, H. H. Asquith, Edward Grey, Reginald McKenna, Richard Haldane, John Simon and Winston Churchill, with accompanying captions across their chests attacking their records in government. Northcliffe had ordered this feature, and congratulated the newspaper's picture department.

The Daily Mail (9th December, 1916)
The Daily Mail (9th December, 1916)

Alfred George Gardiner, the editor of The Daily News, pointed out that David Lloyd George's new government's main advantage was that he had the support of Lord Northcliffe: "It will be subject to a friendly organised and responsible criticism which will aim at sustaining it and not destroying it. The fall of the late Government and most of its failures were due to the absence of such a criticism. It became the target... of a ruthless and uncritical press campaign which appealed directly to the passions of the mob against the authority of Parliament." (32)

Gardiner was right and the Lord Northcliffe press provided Lloyd George with a great deal of support. He was described as a "human dynamo" whose "every erg of energy is focused on the immediate task at hand. He combines the persuasiveness of the Irishman with the concentration of the American and the thoroughness of the Englishman." In another article, written by Northcliffe stated: "I believe that he will be the head of the Government that wins the war; that brings a settlement of the Irish question and maintains that essential factor goodwill between the people of the English speaking nations of the British Empire and the people of the United States". (33)

Daily Mail: 1918-1925

Thomas Marlowe was given a great deal of credit for the success of the Daily Mail. In 1921 the circulation of the newspaper was 1,533,000. This gave them the advantage over the The Daily Mirror (1,003,000), The Daily Sketch (835,000), The Daily Chronicle (661,000), The Daily Express (579,000), The Daily News (300,000), The Daily Herald (211,000), The Daily Telegraph (180,000), The Times (113,000) and The Manchester Guardian (45,000). (34)

Hamilton Fyfe claimed that Marlowe "exuded a quiet masterfulness and possessed... all round ability in every aspect of newspaper work … He was not a great editor. Had he been so he would not have stayed long working for Northcliffe". (35) Marlowe admitted that he was willing to accept the orders of Northcliffe. He wrote in one letter: "I have carried on your paper under circumstances of great difficulty… I have always endeavoured to carry out your wishes when I was informed of them". (36)

Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, was suffering from streptococcus, an infection of the bloodstream, that damages the valves of the heart and causes kidney malfunction, died in August, 1922. In order to avoid death duties, in his will he left three months' salary to each of his six thousand employees, a sum of £533,000. Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, now took over full control over the Daily Mail as well as the Daily Mirror. He also ran the Evening News, the Sunday Pictorial and the Sunday Dispatch. (37)

The Zinoviev Letter

In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had 258, Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. As MacDonald had to rely on the support of the Liberal Party, he was unable to get any socialist legislation passed by the House of Commons. The only significant measure was the Wheatley Housing Act which began a building programme of 500,000 homes for rent to working-class families.

Members of establishment were appalled by the idea of a Prime Minister who was a socialist. As Gill Bennett pointed out: "It was not just the intelligence community, but more precisely the community of an elite - senior officials in government departments, men in "the City", men in politics, men who controlled the Press - which was narrow, interconnected (sometimes intermarried) and mutually supportive. Many of these men... had been to the same schools and universities, and belonged to the same clubs. Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion." (38)

The most hostile response to the new Labour government was Lord Rothermere. Thomas Marlowe, the editor of The Daily Mail claimed: "The British Labour Party, as it impudently calls itself, is not British at all. It has no right whatever to its name. By its humble acceptance of the domination of the Sozialistische Arbeiter Internationale's authority at Hamburg in May it has become a mere wing of the Bolshevist and Communist organisation on the Continent. It cannot act or think for itself." (39)

Two days after forming the first Labour government Ramsay MacDonald received a note from General Borlass Childs of Special Branch that said "in accordance with custom" a copy was enclosed of his weekly report on revolutionary movements in Britain. MacDonald wrote back that the weekly report would be more useful if it also contained details of the "political activities... of the Fascist movement in this country". Childs wrote back that he had never thought it right to investigate movements which wished to achieve their aims peacefully. In reality, MI5 was already working very closely with the British Fascisti, that had been established in 1923. (40)

