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Ramsay MacDonald

Ramsay MacDonald

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James Ramsay MacDonald, PC
Privy council
A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors to give confidential advice on...

, FRS (12 October 1866 – 9 November 1937) was a British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 politician
Politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 who was the first ever Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

, leading a minority government
Minority government
A minority government or a minority cabinet is a cabinet of a parliamentary system formed when a political party or coalition of parties does not have a majority of overall seats in the parliament but is sworn into government to break a Hung Parliament election result. It is also known as a...

 for two terms.

MacDonald entered Parliament at the 1906 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1906
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1906*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

 and had become chairman of the Labour MPs by 1914. His opposition to the First World War made him unpopular and he was defeated at the 1918 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1918
The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Polling was held on 14 December 1918, although the count did...

, returning to Parliament at the 1922 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1922
The United Kingdom general election of 1922 was held on 15 November 1922. It was the first election held after most of the Irish counties left the United Kingdom to form the Irish Free State, and was won by Andrew Bonar Law's Conservatives, who gained an overall majority over Labour, led by John...

, at which Labour replaced the Liberals as the largest left-wing party in the UK. MacDonald was a powerful if woolly orator and by then had earned great public respect for his opposition to the war. His first government - formed with Liberal support - in 1924 lasted nine months, but was defeated at the 1924 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1924
- Seats summary :- References :* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* - External links :* * *...

 amidst allegations, now thought to have been fabricated, that his government was endorsed by the Soviet Foreign Minister Zinoviev
Zinoviev Letter
The "Zinoviev Letter" refers to a controversial document published by the British press in 1924, allegedly sent from the Communist International in Moscow to the Communist Party of Great Britain...

.

Labour returned to power - this time as the largest party - in 1929
1929 in the United Kingdom
Events from the year 1929 in the United Kingdom.-Incumbents:*Monarch - King George V*Prime Minister - Stanley Baldwin, Conservative , Ramsay MacDonald, Labour-Events:...

 but was soon overwhelmed by the crisis of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, in which the Labour government was split by demands for public spending cuts to preserve the Gold Standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

. In 1931
1931 in the United Kingdom
Events from the year 1931 in the United Kingdom.-Incumbents:*Monarch - King George V*Prime Minister - Ramsay MacDonald, Labour and national coalition-Events:* 6 January - Sadler's Wells Theatre opens in London....

, he formed a National Government
UK National Government
In the United Kingdom the term National Government is an abstract concept referring to a coalition of some or all major political parties. In a historical sense it usually refers primarily to the governments of Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain which held office from 1931...

 in which only two of his Labour colleagues agreed to serve and the majority of whose MPs were from the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

. As a result, MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party, which accused him of "betrayal". The Gold Standard soon had to be abandoned after the Invergordon Mutiny
Invergordon Mutiny
The Invergordon Mutiny was an industrial action by around 1,000 sailors in the British Atlantic Fleet, that took place on 15–16 September 1931...

 and MacDonald's National Government won a huge "doctor's mandate" at the 1931 General Election
United Kingdom general election, 1931
The United Kingdom general election on Tuesday 27 October 1931 was the last in the United Kingdom not held on a Thursday. It was also the last election, and the only one under universal suffrage, where one party received an absolute majority of the votes cast.The 1931 general election was the...

, at which the Labour Party was reduced to a rump of around 50 seats in the House of Commons.

MacDonald remained Prime Minister of the National Government from 1931 to 1935
1935 in the United Kingdom
Events from the year 1935 in the United Kingdom. This royal Silver Jubilee year sees a General Election and changes in the leadership of both the Conservative and Labour parties.-Incumbents:*Monarch - King George V...

; during this time his health rapidly deteriorated and he became increasingly ineffective as a leader. He stood down as Prime Minister in 1935 - losing his seat in the General Election that year
United Kingdom general election, 1935
The United Kingdom general election held on 14 November 1935 resulted in a large, though reduced, majority for the National Government now led by Conservative Stanley Baldwin. The greatest number of MPs, as before, were Conservative, while the National Liberal vote held steady...

 and returning for a different constituency - but stayed in the Cabinet as Lord President of the Council
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

 until retiring from the government in 1937 and dying, still an MP, later that year. For many years his reputation remained low, particularly amongst Labour supporters, although his record is to some extent defended by modern historians.

Lossiemouth


MacDonald was born in Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth is a town in Moray, Scotland. Originally the port belonging to Elgin, it became an important fishing town. Although there has been over a 1,000 years of settlement in the area, the present day town was formed over the past 250 years and consists of four separate communities that...

, Morayshire, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, the illegitimate son of John Macdonald, a farm labourer, and Anne Ramsay, a housemaid. Although registered at birth as James McDonald Ramsay, he was known as Jaimie MacDonald. Illegitimacy could be a serious handicap in 19th-century Presbyterian Scotland, but in the north and northeast farming communities, this was less of a problem; in 1868 a report of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women in Agriculture noted that the illegitimacy rate was around 15%.

He received an elementary education at the Free Church of Scotland
Free Church of Scotland (1843-1900)
The Free Church of Scotland is a Scottish denomination which was formed in 1843 by a large withdrawal from the established Church of Scotland in a schism known as the "Disruption of 1843"...

 school in Lossiemouth, and then from 1875 at the local Drainie parish school. In 1881 he became a pupil teacher at Drainie and the entry in the school register as a member of staff was 'J. MacDonald'. He remained in this post until 1 May 1885 to take up a position as an assistant to a clergyman in Bristol. It was in Bristol, that he joined the Democratic Federation, an extreme Radical
Radicals (UK)
The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.-Background:...

 sect. This federation changed its name a few months later to the Social Democratic Federation
Social Democratic Federation
The Social Democratic Federation was established as Britain's first organised socialist political party by H. M. Hyndman, and had its first meeting on June 7, 1881. Those joining the SDF included William Morris, George Lansbury and Eleanor Marx. However, Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx's long-term...

 (SDF). He remained in the group when it left the SDF to become the Bristol Socialist Society
Bristol Socialist Society
The Bristol Socialist Society was a political organisation in South West England.The group originated in 1885 as a local affiliate of the Social Democratic Federation. However, in 1886, it instead affiliated to the Socialist Union...

. MacDonald returned to Lossiemouth before the end of the year for reasons unknown, but in early 1886 once again left for London.

London


MacDonald arrived in London jobless but after some short-term menial work, he found employment as an invoice clerk. Meanwhile, MacDonald was deepening his socialist credentials. He engaged himself energetically in C. L. Fitzgerald's Socialist Union
Socialist Union (UK)
The Socialist Union was a British political party active from February 1886 to 1888.The group was formed by socialists around C. L. Fitzgerald who left the Social Democratic Federation in protest at SDF leader H. M. Hyndman's acceptance of money which Maltman Barry had obtained from the...

 which, unlike the SDF, aimed to progress socialist ideals through the parliamentary system.
MacDonald witnessed the Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1887)
Bloody Sunday, London, 13 November 1887, was the name given to a demonstration against coercion in Ireland and to demand the release from prison of MP William O'Brien, who was imprisoned for incitement as a result of an incident in the Irish Land War. The demonstration was organized by the Social...

 of 13 November 1887 in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

 and in response to this he had a pamphlet published by the Pall Mall Gazette
Pall Mall Gazette
The Pall Mall Gazette was an evening newspaper founded in London on 7 February 1865 by George Murray Smith; its first editor was Frederick Greenwood...

entitled Remember Trafalgar Square: Tory Terrorism in 1887.

MacDonald retained an interest in Scottish politics. Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

's first Irish Home Rule Bill inspired the setting-up of a Scottish Home Rule Association in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

. On 6 March 1888, MacDonald took part in a meeting of Scotsmen who were London residents and who, on his motion, formed the London General Committee of Scottish Home Rule Association. He continued to support home rule for Scotland, but with little support from London Scots forthcoming, his enthusiasm for the committee waned and from 1890 he took little part in its work. However, MacDonald never lost his interest in Scottish politics and home rule, and in his Socialism: critical and constructive, published in 1921, he wrote: "The Anglification of Scotland has been proceeding apace to the damage of its education, its music, its literature, its genius, and the generation that is growing up under this influence is uprooted from its past."

