Britain between the Wars, 1918-1940

By Charles Loch Mowat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Turning Point: 1929-1931

1. LABOUR ACCEPTS THE CALL

THE ambiguous result of the general election produced momentary uncertainty. MacDonald made a curious, and some thought later a prophetic, statement at his house in Hampstead: 'If I can prevent it there shall be no disturbance of the country by an election within two years': an implied warning to members of the party who might wish to force a second election; and a plea for sufficient time for the development of his policies. 'I wish to make it quite clear that I am going to stand no "monkeying". It will rest with the other two parties and not with us whether there is to be an election sooner than in two years.'1

The immediate uncertainty was resolved by Baldwin, who resigned on June 4, having advised the King to send for MacDonald. By doing this, Baldwin ignored those who advocated a Conservative-Liberal combination to avert the menace of socialism, and he also avoided any association with Lloyd George in a coalition such as Lloyd George had sketched in a talk with Churchill the previous February.2

MacDonald accepted the call to duty, and soon announced the composition of his Cabinet. The details were decided upon by the 'Big Five', MacDonald, Henderson, Snowden, Thomas, Clynes. The main internal dispute concerned, as it had in 1924, Arthur Henderson. Henderson wanted the Foreign Office, MacDonald, as before, favoured Thomas for the position and wanted Henderson to take charge of plans for employment and industrial reconstruction. Henderson refused. Thomas, at a second meeting, agreed to take the Colonial Office, thinking MacDonald would again be Foreign Secretary, and was astounded when Henderson shook him warmly by the hand, saying 'that leaves me the Foreign Office'. On the third day of discussions Thomas announced that he had decided to accept the position of Lord Privy Seal in charge

____________________
1
The Times, June 3, 1929.
2
M. Thomson, Lloyd George, p. 399.

-353-

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