Maxwell Knight was the organization's Director of Intelligence. In this role he had responsibility for compiling intelligence dossiers on its enemies; for planning counter-espionage and for establishing and supervising fascist cells operating in the trade union movement. This information was then passed onto Vernon Kell, Director of the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau (MI5). Later Maxwell Knight was placed in charge of B5b, a unit that conducted the monitoring of political subversion. (41)

In September 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect. (42)

Vernon Kell, the head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson the head of Special Branch, were also convinced that the letter was genuine. Desmond Morton, who worked for MI6, told Sir Eyre Crowe, at the Foreign Office, that an agent, Jim Finney, who worked for George Makgill, the head of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau (IIB), had penetrated Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Morton told Crowe that Finney "had reported that a recent meeting of the Party Central Committee had considered a letter from Moscow whose instructions corresponded to those in the Zinoviev letter". However, Christopher Andrew, who examined all the files concerning the matter, claims that Finney's report of the meeting does not include this information. (43)

Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret until after the election. (44) Thomas Marlowe had a good relationship with Reginald Hall, the Conservative Party MP, for Liverpool West Derby. During the First World War he was director of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy (NID) and he leaked the letter to Marlowe, in an effort to bring an end to the Labour government. (45)

The Daily Mail published the letter on 25th October 1924, just four days before the 1924 General Election. Under the headline "Civil War Plot by Socialists Masters" it argued: "Moscow issues orders to the British Communists... the British Communists in turn give orders to the Socialist Government, which it tamely and humbly obeys... Now we can see why Mr MacDonald has done obeisance throughout the campaign to the Red Flag with its associations of murder and crime. He is a stalking horse for the Reds as Kerensky was... Everything is to be made ready for a great outbreak of the abominable class war which is civil war of the most savage kind." (46)

Ramsay MacDonald suggested he was a victim of a political conspiracy: "I am also informed that the Conservative Headquarters had been spreading abroad for some days that... a mine was going to be sprung under our feet, and that the name of Zinoviev was to be associated with mine. Another Guy Fawkes - a new Gunpowder Plot... The letter might have originated anywhere. The staff of the Foreign Office up to the end of the week thought it was authentic... I have not seen the evidence yet. All I say is this, that it is a most suspicious circumstance that a certain newspaper and the headquarters of the Conservative Association seem to have had copies of it at the same time as the Foreign Office, and if that is true how can I avoid the suspicion - I will not say the conclusion - that the whole thing is a political plot?" (47)

The rest of the Tory owned newspapers ran the story of what became known as the Zinoviev Letter over the next few days and it was no surprise when the election was a disaster for the Labour Party. The Conservatives won 412 seats and formed the next government. Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, told Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail, that the "Red Letter" campaign had won the election for the Conservatives. Rothermere replied that it was probably worth a hundred seats. (48)

David Low was a Labour Party supporter who was appalled by the tactics used by the Tory press in the 1924 General Election: "Elections have never been completely free from chicanery, of course, but this one was exceptional. There were issues - unemployment, for instance, and trade. There were legitimate secondary issues - whether or not Russia should be afforded an export loan to stimulate trade. In the event these issues were distorted, pulped, and attached as appendix to a mysterious document subsequently held by many creditable persons to be a forgery, and the election was fought on "red" panic (The Zinoviev Letter)". (49)

After the election it was claimed that two of MI5's agents, Sidney Reilly and Arthur Maundy Gregory, had forged the letter. It later became clear that Major George Joseph Ball, a MI5 officer, played an important role in leaking it to the press. In 1927 Ball went to work for the Conservative Central Office where he pioneered the idea of spin-doctoring. Christopher Andrew, MI5's official historian, points out: "Ball's subsequent lack of scruples in using intelligence for party political advantage while at Central Office in the late 1920s strongly suggests... that he was willing to do so during the election campaign of October 1924." (50)