Politics in the 1890s was still of less importance to MacDonald than furthering himself in employment. To this end he took evening classes in science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

, agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, and physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution
Birkbeck, University of London
Birkbeck, University of London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. It offers many Master's and Bachelor's degree programmes that can be studied either part-time or full-time, though nearly all teaching is...

 but his health suddenly failed him due to exhaustion one week before his examinations. This put an end to any thought of having a career in science. In 1888, MacDonald took employment as private secretary to Thomas Lough
Thomas Lough
Thomas Lough was a British Liberal politician.He was born in Ireland to Matthew Lough and Martha Steel of Cavan, and was educated at the Royal School Cavan and at Wesleyan Connexional School, Dublin....

 who was a tea merchant and a Radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

 politician. Lough was elected as the Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 (MP) for West Islington
Islington West (UK Parliament constituency)
Islington West was a borough constituency in the Metropolitan Borough of Islington, in North London.It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1885 until it was abolished for the 1950 general election...

, in 1892. Many doors now opened to MacDonald. He had access to the National Liberal Club
National Liberal Club
The National Liberal Club, known to its members as the NLC, is a London gentlemen's club, now also open to women, which was established by William Ewart Gladstone in 1882 for the purpose of providing club facilities for Liberal Party campaigners among the newly-enlarged electorate after the Third...

 as well as the editorial offices of Liberal and Radical newspapers. He also made himself known to various London Radical clubs and with Radical and labour politicians. MacDonald gained valuable experience in the workings of electioneering. In 1892, he left Lough’s employment to become a journalist and was not immediately successful. By then, MacDonald had been a member of the Fabian Society
Fabian Society
The Fabian Society is a British socialist movement, whose purpose is to advance the principles of democratic socialism via gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary, means. It is best known for its initial ground-breaking work beginning late in the 19th century and continuing up to World...

 for some time and toured and lectured on its behalf at the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

 and elsewhere.

Active politics


The TUC
Trades Union Congress
The Trades Union Congress is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in the United Kingdom, representing the majority of trade unions...

 had created the Labour Electoral Association (LEA) and entered into an unsatisfactory alliance with the Liberal Party in 1886. In 1892, MacDonald was in Dover to give support to the candidate for the LEA in the General Election and who was well beaten. MacDonald impressed the local press and the Association, however, and was adopted as its candidate. MacDonald, though, announced that his candidature would be under a Labour Party banner. He denied that the Labour Party was a wing of the Liberal Party but saw merit in a working relationship. In May 1894, the local Southampton Liberal Association was trying to find a labour minded candidate for the constituency. MacDonald along with two others were invited to address the Liberal Council. One of three men turned down the invitation and MacDonald failed to secure the candidature despite the strong support he had among Liberals.
In 1893, Keir Hardie
Keir Hardie
James Keir Hardie, Sr. , was a Scottish socialist and labour leader, and was the first Independent Labour Member of Parliament elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 had formed the Independent Labour Party
Independent Labour Party
The Independent Labour Party was a socialist political party in Britain established in 1893. The ILP was affiliated to the Labour Party from 1906 to 1932, when it voted to leave...

 (ILP) which had established itself as a mass movement and so in May 1894 MacDonald applied for membership of, and was accepted into, the ILP. He was officially adopted as the ILP candidate for one of the Southampton seats on 17 July 1894 but was heavily defeated at the election of 1895. MacDonald stood for Parliament again in 1900 for one of the two Leicester seats and although he lost was accused of splitting the Liberal vote to allow the Conservative candidate to win. That same year he became Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), the forerunner of the Labour Party, while retaining his membership of the ILP. The ILP, while not a Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 party, was more rigorously socialist than the future Labour Party in which the ILP members would operate as a "ginger group
Ginger group
A ginger group is a formal or informal group within, for example, a political party seeking to inspire the rest with its own enthusiasm and activity....

" for many years.

As Party Secretary, MacDonald negotiated an agreement
Gladstone-MacDonald pact
The Gladstone-MacDonald pact of 1903 was a secret informal electoral agreement negotiated by Herbet Gladstone, Liberal Party Chief Whip, and Ramsay MacDonald, Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee...

 with the leading Liberal politician Herbert Gladstone (son of the late Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

), which allowed Labour to contest a number of working-class seats without Liberal opposition, thus giving Labour its first breakthrough into the House of Commons. He married Margaret Ethel Gladstone
Margaret MacDonald (spouse)
Margaret MacDonald, née Margaret Ethel Gladstone was a feminist, social reformer, and the wife of British politician and future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ramsay MacDonald from 1896 until her death from blood poisoning in 1911...

, who was unrelated to the Gladstones of the Liberal Party, in 1896. Margaret MacDonald was very comfortably off, although not hugely wealthy. This allowed them to indulge in foreign travel, visiting Canada and the United States in 1897, South Africa in 1902, Australia and New Zealand in 1906 and to India several times.

It was during this period that MacDonald and his wife began a long friendship with the social investigator and reforming civil servant Clara Collet
Clara Collet
Clara Collet was pivotal in effecting many reforms which greatly improved working conditions and pay for women during the early part of the twentieth century...

 with whom he discussed women's issues. She influenced MacDonald and other politicians in their attitudes towards women and especially their work. In 1901, he was elected to the London County Council
London County Council
London County Council was the principal local government body for the County of London, throughout its 1889–1965 existence, and the first London-wide general municipal authority to be directly elected. It covered the area today known as Inner London and was replaced by the Greater London Council...

 for Finsbury Central as a joint Labour-Progressive Party
Progressive Party (London)
The Progressive Party was a political party based around the Liberal Party that contested municipal elections in the County of London.It was founded in 1888 by a group of Liberals and leaders of the labour movement. It was also supported by the Fabian Society, and Sidney Webb was one of its...

 candidate, but he was disqualified from the register in 1904 due to his absences abroad.

In 1906, the LRC changed its name to the "Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

", and absorbed the ILP. In that same year, MacDonald was elected MP for Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

 along with 28 others, and became one of the leaders of the Parliamentary Labour Party
Parliamentary Labour Party
In UK politics, the Parliamentary Labour Party is the parliamentary party of the Labour Party in Parliament: Labour MPs as a collective body....

. These Labour MPs undoubtedly owed their election to the ‘Progressive Alliance’ between the Liberals and Labour which at this time was a minor party supporting the Liberal governments of Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman GCB was a British Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908 and Leader of the Liberal Party from 1899 to 1908. He also served as Secretary of State for War twice, in the Cabinets of Gladstone and Rosebery...

 and Herbert Henry Asquith
H. H. Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916...

. MacDonald became the leader of the left wing of the party, arguing that Labour must seek to displace the Liberals as the main party of the left.

Up to 1910 his name was usually styled Ramsay Macdonald, thereafter Ramsay MacDonald.

Party leader



In 1911 MacDonald became Party Leader (formally "Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party"), but within a short period his wife became ill with blood poisoning and died. This affected MacDonald greatly. MacDonald had always taken a keen interest in foreign affairs and knew from his visit to South Africa just after the Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 had ended, what the effects of modern conflict would have. Although the Parliamentary Labour Party generally held an anti-war opinion, when war was declared in August 1914, patriotism came to the fore. Labour supported the government in its request for £100,000,000 of war credits and, as MacDonald could not support this, he resigned the Chairmanship. Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson was a British iron moulder and Labour politician. He was the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and he served three short terms as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1908–1910, 1914–1917 and 1931-1932....

 became the new leader while MacDonald took the party Treasurer post. During the early part of the war he was extremely unpopular and was accused of treason and cowardice. Horatio Bottomley
Horatio Bottomley
Horatio William Bottomley was a British financier, swindler, journalist, newspaper proprietor, populist politician and Member of Parliament .-Early life:...

 attacked him through his magazine John Bull
John Bull (magazine)
John Bull Magazine was a weekly periodical established in the City, London EC4, by Theodore Hook in 1820.-Publication dates:It was a popular periodical that continued in production through 1824 and at least until 1957...

in September 1915 by publishing an article carrying details of MacDonald's birth and his so-called deceit in not disclosing his real name. His illegitimacy was no secret and he hadn’t seemed to have suffered by it, but according to the journal he had, by using a false name, gained access to parliament falsely, and should suffer heavy penalties and have his election declared void. MacDonald received much support but the way in which the disclosures were made public had affected him. He wrote in his diary:
"... I spent hours of terrible mental pain. Letters of sympathy began to pour in upon me... Never before did I know that I had been registered under the name of Ramsay, and cannot understand it now. From my earliest years my name has been entered in lists, like the school register, etc. as MacDonald."


