Nineteen Thirty-One Political Crisis

By R. Bassett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE CABINET ECONOMY
COMMITTEE

Within less than a week of Parliament's adjournment, the position began rapidly to worsen. Withdrawals of foreign balances from London were resumed at a heavy and daily increasing rate. The temporary credit of £50 million supplied half by the Bank of France and half by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was quickly being used up. There was danger of Britain being forced off the Gold Standard, with rapid depreciation of sterling, great rise in prices, serious commercial dislocation, and the prospect of greatly aggravated unemployment. The root cause, of course, was the developing international crisis. The special contributory factor affecting Great Britain was lack of confidence in America and in parts of Europe, arising from a belief that our budgetary position was unsound, particularly because of the state of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. This belief had been much strengthened, though not of course created, by the publication of the May Committee's Report, which undoubtedly had a seriously adverse effect upon foreign opinion.

Apprised of the heavy foreign withdrawals, Snowden communicated the facts of the situation to the Prime Minister at Lossiemouth, suggesting that the Cabinet Economy Committee should be called together as soon as possible.1 MacDonald returned to London, arriving at King's Cross early on the morning of August 11. During the course of the morning he saw Sir Clive (afterwards Lord) Wigram, the King's private secretary, but no information is available about the interview. The King went to Sandringham on

____________________
1
According to Snowden (op. cit., II, p. 936), he communicated with MacDonald on August 7, and MacDonald returned to London at once, travelling overnight. MacDonald, however, travelled back on the night of August 10-11: he had been visiting Stimson, the American Secretary of State, in Sutherland, from August 6 to August 9, returning to Lossiemouth on the 9th ( The Times, August 7 and August 10-12).

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