The General Strike

On 30th June 1925 the Mine Owners Association announced that they intended to reduce the miner's wages. Will Paynter later commented: "The coal owners gave notice of their intention to end the wage agreement then operating, bad though it was, and proposed further wage reductions, the abolition of the minimum wage principle, shorter hours and a reversion to district agreements from the then existing national agreements. This was, without question, a monstrous package attack, and was seen as a further attempt to lower the position not only of miners but of all industrial workers." (51)

On 23rd July, 1925, Ernest Bevin, the general secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU), moved a resolution at a conference of transport workers pledging full support to the miners and full co-operation with the General Council in carrying out any measures they might decide to take. A few days later the railway unions also pledged their support and set up a joint committee with the transport workers to prepare for the embargo on the movement of coal which the General Council had ordered in the event of a lock-out." (52) It has been claimed that the railwaymen believed "that a successful attack on the miners would be followed by another on them." (53)

In an attempt to avoid a General Strike, the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, invited the leaders of the miners and the mine owners to Downing Street on 29th July. The miners kept firm on what became their slogan: "Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay". Herbert Smith, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers, told Baldwin: "We have now to give". Baldwin insisted there would be no subsidy: "All the workers of this country have got to take reductions in wages to help put industry on its feet." (54)

The following day the General Council of the Trade Union Congress triggered a national embargo on coal movements. On 31st July, the government capitulated. It announced an inquiry into the scope and methods of reorganization of the industry, and Baldwin offered a subsidy that would meet the difference between the owners' and the miners' positions on pay until the new Commission reported. The subsidy would end on 1st May 1926. Until then, the lockout notices and the strike were suspended. This event became known as Red Friday because it was seen as a victory for working class solidarity. (55)

Thomas Marlowe
Thomas Marlowe

Stanley Baldwin and his ministers had several meetings with both sides in order to avoid the strike. Thomas Jones, the Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, pointed out: "It is possible not to feel the contrast between the reception which Ministers give to a body of owners and a body of miners. Ministers are at ease at once with the former, they are friends jointly exploring a situation. There was hardly any indication of opposition or censure. It was rather a joint discussion of whether it was better to precipitate a strike or the unemployment which would result from continuing the present terms. The majority clearly wanted a strike." (56)

Considering themselves in a position of strength, the Mining Association now issued new terms of employment. These new procedures included an extension of the seven-hour working day, district wage-agreements, and a reduction in the wages of all miners. Depending on a variety of factors, the wages would be cut by between 10% and 25%. The mine-owners announced that if the miners did not accept their new terms of employment then from the first day of May they would be locked out of the pits. (57)

At the end of April 1926, the miners were locked out of the pits. A Conference of Trade Union Congress met on 1st May 1926, and afterwards announced that a General Strike "in defence of miners' wages and hours" was to begin two days later. The leaders of the Trade Union Council were unhappy about the proposed General Strike, and during the next two days frantic efforts were made to reach an agreement with the Conservative Government and the mine-owners. (58)

The Trade Union Congress called the General Strike on the understanding that they would then take over the negotiations from the Miners' Federation. The main figure involved in an attempt to get an agreement was Jimmy Thomas. Talks went on until late on Sunday night, and according to Thomas, they were close to a successful deal when Stanley Baldwin broke off negotiations as a result of a dispute at the Daily Mail. (59)

What had happened was that Thomas Marlowe, had produced a provocative leading article, headed "For King and Country", which denounced the trade union movement as disloyal and unpatriotic.The workers in the machine room, had asked for the article to be changed, when he refused they stopped working. Although, George Isaacs, the union shop steward, tried to persuade the men to return to work, Marlowe took the opportunity to phone Baldwin about the situation.

