The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview

IV
THE ELECTION OF 1923; LABOUR The Politics of Glorious Aspirations

FOR the Liberals, it was a struggle for survival in 1923; for Labour, flushed with its victories of the previous year, it was nothing so desperate. The one real concern was lest the resurgent Liberals should overtake them, and become the official Opposition. Opinions as to the likelihood of this varied greatly,* but many Labourites were sustained by a serene confidence that they were the party of the future, and the Liberals a mere historical remnant, kept alive only by the tariff issue.

Given this situation, it was to Labour's interest to deprecate the importance of the protection issue, and to try to shift the struggle to other ground. MacDonald struck the keynote in his Hotel Belgravia speech on 1 November: the tariff issue was "a diversion . . . a magnificent method of sidetracking a serious movement"; but Labour would not be trapped into fighting a defensive battle. "The fight we are in now is not Protection versus Free Trade; the fight we are in now is Protection versus the Labour programme."1

But this was a difficult effort to sustain, and in fact the Labour campaign laid heavy emphasis upon the iniquities of tariffs, while at the same time asserting that the whole issue was obsolete and an election based on it nothing but a sham battle. Thus a Labour poster showed a protectionist orator and a labourer; says the worker, "Will Protection give us work?" Candidate: "Well -- er -- not directly, but by raising your cost of living it will increase your need for a job."2. The ILP saw Baldwin as seeking "a sinister protection -- protection not of the lives and well-being of the people, but of the dividends and wealth of the rich." The party's Notes for Speakers indignantly denied a Tory claim that labour was naturally protectionist,

____________________
*
See below, Ch. V, p. 69.

-53-

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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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