Despite his opposition to the war, MacDonald still visited the front in December 1914. Lord Elton
Godfrey Elton, 1st Baron Elton
Godfrey Elton, 1st Baron Elton , was a British historian.-Early life:Elton was the eldest son of Edward Fiennes Elton and his wife Violet Hylda Fletcher. He was educated at Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford. At Oxford he at first studies classics but later turned to history...

 wrote:
"... he arrived in Belgium with an ambulance unit organised by Dr Hector Munro. The following day he had disappeared and agitated enquiry disclosed that he had been arrested and sent back to Britain. At home he saw Lord Kitchener
Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener
Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, ADC, PC , was an Irish-born British Field Marshal and proconsul who won fame for his imperial campaigns and later played a central role in the early part of the First World War, although he died halfway...

 who expressed his annoyance at the incident and gave instructions for him to be given an 'omnibus' pass to the whole Western Front. He returned to an entirely different reception and was met by General Seeley at Poperinghe who expressed his regrets at the way MacDonald had been treated. They set off for the front at Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 and soon found themselves in the thick of an action in which both behaved with the utmost coolness. Later, MacDonald was received by the Commander-in-Chief at St Omer
Saint-Omer
Saint-Omer , a commune and sub-prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais department west-northwest of Lille on the railway to Calais. The town is named after Saint Audomar, who brought Christianity to the area....

 and made an extensive tour of the front. Returning home, he paid a public tribute to the courage of the French troops, but said nothing then or later of having been under fire himself."



As the war dragged on his reputation recovered but nevertheless he lost his seat in the 1918 "Coupon Election
United Kingdom general election, 1918
The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Polling was held on 14 December 1918, although the count did...

", which saw the Liberal David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 coalition government win a huge majority.

MacDonald stood for Parliament in the 1921 Woolwich East by-election
Woolwich East by-election, 1921
The Woolwich East by-election, 1921 was a parliamentary by-election held on 2 March 1921 for the British House of Commons constituency of Woolwich East, in the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in London....

, and lost to war veteran and Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 winner Robert Gee
Robert Gee
Captain Robert Gee VC MC was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces....

. In 1922 the Conservatives left the coalition and Bonar Law, who had taken over from Lloyd George, called an election on 26 October. MacDonald was returned to the House as MP for Aberavon
Aberavon (UK Parliament constituency)
Aberavon is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It returns one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system.-History:...

 in Wales and his rehabilitation was complete; the Labour New Leader wrote that his election was
"enough in itself to transform our position in the House. We have once more a voice which must be heard."'
By now the party was reunited and MacDonald was re-elected as Leader. The Liberals by this point were in rapid decline and at the 1922 election Labour became the main opposition party to the Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

, making MacDonald Leader of the Opposition. By this time he had moved away from the Labour left and abandoned the socialism of his youth — he strongly opposed the wave of radicalism that swept through the labour movement in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 — and became a determined enemy of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. Unlike the French Socialist Party and the German SPD
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

, the Labour Party did not split and the Communist Party of Great Britain
Communist Party of Great Britain
The Communist Party of Great Britain was the largest communist party in Great Britain, although it never became a mass party like those in France and Italy. It existed from 1920 to 1991.-Formation:...

 remained small and isolated.

Although he was a gifted speaker, MacDonald became noted for 'woolly' rhetoric such as the occasion at the Labour Party Conference of 1930 at Llandudno when he appeared to imply unemployment could be solved by encouraging the jobless to return to the fields "where they till and they grow and they sow and they harvest". Equally there were times it was unclear what his policies were. There was already some unease in the party about what he would do if Labour was able to form a government. At the 1923 election the Conservatives lost their majority, and when they lost a vote of confidence in the House in January 1924 King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 called on MacDonald to form a minority Labour government, with the tacit support of the Liberals under Asquith from the corner benches. MacDonald thus became the first Labour Prime Minister, the first from a working-class background and one of the very few without a university education.

First government (1924)



MacDonald took the post of Foreign Secretary as well as Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 in January 1924 and made it clear that his main priority was to undo the damage which he believed had been caused by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

, by settling the reparations
World War I reparations
World War I reparations refers to the payments and transfers of property and equipment that Germany was forced to make under the Treaty of Versailles following its defeat during World War I...

 issue and coming to terms with Germany. He left domestic matters to his ministers, including J.R. Clynes
John Robert Clynes
John Robert Clynes was a British trade unionist and Labour Party politician. He was a Member of Parliament for 35 years, and led the party in its breakthrough at the 1922 general election...

 as Lord Privy Seal
Lord Privy Seal
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

, Philip Snowden as Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 and Henderson as Home Secretary
Home Secretary
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the Home Office of the United Kingdom, and one of the country's four Great Offices of State...

. King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 noted in his diary that "He wishes to do the right thing...Today 23 years ago dear Grandmama died. I wonder what she would have thought of a Labour Government!"

The Government was only to last nine months and did not have a majority in either House of the Parliament, nevertheless it was still able to support the unemployed with the extension of benefits and amendments to the Insurance Acts. In a personal triumph for John Wheatley
John Wheatley
John Wheatley was a Scottish socialist politician. He was a prominent figure of the Red Clydeside era.Wheatley was born in Bonmahon, County Waterford, Ireland, to Thomas and Johanna Wheatley. In 1876 the family moved to Braehead, Lanarkshire in Scotland...

, Minister for Health, a Housing Act was passed which greatly expanded municipal housing for low paid workers.

MacDonald took the decision in March 1924 to end construction work on the Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 military base despite strong opposition from the Admiralty. MacDonald believed the building of the base would endanger the disarmament conference; the First Sea Lord
First Sea Lord
The First Sea Lord is the professional head of the Royal Navy and the whole Naval Service; it was formerly known as First Naval Lord. He also holds the title of Chief of Naval Staff, and is known by the abbreviations 1SL/CNS...

 Lord Beatty
David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty
Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO was an admiral in the Royal Navy...

 considered the absence of such a base as dangerously imperilling British trade and territories east of Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

, and would mean the security of the British Empire in the Far East being dependent on the goodwill of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

.

In June, MacDonald convened a conference in London of the wartime Allies, and achieved an agreement on a new plan for settling the reparations issue and the French occupation of the Ruhr
Ruhr
The Ruhr is a medium-size river in western Germany , a right tributary of the Rhine.-Description:The source of the Ruhr is near the town of Winterberg in the mountainous Sauerland region, at an elevation of approximately 2,200 feet...

. German delegates then joined the meeting, and the London Settlement was signed. This was followed by an Anglo-German commercial treaty. Another major triumph for MacDonald was the conference held in London in July–August 1924 to deal with the implementation of the Dawes Plan
Dawes Plan
The Dawes Plan was an attempt in 1924, following World War I for the Triple Entente to collect war reparations debt from Germany...

. MacDonald, who accepted the view of the economist John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

 of German reparations
World War I reparations
World War I reparations refers to the payments and transfers of property and equipment that Germany was forced to make under the Treaty of Versailles following its defeat during World War I...

 as impossible to pay successfully pressured the French Premier Édouard Herriot
Édouard Herriot
Édouard Marie Herriot was a French Radical politician of the Third Republic who served three times as Prime Minister and for many years as President of the Chamber of Deputies....

 into a whole series of concessions to Germany. A British onlooker commented that “The London Conference was for the French 'man in the street' one long Calvary...as he saw M. Herriot abandoning one by one the cherished possessions of French preponderance on the Reparations Commission, the right of sanctions in the event of German default, the economic occupation of the Ruhr, the French-Belgian railroad Régie, and finally, the military occupation of the Ruhr within a year.” MacDonald was hugely proud of what had been achieved; this was the pinnacle of his short-lived administration's achievements. In September he made a speech to the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 Assembly in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, the main thrust of which was for general European disarmament
Disarmament
Disarmament is the act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons. Disarmament generally refers to a country's military or specific type of weaponry. Disarmament is often taken to mean total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear arms...

 which was received with great acclamation.

But before all of this the United Kingdom had recognised the Soviet Union and MacDonald informed parliament in February 1924 that negotiations would begin to negotiate a treaty with the Soviet Union. The treaty was to cover Anglo-Soviet trade and the situation of the British bondholders who had contracted with the pre-revolutionary Russian government and which had been rejected by the Bolsheviks. There were in fact to be two treaties. One covering commercial matters and the other to cover a fairly vague future discussion on the problem of the bondholders. If and when the treaties were signed, then the British government would conclude a further treaty and guarantee a loan to the Bolsheviks. The treaties were popular neither with the Conservatives nor with the Liberals who, in September, criticised the loan so vehemently that negotiation with them seemed impossible.

