but the minority, stiffened by the adamantine refusal of the General Council to accept cuts in unemployment benefit, was too large to be disregarded. 'The General Council are pigs', remarked Sidney Webb, who favoured the cuts. Arthur Henderson, on the other hand, concluded that only the fall of the Government could preserve the unity of the labour movement.
On August 23 the Cabinet resigned, expecting a Liberal-Conservative coalition to replace them. To the astonishment of most Labour ministers,, Ramsay MacDonald emerged next day as Prime Minister in a National Government, including Conservatives, Liberals and two other leading Labour figures, Philip Snowden and Jimmy Thomas. By implementing the cuts that Labour had rejected, the new Government temporarily stabilised the situation. But in September, the Government was finally forced off the Gold Standard which MacDonald had abandoned his party to preserve. In October, under Tory pressure, the 'emergency' National Government rendered itself permanent by calling a general election in which Labour was reduced to a mere fifty-two seats, less than it had held since before 1914. Its proportion of the vote, however, had only fallen from 37 to 30 per cent. It was the lack of Liberal-Conservative competition that decimated the party's representation in Parliament.