The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview

III
THE ELECTION OF 1923: THE LIBERALS Lloyd George and the Dragon

FOR British Liberals, the dozen years before 1923 had been sad and difficult. The Pyrrhic victory over the Lords in 1911, gained at the cost both of the party's clear majority in Parliament and of its reforming élan; the tragic downward slide into the first World War; the fatal effects of the war upon Liberal habits of thought and action; the humiliating split between Lloyd Georgians and Asquithians; and finally, the overshadowing of both, in the election of 1922, by resurgent Tories and emergent Labour -- it made a melancholy chronicle indeed.

Against such a background, Baldwin's decision to call an election on the favourite battleground of Liberalism seemed like a parting of the clouds. Liberal reunion became a reality overnight. At all levels, Liberals plunged joyously into the fray. Asquith led off, with a simple but devastating attack on the idea that protection could cure unemployment: he pointed out, at Paisley on 5 November, that of the 1,340,000 then unemployed, 140,000 at the most could be helped by tariffs. Besides, he added, in 1913, when imports had been at higher levels than in any of the past three years, unemployment had been a mere 2 per cent, instead of over 15 per cent as in the recent period.1 After the election, the protectionist Fortnightly Review confessed that the Tories "were utterly crushed at the outset by Mr. Asquith's Paisley deliverance".2 It put them on the defensive, and there they stayed.

For Liberal journals, it was the signal to work up an indictment of protection supported by impressive batteries of statistics and equally impressive platoons of trained economists. The Economist published a special twelve-page supplement entitled "The Case for Free Trade",3 in which it managed, as so often, to sound like the voice of all the really sensible businessmen of

-42-

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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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