The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview

IX
UNEMPLOYMENT The Intractable Million

THE housing shortage was a serious problem, but unemployment was a much greater one, more complex and more deeply rooted. It baffled both the inter-war Labour Governments, with important results for the history of the party and the Nation.

Britain's brief post-war boom collapsed late in 1920. Unemployment among insured workers rose from 2.6 per cent in June 1920 to 23.4 per cent in May 1921; it then fell gradually, but upon reaching 10 or 11 per cent in 1923 it seemed to become stabilized at that high level, shifting hardly more than seasonally thereafter until the great depression.1 In 1924 it was not yet generally realized that this was a chronic condition rather than a temporary slump. Recovery was still expected with some confidence, but until it came unemployment remained the greatest issue of the day. Among men still in work, it is calculated that only one-fifth as many were "in poverty" in 1924 as in 1913, yet two-thirds of this very considerable social gain was counterbalanced by the increase in unemployment.2 And the concentration of unemployment in certain industries meant that there were regions, the notorious "depressed areas", where economically speaking the sun never shone, and even hope grew dim.

The causes of the post-war unemployment were several.3 The initial collapse of 1920-1 came largely as a reaction from the soaring inflation of 1914-20. But more important as an explanation of the stubbornness of the unemployment problem, and of its incidence in specific trades, was the dislocation of world markets caused by the war. British absorption in war production meant abandonment of many export markets, which then fell into the hands of the United States or Japan. Worse

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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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