However, it was the "Campbell Case
Campbell Case
The Campbell Case of 1924 involved charges against a British Communist newspaper editor for alleged "incitement to mutiny" caused by his publication of a provocative open letter to members of the military...

" — the abrogation of prosecuting the left-wing newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 the Workers Weekly — that determined its fate. The Conservatives put forth a censure motion, to which the Liberals added an amendment. MacDonald's Cabinet resolved to treat both motions as matters of confidence, which if passed, would necessitate a dissolution of government. The Liberal amendment carried and the King granted MacDonald a dissolution of parliament the following day. The issues which dominated the election campaign were, unsurprisingly, the Campbell case and the Russian treaties which soon combined into the single issue of the Bolshevik threat.

The Zinoviev letter



On 25 October 1924, just 4 days before the election, the Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

reported that a letter had come into its possession which purported to be a letter sent from Grigory Zinoviev
Grigory Zinoviev
Grigory Yevseevich Zinoviev , born Ovsei-Gershon Aronovich Radomyslsky Apfelbaum , was a Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet Communist politician...

, the President of the Communist International, to the British representative on the Comintern Executive. The letter was dated 15 September and so before the dissolution of parliament; it stated that it was imperative that the agreed treaties between Britain and the Bolsheviks be ratified urgently. To this end, the letter said that those Labour members who could apply pressure on the government should do so. It went on to say that a resolution of the relationship between the two countries would "assist in the revolutionising of the international and British proletariat .... make it possible for us to extend and develop the ideas of Leninism in England and the Colonies." The government had received the letter before the publication in the newspapers and had protested to the Bolshevik’s London chargé d'affaires and had already decided to make public the contents of the letter together with details of the official protest but had not been swift footed enough. MacDonald always believed that the letter was forgery but damage had been done to his campaign.

Despite all that had gone on, the result of the election was not disastrous to Labour. The Conservatives were returned decisively gaining 155 seats for a total of 413 members of parliament. Labour lost 40 seats but held on to 151. The Liberals lost 118 seats (leaving them with only 40) and their vote fell by over a million. The real significance of the election was that the Liberals - whom Labour had displaced as the second largest political party in 1922 - were now clearly a minor party.

Second Labour government (1929–1931)


The strong majority enjoyed by Baldwin’s party allowed him to preside over a government that would serve a full term during which it would have to deal with the General Strike
1926 United Kingdom general strike
The 1926 general strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted nine days, from 4 May 1926 to 13 May 1926. It was called by the general council of the Trades Union Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening...

 and miners’ strike of 1926. Unemployment in the UK during this period remained high but relatively stable at just over 10% and, apart from 1926, strikes were at a low level. At the May 1929 election
United Kingdom general election, 1929
-Seats summary:-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987*-External links:***...

, Labour won 288 seats to the Conservatives' 260, with 59 Liberals under Lloyd George holding the balance of power. At this election, MacDonald moved from Aberavon to the seat of Seaham Harbour
Seaham (UK Parliament constituency)
Seaham was a parliamentary constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was in existence between 1918 and 1950. It elected one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election...

 in County Durham
County Durham
County Durham is a ceremonial county and unitary district in north east England. The county town is Durham. The largest settlement in the ceremonial county is the town of Darlington...

. Baldwin resigned and MacDonald again formed a minority government, at first with Lloyd George's cordial support.


This time MacDonald knew he had to concentrate on domestic matters. Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson was a British iron moulder and Labour politician. He was the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and he served three short terms as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1908–1910, 1914–1917 and 1931-1932....

 became Foreign Secretary, with Snowden again at the Exchequer. JH Thomas
James Henry Thomas
James Henry "Jimmy" Thomas was a British trade unionist and Labour politician. He was involved in a political scandal involving budget leaks.-Early career and Trade Union activities:...

 became Lord Privy Seal with a mandate to tackle unemployment, assisted by the young radical Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet, of Ancoats, was an English politician, known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists...

. MacDonald appointed the first ever woman cabinet minister Margaret Bondfield
Margaret Bondfield
Margaret Grace Bondfield was an English Labour politician and feminist, the first woman Cabinet minister in the United Kingdom and one of the first three female Labour MPs...

 as Minister of Labour
Secretary of State for Employment
The Secretary of State for Employment was a position in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. In 1995 it was merged with Secretary of State for Education to make the Secretary of State for Education and Employment...

.

MacDonald's second government was in a stronger parliamentary position than his first, and in 1930 he was able to raise unemployment pay, pass an act to improve wages and conditions in the coal industry (i.e. the issues behind the General Strike) and pass a housing act which focused on slum clearances. However, an attempt by the Education Minister Charles Trevelyan
Sir Charles Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet
Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet PC , the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, was a British Liberal, and later Labour, politician and landowner...

 to introduce an act to raise the school-leaving age to 15 was defeated by opposition from Roman Catholic Labour MPs, who feared that the costs would lead to increasing local authority control over faith schools.

In international affairs, he also convened a conference in London with the leaders of the Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

, at which he offered responsible government
Responsible government
Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability which is the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy...

, but not independence, to India. In April 1930 he negotiated a treaty limiting naval armaments with the United States and Japan.


The Great Depression



MacDonald's government had no effective response to the economic crisis which followed the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Phillip Snowden was a rigid exponent of orthodox finance and would not permit any deficit spending to stimulate the economy, despite the urgings of Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet, of Ancoats, was an English politician, known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists...

, David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 and the economist John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

. Mosley put forward a memorandum in January 1930, calling for the public control of imports and banking as well as an increase in pensions to boost spending power. When this was repeatedly turned down, Mosley resigned from the government in February 1931 and formed the New Party. He later converted to Fascism
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

.

By the end of 1930, unemployment had doubled to over two and a half million. The government struggled to cope with the crisis and found itself attempting to reconcile two contradictory aims: achieving a balanced budget in order to maintain the pound
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 on the Gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

, and maintaining assistance to the poor and unemployed, at a time when tax revenues were falling. During 1931 the economic situation deteriorated, and pressure from orthodox economists for sharp cuts in government spending increased. Under pressure from its Liberal allies as well as the Conservative opposition who feared that the budget was unbalanced. Snowden appointed a committee headed by Sir George May
George May, 1st Baron May
George Ernest May, 1st Baron May KBE , known as Sir George May, 1st Baronet, from 1931 to 1945, was a British financial expert and public servant....

 to review the state of public finances. The May Report
May Report
The May Report was the publication on 31 July 1931 of the views of the Committee on National Expenditure chaired by Sir George May.-Background:...

 of July 1931 urged large public-sector wage cuts and large cuts in public spending (notably in payments to the unemployed) in order to avoid a budget deficit.

Keynes urged MacDonald to devalue the pound by 25% and abandon the existing economic policy of a balanced budget. MacDonald, Snowden, and Thomas supported such measures as necessary to maintain a balanced budget and to prevent a run on the pound, but the proposed cuts split the Cabinet down the middle and the trade unions bitterly opposed them.

Formation of the National Government


Although there was a narrow majority in the Cabinet for drastic reductions in spending, the minority included senior ministers such as Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson
Arthur Henderson was a British iron moulder and Labour politician. He was the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and he served three short terms as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1908–1910, 1914–1917 and 1931-1932....

 who made it clear they would resign rather than acquiesce to the cuts. With this unworkable split, on 24 August 1931 MacDonald submitted his resignation and then agreed, on the urging of King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 to form a National Government with the Conservatives and Liberals. MacDonald, Snowden, and Thomas were quickly expelled from the Labour Party and subsequently formed a new National Labour group, which received little support in the country or the unions. Great anger in the labour movement greeted MacDonald's move. Mass riots by unemployed people took place in protest in Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 and Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

. Many in the Labour Party viewed this as a cynical move by MacDonald to rescue his career, and accused him of 'betrayal'. MacDonald, however, argued that the sacrifice was for the common good.

1931 general election


MacDonald did not want an immediate election, but the Conservatives forced him to agree to one in October 1931. In the 1931 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1931
The United Kingdom general election on Tuesday 27 October 1931 was the last in the United Kingdom not held on a Thursday. It was also the last election, and the only one under universal suffrage, where one party received an absolute majority of the votes cast.The 1931 general election was the...

