The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview

II
THE ELECTION OF 1923: THE CONSERVATIVES

"Suicide during a fit of temporary insanity" Philip Snowden1

THE year 1923 began with Bonar Law as Prime Minister of the first Conservative Government since 1905, a Government that marched (or perhaps one should say sat) beneath the banner inscribed "Tranquillity". The election of 1922 had given the Ministry a commanding majority in the House of Commons, and left the Opposition deeply divided: there were 347 Conservatives, 142 Labour, sixty-four orthodox Liberals under Asquith, and fifty-three National Liberals under Lloyd George. 2 The Tories had their divisions, too, most notably between those who had voted at the famous Carlton Club meeting to end the Lloyd George Coalition, and their opponents, the Austen Chamberlainite minority. The latter were not the kind of men to seek revenge by upsetting the Government, however. There was no reason why Conservatives should not have looked confidently forward to a full term of five years in power -- time enough for mapping the strategy to hold in check the Labour Party, which had almost doubled its Parliamentary representation in the shadow, so to speak, of the Tory success.

Yet by the year's end Bonar Law was dead, the Conservative majority in Parliament was shattered, and the Government faced imminent extinction. Tranquillity had vanished, and in its place fell the hated, feared, and above all, unexpected shadow of a Labour Government, the first in Britain.

The course of events in the first three-quarters of the year scarcely serves to explain so startling a reversal of political fortunes. True, the Government found several stubborn problems blocking its path, chief among them the crisis in Europe precipitated by the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr; the evil of unemployment, then beginning to seem a permanent

-18-

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The First Labour Government, 1924
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • I - The Labour Party, 1918-1923 1
  • Notes 16
  • II - The Election of 1923: the Conservatives 18
  • Notes 39
  • III - The Election of 1923: the Liberals Lloyd George and the Dragon 42
  • Notes 52
  • IV - The Election of 1923; Labour The Politics of Glorious Aspirations 53
  • Notes 67
  • V - Results of the Election of 1923 A House Divided 69
  • Notes 80
  • VI - The Path to Office 81
  • Notes 94
  • VII - Cabinet Making 96
  • Notes 107
  • VIII - Housing 110
  • Notes 129
  • IX - Unemployment The Intractable Million 131
  • Notes 154
  • X - The European Problem Year of Opportunity 157
  • Notes 181
  • XI - Russia Path of Most Resistance 184
  • Notes 207
  • XII - Labourites, Socialists and Reformers 210
  • Notes 227
  • XIII - Problems of Minority Government 230
  • Notes 245
  • XIV - The Election of 1924 Red Letter Day 248
  • Notes 262
  • XV - The Election of 1924 Dimensions of Defeat 264
  • Notes 271
  • XVI - Aftermath 272
  • Notes 281
  • Appendix A: the First Labour Ministry - (january 22 to November 4, 1924) 284
  • Appendix B: the Unsolved Mystery of The Zinoviev Letter 286
  • Notes 289
  • Bibliographical Note 290
  • Index 295
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