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Dunstan Robert (Dr)

Dr Robert Dunstan

Dunstan was Communist who enjoyed wide support among Labour Party members in Birmingham in the 1920s, so strong that he gained national credibility. Even Poplar’s George Lansbury, who would later become the leader of the Labour Party stated: “I would be glad to support Dr Dunstan’s candidature at any time. The Communists are not our enemies but of friends.” 

Having joined the Communist Party on its foundation, Dunstan steadfastly remained an active member of Labour, there being no ban on such a position for most of the first decade of the Communist Party’s existence. In such a capacity, he stood in Birminghamas the Labour - Communist candidate for Birmingham West in 1924.

Continuing his national profile, Dunstan played a significant role in the General Strike, publishing “The soldier's conscience” in 1926 for the Communist Party.

He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1928 after the Liverpool Labour Party decision, but only after Edgbaston Constituency Labour Party, the dominant area constituting Birmingham West, refused to expel him on a 50-19 vote. This merely resulted in the local Labour Party being disaffiliated from the national Labour Party by edict from London. The resultant creation of a local Labour Party in West Birmingham by Labour’s head office was a right-wing creature that never ever quite faded over the next decades.

In the General Election of 1929, Dunstan stood as a Communist against an official Labour candidate (the Liberal won) in Bethnall Green South West, receiving just short of 8% of the total vote but well over a fifth of Labour’s vote. Dunstan also had the satisfaction of not coming last, being a few votes above the Conservative! This had been a seat contested by Joe Vaughan (see separate entry) and the former local Mayor would return as a Communist candidate in 1931 to almost win the seat.

Dunstan remained active in Communist politics in Birmingham until around 1945.

He died in 1963.