The strike was unofficial and the TUC negotiators apologized for the printers' behaviour, but Baldwin refused to continue with the talks. "It is a direct challenge, and we cannot go on. I am grateful to you for all you have done, but these negotiations cannot continue. This is the end... The hotheads had succeeded in making it impossible for the more moderate people to proceed to try to reach an agreement." A letter was handed to the TUC negotiators that stated that the "gross interference with the freedom of the press" involved a "challenge to the constitutional rights and freedom of the nation". (60)

The General Strike began on 3rd May, 1926. The Trade Union Congress adopted the following plan of action. To begin with they would bring out workers in the key industries - railwaymen, transport workers, dockers, printers, builders, iron and steel workers - a total of 3 million men (a fifth of the adult male population). Only later would other trade unionists, like the engineers and shipyard workers, be called out on strike. Ernest Bevin, the general secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU), was placed in charge of organising the strike. (61)

The TUC decided to publish its own newspaper, The British Worker, during the strike. Some trade unionists had doubts about the wisdom of not allowing the printing of newspapers. Workers on the Manchester Guardian sent a plea to the TUC asking that all "sane" newspapers be allowed to be printed. However, the TUC thought it would be impossible to discriminate along such lines. Permission to publish was sought by George Lansbury for Lansbury's Labour Weekly and H. N. Brailsford for the New Leader. The TUC owned Daily Herald also applied for permission to publish. Although all these papers could be relied upon to support the trade union case, permission was refused. (62)

The government reacted by publishing The British Gazette. Baldwin gave permission to Winston Churchill to take control of this venture and his first act was commandeer the offices and presses of The Morning Post, a right-wing newspaper. The company's workers refused to cooperate and non-union staff had to be employed. Baldwin told a friend that he gave Churchill the job because "it will keep him busy, stop him doing worse things". He added he feared that Churchill would turn his supporters "into an army of Bolsheviks". (63)

By 12th May, 1926, most of the daily newspapers had resumed publication. Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, was extremely hostile to the strike and all his newspapers reflected this view. The Daily Mirror stated that the "workers have been led to take part in this attempt to stab the nation in the back by a subtle appeal to the motives of idealism in them." (64)

At the end of the strike some people were highly critical of the way the government had used its control of the media to spread false news. The vast majority of newspapers supported the government during the dispute. This was especially true of the newspapers owned by Lord Rothermere. Thomas Marlowe in The Daily Mail suggested that "the country has come through deep waters and it has come through in triumph, setting such an example to the world as has not been seen since the immortal hours of the War. It has fought and defeated the worst forms of human tyranny. This is a moment when we can lift up our head and our hearts." (65)


Although he had followed the orders of the owner of the newspaper, it caused him problems and after the General Strike finished Thomas Marlowe, resigned from his post. Richard Bourne, the author of the Lords of Fleet Street: the Harmsworth Dynasty (1980), has argued that after he left the newspaper "lost its journalistic punch". (66) Later he complained to Howell Arthur Gwynne that "journalism has been killed by newspaper owners". (67)

Thomas Marlowe died on 3rd December, 1935.

Primary Sources

(1) Paul Ferris, The House of Northcliffe: The Harmsworths of Fleet Street (1971)

The Mail built up a powerful staff, attracting journalists with its high rates of pay and air of general excitement. A permanent editor was appointed at the end of 1899, Thomas Marlowe, a fierce-looking Irishman, unkindly described as a sheep in wolf's clothing. Alfred made the appointment a trial of strength. Marlowe's predecessor, S. J. Pryor, had been sent to South Africa to organise the Boer War reporting. When he returned, expecting to find himself still in the editorial chair, Marlowe had been made `managing editor', and thought this gave him seniority. A silent daily battle for physical possession of the editor's room ensued, watched with fascination by the office. Alfred must have found it almost as good as the goldfish and the pike. Each man tried to arrive before the other in the morning, then remain sitting at the desk all day. Marlowe proved the stronger; one version of his victory has it that he brought better sandwiches; another, that he had a stronger bladder.

