Although it is now seen as the beginning of the Labour Party, at the time of its inception the LRC was not a united political party. The Committee was an alliance of independent organisations, set up to promote labour representation in the House of Commons.
The trade unions had traditionally supported ‘Labour’ candidates (Lib-Labs) which took the Liberal whip. However the local Liberal Associations were increasingly unwilling to take them on. A series of legal cases during the 1890’s also undermined the legal status of the unions.
The LRC came at a time when the unions saw the need for better parliamentary representation to look after their interests. However the resolution which led to the conference at the Memorial Hall and the formation of the LRC, only passed by a narrow margin.
There were no specific commitments to follow a socialist policy. Many within the unions were reluctant to cooperate with socialists, particularly the dogmatic SDF.
On the other hand, it was the lack of commitment to socialism and the ‘class war’ which saw the SDF disaffiliate from the LRC in 1901.
The LRC had just over 350 000 members from 41 unions and limited finances. Keeping the alliance together would be the task of its Secretary, James Ramsay MacDonald of the ILP.