 The National Government won 554 seats, comprising 470 Conservatives, 13 National Labour, 68 Liberals (Liberal National and Liberal) and various others, while Labour, now led by Arthur Henderson won only 52 and the Lloyd George Liberals four. Henderson and his deputy J. R. Clynes both lost their seats in Labour's worst-ever rout. Labour's disastrous performance at the 1931 election greatly increased the bitterness felt by MacDonald's former colleagues towards him. MacDonald was genuinely upset to see the Labour Party so badly defeated at the election. He had regarded the National Government as a temporary measure, and had hoped to return to the Labour Party.

Premiership of the National Government (1931–1935)



The National Government's huge majority left MacDonald with the largest mandate ever won by a British Prime Minister at a democratic election, but it left MacDonald at the beck-and-call of the Conservatives. Although he remained Prime Minister, MacDonald was overshadowed by Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

 and Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 who between them effectively controlled domestic policy.

With little influence at home, MacDonald involved himself heavily in foreign policy. Assisted by the National Liberal
National Liberal Party (UK, 1931)
The National Liberal Party, known until 1948 as the Liberal National Party, was a liberal political party in the United Kingdom from 1931 to 1968...

 leader and Foreign Secretary John Simon
John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon GCSI GCVO OBE PC was a British politician who held senior Cabinet posts from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second. He is one of only three people to have served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer,...

, he continued to lead important British delegations, including the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the Lausanne Conference in 1932, and the Stresa Conference in 1935.

MacDonald was deeply affected by the anger and bitterness caused by the fall of the Labour government. He continued to regard himself as a true Labour man, but the rupturing of virtually all his old friendships left him an isolated figure. Phillip Snowden, a firm believer in free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

, resigned from the government in 1932 following the introduction of tariffs after the Ottawa agreement. This robbed MacDonald of his only significant political ally.

Retirement


In 1933 and 1934 MacDonald's health declined, and he became an increasingly ineffective leader as the international situation grew more threatening. His speeches to the House of Commons became increasingly incoherent. One observer noted how "Things... got to the stage where nobody knew what the Prime Minister was going to say in the House of Commons, and, when he did say it, nobody understood it". His pacifism, which had been widely admired in the 1920s, led Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and others to accuse him of failure to stand up to the threat of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

. MacDonald was aware of his fading powers, and in 1935 he agreed a timetable with Baldwin to stand down as Prime Minister after George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

's Silver Jubilee
Silver Jubilee
A Silver Jubilee is a celebration held to mark a 25th anniversary. The anniversary celebrations can be of a wedding anniversary, ruling anniversary or anything that has completed a 25 year mark...

 celebrations in May 1935. He resigned on 7 June in favour of Baldwin, and remained in the cabinet, taking the largely honorary post of Lord President
Lord President of the Council
The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

 vacated by Baldwin.

Last years and death


At the election
United Kingdom general election, 1935
The United Kingdom general election held on 14 November 1935 resulted in a large, though reduced, majority for the National Government now led by Conservative Stanley Baldwin. The greatest number of MPs, as before, were Conservative, while the National Liberal vote held steady...

 later in the year MacDonald was defeated at Seaham by Emanuel Shinwell. Shortly after he was elected at a by-election in January 1936
Combined Scottish Universities by-election, 1936
The Combined Scottish Universities by-election, 1936 was a by-election held from 27 January to 31 January 1936 for the Combined Scottish Universities, a university constituency of the British House of Commons.- Vacancy :...

 for the Combined Scottish Universities seat, but his physical and mental health collapsed in 1936. A sea voyage was recommended to restore his health, but he died on board the liner Reina del Pacifico
Reina del Pacifico
RMMV Reina del Pacifico was a passenger ship operated by the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. Built by Harland & Wolff at Belfast, she was launched on 23 September 1930, and was the largest and fastest motor liner of her time, sailing from Liverpool to the Caribbean, Panama Canal and South...

at sea on 9 November 1937, aged 71. He was buried alongside his wife at Spynie in his native Morayshire.

Reputation


MacDonald's expulsion from Labour along with his National Labour Party's coalition with the Conservatives, combined with the decline in his mental powers after 1931, left him a discredited figure at the time of his death and receiving unsympathetic treatment from generations of Labour-inclined British historians. The events of 1931, with the downfall of the Labour government and his coalition with the Conservatives, led to MacDonald becoming one of the most reviled figures in the history of the Labour Party, with many of his former supporters accusing him of betraying the party he had helped create. Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 in his autobiography As it Happened (1954) called MacDonald's decision to abandon the Labour government in 1931 "the greatest betrayal in the political history of the country".

It was not until 1977 that he received a supportive biography, when Professor David Marquand
David Marquand
David Ian Marquand FBA, FRHistS, FRSA is a British academic and former Labour Party Member of Parliament .Born in Cardiff, Marquand was educated at Emanuel School, Magdalen College, Oxford, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and at the University of California, Berkeley...

, a former Labour MP, wrote Ramsay MacDonald with the stated intention of giving MacDonald his due for his work in founding and building the Labour Party, and in trying to preserve peace in the years between the two world wars. He argued also to place MacDonald's fateful decision in 1931 in the context of the crisis of the times and the limited choices open to him.
Similarly, opinion about the economic decisions taken in the inter-war period (Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

's decision to return to the Gold Standard in 1925, and MacDonald's desperate efforts to defend it in 1931) is no longer as uniformly hostile as was once the case. Robert Skidelsky, in his classic account of the 1929–31 government, Politicians and the Slump (1967), compared the orthodox policies advocated by leading politicians of both parties unfavourably with the more radical, proto-Keynesian measures advocated by David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 and Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet, of Ancoats, was an English politician, known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists...

. But in the preface to the 1994 edition Skidelsky argues that recent experience of currency crises and capital flight make it hard to be critical of politicians who wanted to achieve stability by cutting labour costs and defend the value of the currency.

In popular culture


In Howard Spring
Howard Spring
Howard Spring was a Welsh author.He began his writing career as a journalist, but from 1934 produced a series of best-selling novels, the most successful of which was Fame is the Spur , which has been both a major film, starring Michael Redgrave, and a BBC television series , starring Tim...

's 1940 novel Fame is the Spur, later made into a 1947 film
Fame is the Spur (film)
Fame is the Spur is a 1947 British drama film directed by Roy Boulting. It stars Michael Redgrave, Rosamund John, Bernard Miles, David Tomlinson, Maurice Denham and Kenneth Griffith. A British politician rises to power, abandoning on the way his radical views for more conservative ones...

 and a 1982 TV adaptation
Fame is the Spur (TV series)
Fame is the Spur is a British television series which first aired on the BBC in 1982 . It was based on the novel Fame is the Spur by Howard Spring. It depicts a socialist politician who betrays his early beliefs as he grows older, and was believed to be based upon the Labour Prime Minister Ramsay...

, the lead character Hamer Shawcross is generally believed to be based upon Ramsay MacDonald.

In the twenty-fourth episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a BBC TV sketch comedy series. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines...

, original footage of Ramsay McDonald entering No. 10 Downing Street is followed by a black and white film of McDonald (played by Michael Palin) doing a striptease, revealing garter belt, suspender and stockings.

In Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

's 1934 novel It's a Battlefield
It's a Battlefield
It's a Battlefield is an early novel by Graham Greene, first published in the year 1934. Graham Greene later described it as his "first overtly political novel"...

, Ramsay McDonald's name repeatedly appears in Newspapers and on billboards in reference to a visit to Lossiemouth. He is also mentioned and featured in Noel Coward's film, "This Happy Breed".

Personal life


Ramsay MacDonald married Margaret Ethel Gladstone (no relation to 19th-century Prime Minister William Gladstone) in 1896. The marriage was a very happy one, and they had six children, including Malcolm MacDonald
Malcolm MacDonald
Malcolm John MacDonald OM, PC was a British politician and diplomat.-Background:MacDonald was the son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Margaret MacDonald. Like his father he was born in Lossiemouth, Moray...

 (1901–81), who had a prominent career as a politician, colonial governor and diplomat, and Ishbel MacDonald
Ishbel MacDonald
Ishbel Allan MacDonald was the daughter of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ramsay MacDonald and his wife Margaret MacDonald née Gladstone. Margaret's death in 1911 - a year after their son David had died - left Ramsay a single father to his remaining five children...

