The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview

X
THE EUROPEAN PROBLEM Year of Opportunity

AMONG the many sins for which the Labour Party was in the habit of criticizing pre-war diplomacy was the comparative lack of Parliamentary control over foreign policy. In 1924, however, this same relative freedom of action in foreign affairs gave the Labour Government its greatest opportunity for accomplishment; the approval of the House of Commons would not be required for Ramsay MacDonald's every move towards securing at last a real peace in Europe.

The Labour Party's war-time split over foreign policy had gradually healed during the five post-war years. The wise decision to leave the Coalition before the peace-making cleared the way for the growth in all sections of the party of a common antipathy to the Versailles Treaty. Even those who held Germany responsible for starting the war managed to reserve some blame for the nefarious practice of secret diplomacy, too.1 A few such general attitudes usually sufficed as a foreign policy for the great mass of the party. Only on issues of over-riding importance, such as the threat of war with the Soviets in 1920, were the big battalions of the trade unions stirred to an expression of opinion. In more ordinary circumstances interest in foreign affairs was concentrated in that group of Labourites in and around the Union of Democratic Control -- many of whom were ex-Liberals. The centre of their Labour Party activities was the ILP; the ILP, in turn, exercised a predominant influence on foreign affairs in the party as a whole.2

It was partly because the party's foreign policy was generally left to such a small group to formulate that an impression of great coherence and unity of viewpoint could be conveyed. But an even more important factor was the irresponsibility of Opposition. It was easy to find unity in hatred of Versailles.

-157-

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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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