The First Labour Government, 1924

By Richard W. Lyman | Go to book overview
on many occasions before it was achieved the Government left so big a margin between its policy and anything that could be called extremism that there was almost room for the Liberals to squeeze into the gap. The risk was perhaps not really great; the Liberals were too divided to agree on this strategy, or any other, and as long as the trade unions remained loyal, Labour was not easily to be outbid. But there was no reason for the Government to have run the risk at all, and many opportunities were lost for putting the Liberals badly on the defensive.32The first Labour Government marked a stage in the process of converting a band of missionary zealots into a responsible political party, bidding for the difficult and compromising job of governing the country. It was probably inevitable that some of the crusaders should become disillusioned, and drop out of the line of march as this process developed. They clung to their clear consciences, and to political impotence. The first Labour Government alienated an unnecessarily large number of these pure spirits, however, by its excesses in moderation and, in such matters as unemployment, its lack if any distinctive policy at all.But surely it is both uncharitable and unwise not to sympathize with Ramsay MacDonald and his colleagues of 1924, beset as they were by critics on the Right who felt themselves too practical for Socialism, and by critics on the Left whose pride it was to be too Socialist for practicality. The Government had its manifest weaknesses. It brought neither the millennium nor that lesser beatitude, a Labour majority in the House of Commons. But few of its critics, at the time or since, have governed Britain under more unprecedented and perplexing conditions.NOTES
1. Article in the Westminster Gazette, 16 Aug. 1924.
2. See New Leader, 21 Nov. 1924, pp. 14-15, 5 Dec. 1924, p. 15.
3. Letter of 31 Oct. 1924 to F. W. Jowett, quoted in A. Fenner Brockway , Socialism Over Sixty Years ( London, 1946), p. 222; cf. Snowden to Shinwell (n.d.), quoted in Emanuel Shinwell, Conflict Without Malice ( London, 1955), pp. 98-99. For Mrs. Snowden , see The Times, 13 Jan. 1925.

-281-

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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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