 (1903–82), who was very close to her father. Another son, Alister Gladstone MacDonald (1898–1993) was a prominent architect who worked on promoting the planning policies of his father's government, and specialised in cinema design. MacDonald was devastated by Margaret's death from blood poisoning in 1911, and had few significant personal relationships after that time, apart from with Ishbel, who cared for him for the rest of his life. Following his wife's death, MacDonald commenced a relationship with Lady Margaret Sackville
Lady Margaret Sackville
Lady Margaret Sackville was an English poet and children’s author.-Life:Born at 60 Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, Lady Margaret was the youngest child of Reginald Windsor Sackville, 7th Earl De La Warr, who died when she was fourteen...

.

In the 1920s and 1930s he was frequently entertained by the society hostess Lady Londonderry
Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry
Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry DBE was a noted socialite and philanthropist in the United Kingdom between World War I and World War II.-Family:...

, which was much disapproved of in the Labour Party since her husband was a Conservative cabinet minister.

MacDonald's unpopularity in the country following his stance against Britain's involvement in the First World War spilled over into his private life. In 1916, he was expelled from the Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth is a town in Moray, Scotland. Originally the port belonging to Elgin, it became an important fishing town. Although there has been over a 1,000 years of settlement in the area, the present day town was formed over the past 250 years and consists of four separate communities that...

 for supposedly bringing the club into disrepute because of his pacifist views. The manner of his expulsion was regretted by some members but an attempt to re-instate him by a vote in 1924 failed. However a Special General Meeting held in 1929 finally voted for his reinstatement. By this time, MacDonald was Prime Minister for the second time. He felt the initial expulsion very deeply and refused to take up the final offer of membership.

First Labour government: January–November 1924

  • Ramsay MacDonald – Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons
    Leader of the House of Commons
    The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

  • Lord Haldane – Lord Chancellor
    Lord Chancellor
    The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

     and joint Leader of the House of Lords
    Leader of the House of Lords
    The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Lords. The role is always held in combination with a formal Cabinet position, usually one of the sinecure offices of Lord President of the Council,...

  • Lord Parmoor – Lord President of the Council
    Lord President of the Council
    The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

     and joint Leader of the House of Lords
    Leader of the House of Lords
    The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Lords. The role is always held in combination with a formal Cabinet position, usually one of the sinecure offices of Lord President of the Council,...

  • John Robert Clynes
    John Robert Clynes
    John Robert Clynes was a British trade unionist and Labour Party politician. He was a Member of Parliament for 35 years, and led the party in its breakthrough at the 1922 general election...

     – Lord Privy Seal
    Lord Privy Seal
    The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

     and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
    Leader of the House of Commons
    The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

  • Philip Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden PC was a British politician and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931.-Early life: 1864–1906:...

     – Chancellor of the Exchequer
    Chancellor of the Exchequer
    The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

  • Arthur Henderson
    Arthur Henderson
    Arthur Henderson was a British iron moulder and Labour politician. He was the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and he served three short terms as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1908–1910, 1914–1917 and 1931-1932....

     – Home Secretary
  • James Henry Thomas
    James Henry Thomas
    James Henry "Jimmy" Thomas was a British trade unionist and Labour politician. He was involved in a political scandal involving budget leaks.-Early career and Trade Union activities:...

     – Secretary of State for the Colonies
    Secretary of State for the Colonies
    The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom's various colonial dependencies....

  • Stephen Walsh – Secretary of State for War
    Secretary of State for War
    The position of Secretary of State for War, commonly called War Secretary, was a British cabinet-level position, first held by Henry Dundas . In 1801 the post became that of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The position was re-instated in 1854...

  • Sir Sydney Olivier
    Sydney Olivier, 1st Baron Olivier
    Sydney Haldane Olivier, 1st Baron Olivier, KCMG, CB, PC , was a British civil servant. A Fabian and a member of the Labour Party, he served as Governor of Jamaica and as Secretary of State for India in the first government of Ramsay MacDonald...

     – Secretary of State for India
    Secretary of State for India
    The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

  • William Adamson
    William Adamson
    William Adamson was a Scottish trade unionist and Labour politician. He was Leader of the Labour Party between 1917 and 1921 and served as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1924 and between 1929 and 1931 in the first two Labour administrations headed by Ramsay MacDonald.-Background:Adamson was...

     – Secretary for Scotland
  • Lord Thomson – Secretary for Air
    Secretary of State for Air
    The Secretary of State for Air was a cabinet level British position. The person holding this position was in charge of the Air Ministry. It was created on 10 January 1919 to manage the Royal Air Force...

  • Lord Chelmsford
    Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford
    Frederic John Napier Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, GBE, PC was a British statesman who served as Governor of Queensland , Governor of New South Wales from 1909 to 1913, and Viceroy of India from 1916 to 1921, where he was responsible for the creation of the Montagu-Chelmsford...

     – First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Josiah Wedgwood
    Josiah Wedgwood, 1st Baron Wedgwood
    Colonel Josiah Clement Wedgwood, 1st Baron Wedgwood, DSO, PC, DL sometimes referred to as Josiah Wedgwood IV was a British Liberal and Labour politician who served in government under Ramsay MacDonald...

     – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
    The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is, in modern times, a ministerial office in the government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties, the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster...

  • Sidney Webb
    Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield
    Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield PC OM was a British socialist, economist, reformer and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. He was one of the early members of the Fabian Society in 1884, along with George Bernard Shaw...

     – President of the Board of Trade
  • Noel Buxton – Minister of Agriculture
    Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was a UK cabinet position, responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The post was originally named President of the Board of Agriculture and was created in 1889...

  • Charles Philips Trevelyan
    Sir Charles Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet
    Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet PC , the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, was a British Liberal, and later Labour, politician and landowner...

     – President of the Board of Education
  • Vernon Hartshorn
    Vernon Hartshorn
    Vernon Hartshorn was a Welsh trades unionist and Labour Party politician who served as a Member of Parliament from 1918 until his death....

     – Postmaster-General
    United Kingdom Postmaster General
    The Postmaster General of the United Kingdom is a defunct Cabinet-level ministerial position in HM Government. Aside from maintaining the postal system, the Telegraph Act of 1868 established the Postmaster General's right to exclusively maintain electric telegraphs...

  • Frederick William Jowett
    Frederick William Jowett
    Frederick William 'Fred' Jowett was a British Labour politician.-Early life:Born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, Jowett received little formal education and at the age of eight was working at the local textile mill...

     – First Commissioner of Works
    First Commissioner of Works
    The First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings was a position within the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It took over some of the functions of the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests in 1851 when the portfolio of Crown holdings was divided into the public...

  • Thomas Shaw – Minister of Labour
    Secretary of State for Employment
    The Secretary of State for Employment was a position in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. In 1995 it was merged with Secretary of State for Education to make the Secretary of State for Education and Employment...

  • John Wheatley
    John Wheatley
    John Wheatley was a Scottish socialist politician. He was a prominent figure of the Red Clydeside era.Wheatley was born in Bonmahon, County Waterford, Ireland, to Thomas and Johanna Wheatley. In 1876 the family moved to Braehead, Lanarkshire in Scotland...

     – Minister of Health
    Secretary of State for Health
    Secretary of State for Health is a UK cabinet position responsible for the Department of Health.The first Boards of Health were created by Orders in Council dated 21 June, 14 November, and 21 November 1831. In 1848 a General Board of Health was created with the First Commissioner of Woods and...


Second Labour government: June 1929 – August 1931

  • Ramsay MacDonald – Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Sankey
    John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey
    John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey GBE, KStJ, PC, KC was a prominent British lawyer, judge and Labour politician, famous for many of his judgments in the House of Lords...

     – Lord Chancellor
    Lord Chancellor
    The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

  • Lord Parmoor – Lord President of the Council
    Lord President of the Council
    The Lord President of the Council is the fourth of the Great Officers of State of the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord High Treasurer and above the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord President usually attends each meeting of the Privy Council, presenting business for the monarch's approval...

     and Leader of the House of Lords
    Leader of the House of Lords
    The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Lords. The role is always held in combination with a formal Cabinet position, usually one of the sinecure offices of Lord President of the Council,...

  • J.H. Thomas
    James Henry Thomas
    James Henry "Jimmy" Thomas was a British trade unionist and Labour politician. He was involved in a political scandal involving budget leaks.-Early career and Trade Union activities:...