(1) Christopher Farman, The General Strike: Britain's Aborted Revolution? (1972)

What had erupted at the Daily Mail was an entirely unofficial dispute. The printers objected to an attack on trade unions made in the leading article, "For King and Country", and when Thomas Marlowe, the editor, refused to delete it workers in the machine' room, foundry and packing departments downed tools. Although George Isaacs, the NATSOPA secretary, "would have nothing to do with a strikel, Marlowe, whose services in connection with the Zinoviev letter were by no means forgotten, phoned Downing Street and was put through to the Home Secretary. While the Cabinet ultimatum to the T.U.C. was amended to deal with the new situation, one of Baldwin's aides phoned the King's assistant private secretary at Windsor. "The Daily Mail has ceased to function. Don't be alarmed. Tell His Majesty so that he should not go off the deep end. There was no need for concern, came the reply from Windsor. "We don't take the Daily Mail".

Did Marlowe's phone call provoke the Cabinet into sabotaging a chance of peace at the eleventh hour? Certainly, the Cabinet was still strongly divided over whether or not the time had come for Baldwin to hand over its original ultimatum to the T.U.C. when news of the Mail strike arrived. According to the Colonial Secretary, Leopold Amery, this "tipped the scale". W. C. Bridgeman, First Lord of the Admiralty, wrote in his diary that the news arrived "rather fortunately, as it brought the doubtful people right up against the situation that the General Strike had actually begun".

(2) Julian Symons, The General Strike (1957)

The Government sub-committee retired at half-past eleven at night to report progress to the rest of the Cabinet, who had by now been kicking their heels for several hours, and were not in the best of tempers. Baldwin, exhausted, dropped into an armchair, and Birkenhead read out the second formula, and described the negotiations. There was a sharp division of opinion. `Some of us', said Amery, `would have been prepared to continue negotiations so long as there was the faintest chance of an agreement': others were determined that no concession of any kind should be made. The leaders of this second group were Churchill, Neville Chamberlain (who felt that the time had come for action) and Joynson-Hicks; on the other side it seems that Birkenhead was inclined towards a settlement, and Baldwin was thought by some of his colleagues to be more sympathetic than was proper to the cause of organized labour. While discussions were going on, a telephone message came through from the Daily Mail with the news that the Natsopa chapel had refused to print the paper.

This refusal was prompted by an editorial which came from the hand of the editor himself This editor, Thomas Marlowe, was an extreme Right-wing Tory (it was the Daily Mail that, nearly two years before, had given the news of the Zinoviev letter to the world) : and his editorial, `For King and Country', was regarded, not only by Natsopa members, but by other union chapels at the paper, as an incitement to strike-breaking.

(3) Thomas Marlowe, The Daily Mail (2nd May, 1926)

The miners after weeks of negotiation have declined the proposals made to them and the coal mines of Britain are idle.

The Council of Trades Union Congress, which represents all the other trade unions, has determined to support the miners by going to the extreme of ordering a general strike.

This determination alters the whole position. The coal industry, which might have been reorganized with good will on both sides, seeing that some "give and take" is plainly needed to restore it to prosperity has now become the subject of a great political struggle, which the nation has no choice but to face with the utmost coolness and the utmost firmness.

We do not wish to say anything hard about the miners themselves. As to their leaders, all we need say at this moment is that some of them are (and have openly declared themselves) under the influence of people who mean no good to this country.

A general strike is not an industrial dispute. It is a revolutionary movement intended to inflict suffering upon the great mass of innocent persons in the community and thereby to put forcible constraint upon the Government.

It is a movement which can only succeed by destroying the Government and subverting the rights and liberties of the people.

This being the case, it cannot be tolerated by any civilized Government and it must be dealt with by every resource at the disposal of the community.

A state of emergency and national danger has been proclaimed to resist the attack.

We call upon all law-abiding men and women to hold themselves at the service of King and country.

