Nineteen Thirty-One Political Crisis

By R. Bassett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE
ELECTION SPECULATION

The position of the National Government was undoubtedly weakened by the suspension of the Gold Standard; and in these circumstances Conservative pressure for a General Election increased. It was urged that the Government needed a clear popular mandate; and also that the problem of the adverse trade balance must now be dealt with.

The question of a General Election had overshadowed the political scene from the moment the Labour Cabinet broke up. After Parliament reassembled it soon began to come to the forefront; and, after a hardly perceptible interlude following upon the suspension of the Gold Standard, it became dominant.

Two closely connected issues were involved: when was Parliament to be dissolved, and on what basis would the ensuing Election be contested? When the National Government was formed, assurances which were apparently clear had been given on both points. That Government was regarded as a purely temporary expedient. Its life was expected to be short. When its task was completed, Parliament would be dissolved, and the three parties would contest the General Election independently. The task itself, however, proved not to have been so clearly defined as had been thought at the time. Then, as noted above, the official pronouncements declared the one specific purpose of the Government to be that of dealing with 'the present financial emergency', with 'the national emergency that now exists', of putting 'British credit in a position of security'. In Baldwin's first statement, on August 24 (see p. 168 above) the words used were: 'carrying out such measures as are required to balance the Budget and restore confidence in our national credit.' In his speech to the Conservative party meeting on August 28, however, Baldwin had said (see p. 188 above) that the only purpose of the new Government was that of

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