     – Lord Privy Seal
    Lord Privy Seal
    The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

  • Philip Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden PC was a British politician and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931.-Early life: 1864–1906:...

     – Chancellor of the Exchequer
    Chancellor of the Exchequer
    The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

  • J.R. Clynes
    John Robert Clynes
    John Robert Clynes was a British trade unionist and Labour Party politician. He was a Member of Parliament for 35 years, and led the party in its breakthrough at the 1922 general election...

     – Home Secretary
  • Arthur Henderson
    Arthur Henderson
    Arthur Henderson was a British iron moulder and Labour politician. He was the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and he served three short terms as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1908–1910, 1914–1917 and 1931-1932....

     – Foreign Secretary
  • Lord Passfield
    Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield
    Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield PC OM was a British socialist, economist, reformer and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. He was one of the early members of the Fabian Society in 1884, along with George Bernard Shaw...

     – Secretary of State for the Colonies
    Secretary of State for the Colonies
    The Secretary of State for the Colonies or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom's various colonial dependencies....

     and Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
    Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
    The position of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was a British cabinet level position created in 1925 responsible for British relations with the Dominions — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, and the Irish Free State, as well as the self-governing colony of...

  • Thomas Shaw- Secretary of State for War
    Secretary of State for War
    The position of Secretary of State for War, commonly called War Secretary, was a British cabinet-level position, first held by Henry Dundas . In 1801 the post became that of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The position was re-instated in 1854...

  • William Wedgwood Benn
    William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate
    Air Commodore William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount Stansgate PC, DSO, DFC was a British Liberal politician who later joined the Labour Party. He was Secretary of State for India between 1929 and 1931 and Secretary of State for Air between 1945 and 1946...

     – Secretary of State for India
    Secretary of State for India
    The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

  • Lord Thomson – Secretary of State for Air
    Secretary of State for Air
    The Secretary of State for Air was a cabinet level British position. The person holding this position was in charge of the Air Ministry. It was created on 10 January 1919 to manage the Royal Air Force...

  • William Adamson
    William Adamson
    William Adamson was a Scottish trade unionist and Labour politician. He was Leader of the Labour Party between 1917 and 1921 and served as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1924 and between 1929 and 1931 in the first two Labour administrations headed by Ramsay MacDonald.-Background:Adamson was...

     – Secretary of State for Scotland
    Secretary of State for Scotland
    The Secretary of State for Scotland is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office , a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns, but was...

  • A. V. Alexander
    A. V. Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough
    Albert Victor Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough KG, CH, PC was a British Labour Co-operative politician. He was three times First Lord of the Admiralty, including during the Second World War, and then Minister of Defence under Clement Attlee.-Background:Born in Weston-super-Mare and...

     – First Lord of the Admiralty
  • William Graham – President of the Board of Trade
  • Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan
    Sir Charles Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet
    Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet PC , the Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, was a British Liberal, and later Labour, politician and landowner...

     – President of the Board of Education
  • Noel Buxton – Minister of Agriculture
    Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was a UK cabinet position, responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The post was originally named President of the Board of Agriculture and was created in 1889...

  • Margaret Bondfield
    Margaret Bondfield
    Margaret Grace Bondfield was an English Labour politician and feminist, the first woman Cabinet minister in the United Kingdom and one of the first three female Labour MPs...

     – Minister of Labour
    Secretary of State for Employment
    The Secretary of State for Employment was a position in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. In 1995 it was merged with Secretary of State for Education to make the Secretary of State for Education and Employment...

  • Arthur Greenwood
    Arthur Greenwood
    Arthur Greenwood CH was a prominent member of the Labour Party from the 1920s until the late 1940s. He rose to prominence within the party as secretary of its research department from 1920 and served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health in the short-lived Labour government of 1924...

     – Minister of Health
    Secretary of State for Health
    Secretary of State for Health is a UK cabinet position responsible for the Department of Health.The first Boards of Health were created by Orders in Council dated 21 June, 14 November, and 21 November 1831. In 1848 a General Board of Health was created with the First Commissioner of Woods and...

  • George Lansbury
    George Lansbury
    George Lansbury was a British politician, socialist, Christian pacifist and newspaper editor. He was a Member of Parliament from 1910 to 1912 and from 1922 to 1940, and leader of the Labour Party from 1932 to 1935....

     – First Commissioner of Works
    First Commissioner of Works
    The First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings was a position within the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It took over some of the functions of the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests in 1851 when the portfolio of Crown holdings was divided into the public...


Changes

  • June 1930 – J.H. Thomas succeeds Lord Passfield as Dominions Secretary. Passfield remains Colonial Secretary. Vernon Hartshorn
    Vernon Hartshorn
    Vernon Hartshorn was a Welsh trades unionist and Labour Party politician who served as a Member of Parliament from 1918 until his death....

     succeeds Thomas as Lord Privy Seal. Christopher Addison
    Christopher Addison, 1st Viscount Addison
    Sir Christopher Addison, 1st Viscount Addison KG, PC was a British medical doctor and politician. By turns a liberal and a socialist, he served as Minister of Munitions during the first World War, and was later Minister of Health under David Lloyd George and Leader of the House of Lords under...

     succeeds Noel Buxton as Minister of Agriculture
  • October 1930 – Lord Amulree succeeds Lord Thomson as Secretary of State for Air
  • March 1931 – H.B. Lees-Smith
    Hastings Lees-Smith
    Hastings Bertrand Lees-Smith PC was a British Labour politician who was briefly in the cabinet as President of the Board of Education in 1931...

     succeeds Sir C.P. Trevelyan at the Board of Education. Herbert Morrison
    Herbert Morrison
    Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC was a British Labour politician; he held a various number of senior positions in the Cabinet, including Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.-Early life:Morrison was the son of a police constable and was born in...

     enters the cabinet as Minister of Transport
    Secretary of State for Transport
    The Secretary of State for Transport is the member of the cabinet responsible for the British Department for Transport. The role has had a high turnover as new appointments are blamed for the failures of decades of their predecessors...

    . Thomas Johnston
    Thomas Johnston
    Thomas "Tom" Johnston CH was a prominent Scottish socialist and politician of the early 20th century, a member of the Labour Party, a Member of Parliament and government minister – usually with Cabinet responsibility for Scottish affairs.-Red Clydesider:Johnston, the son of a middle-class...

     succeeds Hartshorn as Lord Privy Seal

First national government: August–November 1931

  • Ramsay MacDonald – Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Sankey
    John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey
    John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey GBE, KStJ, PC, KC was a prominent British lawyer, judge and Labour politician, famous for many of his judgments in the House of Lords...

     – Lord Chancellor*
  • Stanley Baldwin
    Stanley Baldwin
    Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

     – Lord President**
  • Philip Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden PC was a British politician and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931.-Early life: 1864–1906:...

     – Chancellor of the Exchequer*
  • Sir Herbert Samuel
    Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel
    Herbert Louis Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel GCB OM GBE PC was a British politician and diplomat.-Early years:...

     – Home Secretary***
  • Lord Reading
    Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading
    Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, PC, KC , was an English lawyer, jurist and politician...

     – Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords
    Leader of the House of Lords
    The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Lords. The role is always held in combination with a formal Cabinet position, usually one of the sinecure offices of Lord President of the Council,...

    ***
  • Sir Samuel Hoare – Secretary for India**
  • J.H. Thomas
    James Henry Thomas
    James Henry "Jimmy" Thomas was a British trade unionist and Labour politician. He was involved in a political scandal involving budget leaks.-Early career and Trade Union activities:...

     – Dominions Secretary and Colonial Secretary*
  • Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister
    Philip Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Earl of Swinton
    Philip Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Earl of Swinton GBE, CH, MC, PC , known as Philip Lloyd-Greame until 1924 and as The Viscount Swinton from 1935 until 1955, was a prominent British Conservative politician from the 1920s until the 1950s.-Background and early life:Born as Philip Lloyd-Graeme, he was the...

     – President of the Board of Trade**
  • Neville Chamberlain
    Neville Chamberlain
    Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

     – Minister of Health**

Second national government: November 1931 – May 1935

  • Ramsay MacDonald – Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Sankey
    John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey
    John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey GBE, KStJ, PC, KC was a prominent British lawyer, judge and Labour politician, famous for many of his judgments in the House of Lords...

