The election result of 1929 was the start of a shift in the political landscape of Britain, as all the political parties struggled to understand and interpret the profound changes that had been taking place domestically and internationally since the end of the First World War. The failure of Baldwin’s government to reduce unemployment or to revive the economy led to its rejection at the polls. With Liberal support, Ramsay MacDonald formed his second Labour administration.
Although angry at this, Churchill supposed that the Labour government would not last long, based on its brief tenure of office in 1923-1924. Nor was he concerned at the prospect of being in opposition for a while. His position as a senior Tory appeared secure, and he anticipated leading the opposition alongside Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, from the front bench. But the issues of India’s status as a dominion and of tariff reform changed these assumptions. By 1931 Churchill found himself in opposition not just to the Labour government, but to his own party.
Despite his lifelong adherence to the principles of free trade, Churchill was forced to accept protectionism by the economic dire straits of 1931. But he found himself unable to make any such similar compromise over plans to grant India - the keystone of the British Empire - dominion status. It was over this issue, therefore, that he