Nineteen Thirty-One Political Crisis

By R. Bassett | Go to book overview

APPENDIX IV
'THE CRISIS AND THE CONSTITUTION'

Attention must be given to the views on the 1931 crisis expressed by the late Professor Laski, not only because of the considerable and lasting influence those views have had both in this country and in the United States of America, but also because Laski, in his booklet, The Crisis and the Constitution, presented the only seriously-argued criticism on constitutional grounds of MacDonald's action. His criticism of King George V has already been examined.

The first point which arises is that Laski, like some other commentators, was ambiguous and misleading about the circumstances in which the Labour Cabinet came to an end. Like Jennings, he conveys the impression that MacDonald had a majority against him at the decisive Cabinet meeting on Sunday, August 23. His language was so characteristically elusive that it must be quoted:

There came into the field, whether from international or other pres-sure we do not fully know, a recommendation for a reduction in
unemployment pay against which there was a majority in the Cabinet
(p. 13).

In view of the report of the May Committee, not to mention other known developments and also the disclosures about Cabinet discussions, this is oddly put; but the reference to a majority of the Cabinet being opposed to a reduction in unemployment pay raises several questions. What was the particular proposal against which this supposed majority existed? It is, of course, clearly established, and was clearly established when Laski wrote, that the whole Cabinet agreed, provisionally at any rate, to certain reductions in unemployment pay. At what stage in the proceedings did this alleged majority exist? Was Laski writing of the proposal to

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