     – Lord Chancellor*
  • Stanley Baldwin
    Stanley Baldwin
    Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

     – Lord President**
  • Lord Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden
    Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden PC was a British politician and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he held in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931.-Early life: 1864–1906:...

     – Lord Privy Seal*
  • Neville Chamberlain
    Neville Chamberlain
    Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

     – Chancellor of the Exchequer**
  • Sir Herbert Samuel
    Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel
    Herbert Louis Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel GCB OM GBE PC was a British politician and diplomat.-Early years:...

     – Home Secretary***
  • Sir John Simon
    John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
    John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon GCSI GCVO OBE PC was a British politician who held senior Cabinet posts from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second. He is one of only three people to have served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer,...

     – Foreign Secretary****
  • Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister
    Philip Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Earl of Swinton
    Philip Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Earl of Swinton GBE, CH, MC, PC , known as Philip Lloyd-Greame until 1924 and as The Viscount Swinton from 1935 until 1955, was a prominent British Conservative politician from the 1920s until the 1950s.-Background and early life:Born as Philip Lloyd-Graeme, he was the...

     – Colonial Secretary**
  • J.H. Thomas
    James Henry Thomas
    James Henry "Jimmy" Thomas was a British trade unionist and Labour politician. He was involved in a political scandal involving budget leaks.-Early career and Trade Union activities:...

     – Dominions Secretary*
  • Lord Hailsham
    Douglas Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham
    Douglas McGarel Hogg, 1st Viscount Hailsham PC was a British lawyer and Conservative politician.-Background:...

     – Secretary of State for War and Leader of the House of Lords
    Leader of the House of Lords
    The Leader of the House of Lords is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Lords. The role is always held in combination with a formal Cabinet position, usually one of the sinecure offices of Lord President of the Council,...

    **
  • Sir Samuel Hoare – Secretary of State for India**
  • Lord Londonderry
    Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry
    Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, KG, MVO, PC, PC , styled Lord Stewart until 1884 and Viscount Castlereagh between 1884 and 1915, was an Anglo-Irish peer and had careers in both Irish and British politics...

     – Secretary for Air**
  • Sir Archibald Sinclair
    Archibald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso
    Archibald Henry Macdonald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso KT, CMG, PC , known as Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt between 1912 and 1952, and often as Archie Sinclair, was a British politician and leader of the Liberal Party....

     – Secretary of State for Scotland
    Secretary of State for Scotland
    The Secretary of State for Scotland is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office , a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns, but was...

    ***
  • Sir B. Eyres-Monsell
    Bolton Eyres-Monsell, 1st Viscount Monsell
    Bolton Meredith Eyres-Monsell, 1st Viscount Monsell, GBE, PC was a British Conservative Party politician who served as Chief Whip until 1931 and then as First Lord of the Admiralty.His parents were Lt.Col...

     – First Lord of the Admiralty**
  • Walter Runciman
    Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford
    Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford PC was a prominent Liberal, later National Liberal politician in the United Kingdom from the 1900s until the 1930s.-Background:...

     – President of the Board of Trade****
  • Sir John Gilmour – Minister of Agriculture**
  • Sir Donald Maclean – President of the Board of Education***
  • Sir Henry Betterton
    Henry Betterton, 1st Baron Rushcliffe
    Henry Bucknall Betterton, 1st Baron Rushcliffe GBE, PC , known as Sir Henry Betterton, Bt, between 1929 and 1935, was a British barrister and Conservative politician...

     – Minister of Labour**
  • Sir E. Hilton-Young
    Edward Hilton Young, 1st Baron Kennet
    Sir Edward Hilton Young, 1st Baron Kennet, GBE, PC , was a British politician and writer.- Family and early life :...

     – Minister of Health**
  • William Ormsby-Gore
    William Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech
    William George Arthur Ormsby-Gore, 4th Baron Harlech KG, GCMG, PC , known as William Ormsby-Gore until 1938, was a British Conservative politician and banker.-Background:...

     – First Commissioner of Works**

Changes

  • June 1932 - Lord Irwin** succeeds Sir Donald Maclean (deceased) as President of the Board of Education
  • September 1932 – Stanley Baldwin succeeds Lord Snowden as Lord Privy Seal, remaining also Lord President. Sir John Gilmour succeeds Sir Herbert Samuel as Home Secretary. Sir Godfrey Collins
    Godfrey Collins
    Sir Godfrey Pattison Collins KBE, CMG, PC was a Scottish Liberal Party politician.He entered the Royal Navy in 1888 and was a Midshipman, East Indian Station from 1890-1893...

    **** succeeds Sir Archibald Sinclair as Scottish Secretary. Walter Elliot** succeeds Sir John Gilmour as Minister of Agriculture.
  • December 1933 – Stanley Baldwin ceases to be Lord Privy Seal, and his successor in that office is not in the cabinet. He continues as Lord President. Kingsley Wood
    Kingsley Wood
    Sir Howard Kingsley Wood was an English Conservative politician. The son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, he qualified as a solicitor, and successfully specialised in industrial insurance...

    ** enters the cabinet as Postmaster-General
  • June 1934 – Oliver Stanley
    Oliver Stanley
    Oliver Frederick George Stanley MC, PC was a prominent British Conservative politician who held many ministerial posts before his early death when it was expected he would soon assume higher office....

    ** succeeds Sir H. Betterton as Minister of Labour

Key

  • * = Member of National Labour
  • ** = Member of the Conservative Party
    Conservative Party (UK)
    The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

  • *** = Member of the Liberal Party
    Liberal Party (UK)
    The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

  • **** = Member of the Liberal National Party
    National Liberal Party (UK, 1931)
    The National Liberal Party, known until 1948 as the Liberal National Party, was a liberal political party in the United Kingdom from 1931 to 1968...


Sources

  • Elton, Godfrey
    Godfrey Elton, 1st Baron Elton
    Godfrey Elton, 1st Baron Elton , was a British historian.-Early life:Elton was the eldest son of Edward Fiennes Elton and his wife Violet Hylda Fletcher. He was educated at Rugby and Balliol College, Oxford. At Oxford he at first studies classics but later turned to history...

     The Life of James Ramsay MacDonald 1939
  • Marquand, David
    David Marquand
    David Ian Marquand FBA, FRHistS, FRSA is a British academic and former Labour Party Member of Parliament .Born in Cardiff, Marquand was educated at Emanuel School, Magdalen College, Oxford, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and at the University of California, Berkeley...

     Ramsay MacDonald, London: Jonathan Cape 1977; ISBN 0-224-01295-9
  • Barker, Bernard (ed.) Ramsay MacDonald's Political Writings, Allen Lane, London 1972
  • Cox, Jane
    Jane Cox
    Jane Cox is an English actress well known for her part in ITV's Emmerdale as farmer's wife Lisa Dingle.She lives in the former mill town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire and trained at Rose Bruford College....

     A Singular Marriage: A Labour Love Story in Letters and Diaries (of Ramsay and Margaret MacDonald), London: Harrap 1988; ISBN 978-0245546761
  • Hinks, John Ramsay MacDonald: the Leicester years (1906–1918), Leicester, 1996
  • Howell, David MacDonald's Party. Labour Identities and Crisis, 1922–1931, Oxford: OUP 2002; ISBN 0198203047
  • MacDonald, Ramsay The Socialist Movement, 1911
  • MacDonald, Ramsay Labour and Peace, Labour Party 1912
  • MacDonald, Ramsay Parliament and Revolution, Labour Party 1919
  • MacDonald, Ramsay Foreign Policy of the Labour Party, Labour Party 1923
  • MacDonald, Ramsay Margaret Ethel MacDonald, 1924
  • Morgan, Austen: J. Ramsay MacDonald, 1987; ISBN 0-7190-2168-5
  • Phillips, Gordon: The Rise of the Labour Party 1893–1931, London: Routledge 1992
  • Rosen, Greg (ed.) Dictionary of Labour Biography, London: Politicos Publishing 2001; ISBN 9781902301181
  • Rosen, Greg (ed.) Old Labour to New. The Dreams That Inspired, the Battles That Divided, London: Politicos Publishing 2005; ISBN 978-1842750452
  • Thorpe, Andrew Britain in the 1930s. The Deceptive Decade, Oxford: Blackwell 1992; ISBN 0-631-17411-7
  • Williamson, Philip : National Crisis and National Government. British Politics, the Economy and the Empire, 1926–1932, Cambridge: CUP 1992; ISBN 0-521-36137-0

Political offices



External links