In 1921 John Archer began promoting the career of the Indian left-winger Shapurji. He was to be the successful election agent for Saklatvala in 1922, 1923 and 1924, brokering a deal by which his candidate was uniquely unopposed by Labour.
Archer's involvement in local politics had continued, however, with a bitter struggle over unemployment relief. Against his passionate opposition the Council reduced maximum relief to the unemployed to the level of the national scale, and accepted accommodation for young people in a Workhouse run by the Fulham Guardians in Surrey, which Archer referred to as a "penitentiary". The bitterness of the arguments continued well into 1923. In October the Chairman suspended all the Labour members. Archer was seized by the head and the heels, and dragged out of the room.
The conflicts in the Chamber were mirrored by other splits. In the early 1920s the Labour Party banned Communists from membership. Battersea, opposed the ban, which affected its MP, Archer's protégé, Saklatvala, and the local Labour Party was disaffiliated from the national Labour movement. Saklatvala sat on as a Communist MP. At the start of the General Strike he was arrested for sedition and jailed. John Archer continued to support him, until in 1926, the police, raiding the Communist Party HQ in Battersea, discovered a letter from Saklatvala outlining plans to undermine the Labour Party. Archer set up a new affiliated North Battersea Labour branch in his shop, and organised the campaign of a new candidate, William Sanders, who fought and defeated Saklatvala in 1929. Archer continued as agent for the Labour Party, and he continued to be annually re-appointed as Alderman until he was re-elected to the Council in November 1931 for the Nine Elms Ward, and became Deputy Leader of the Labour Group - although he never surrendered his links with the Nine Elms Swimming Club.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips
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