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(1) Hamilton Fyfe, Thomas Marlowe : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 26

(3) Paul Ferris, The House of Northcliffe: The Harmsworths of Fleet Street (1971) page 112

(4) Hamilton Fyfe, Thomas Marlowe : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(5) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 32

(6) Alfred Harmsworth, Daily Mail (4th May, 1896)

(7) Kennedy Jones, Fleet Street and Downing Street (1919) page 138

(8) Francis Williams, Dangerous Estate: The Anatomy of Newspapers (1957) page 140

(9) Matthew Engel, Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (1996) page 68

(10) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 129

(11) Paul Ferris, The House of Northcliffe: The Harmsworths of Fleet Street (1971) page 194

(12) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 143

(13) Philip Knightley, The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker (1982) page 66

(14) The Daily Mail (22nd September, 1914)

(15) The Daily Mail (15th May, 1915)

(16) Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, Daily Mail (21st May, 1915)

(17) The Daily Mail (22nd May, 1915)

(18) J. Lee Thompson, Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922 (2000) page 241

(19) Hannen Swaffer, Northcliffe's Return (1925) page 24

(20) The Times (2nd December, 1916)

(21) Tom Clarke, My Northcliffe Diary (1931) pages 105-107

(22) Alfred George Gardiner, The Daily News (2nd December, 1916)

(23) Roy Jenkins, Asquith (1995) pages 440

(24) John Grigg, Lloyd George, From Peace To War 1912-1916 (1985) page 456

(25) The Times (4th December, 1916)

(26) The Manchester Guardian (4th December, 1916)

(27) H. H. Asquith, letter to David Lloyd George (4th December, 1916)

(28) David Lloyd George, letter to H. H. Asquith (4th December, 1916)

(29) David Lloyd George, letter to H. H. Asquith (5th December, 1916)

(30) J. H. Thomas, My Story (1937) page 43

(31) The Daily Chronicle (7th December, 1916)

(32) Alfred George Gardiner, The Daily News (9th December, 1916)

(33) J. Lee Thompson, Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922 (2000) pages 264 and 265

(34) James Curran, Impacts and Influences: Media Power in the Twentieth Century: Essays on Media Power in the Twentieth Century (1987) page 29

(35) Hamilton Fyfe, Sixty Years of Fleet Street (1949) page 82

(36) Thomas Marlowe, letter to Lord Northcliffe (20th May 1907)

(37) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 221

(38) Gill Bennett, A Most Extraordinary and Mysterious Business: The Zinoviev Letter of 1924 (1999) page 28

(39) The Daily Mail (30th November 1923)

(40) John Hope, Lobster Magazine (November, 1991)

(41) Keith Jeffery, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service (2010) page 233

(42) Gill Bennett, Churchill's Man of Mystery: Desmond Morton and the World of Intelligence (2006) page 82

(43) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 150

(44) A. J. P. Taylor, English History: 1914-1945 (1965) pages 289-290

(45) Hamilton Fyfe, Thomas Marlowe : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(46) The Daily Mail (25th October 1924)

(47) Ramsay MacDonald, statement (25th October 1924)

(48) A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (1972) page 223

(49) David Low, Autobiography (1956) page 160

(50) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 150

(51) Will Paynter, My Generation (1972) page 30

(52) Christopher Farman, The General Strike: Britain's Aborted Revolution? (1972) page 40

(53) Tony Lane, The Union Makes us Strong (1974) page 121

(54) Alan Bullock, The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin (1960) page 277

(55) Anne Perkins, A Very British Strike: 3 May-12 May 1926 (2007) page 53

(56) Thomas Jones, Whitehall Diaries: Volume II (1969) page 16

(57) Paul Davies, A. J. Cook (1987) page 95

(58) Margaret Morris, The General Strike (1976) page 214

(59) Hamilton Fyfe, Thomas Marlowe : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(60) Christopher Farman, The General Strike: Britain's Aborted Revolution? (1972) pages 139-140

(61) Paul Davies, A. J. Cook (1987) page 99

(62) Margaret Morris, The General Strike (1976) page 241

(63) John C. Davidson, Memoirs of a Conservative (1969) page 238

(64) The Daily Mirror (12th May, 1926)

(65) The Daily Mail (13th May, 1926)

(66) Richard Bourne, Lords of Fleet Street: the Harmsworth Dynasty (1980) page 98

(67) Thomas Marlowe, letter to Howell Arthur Gwynne (20th May 1932)