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Реферат: Three-party politics

               THREE-PARTY POLITICS, 1922-5...................  2               
                 THE PRIME MINISTER.........................   2                 
                  THYE LABOR PARTY........................   3                  
                   REMSAY MACDONALD.......................  4                   
                 DEBTS AND REPARATIONS.....................    5                 
                     BALDWIN.............................  6                     
                 BALDWIN AND PROTECTION....................    6                 
                 FIRST LABOR GOVERNMENT.....................   7                 
                  EDUCATIONAL REFORMS......................  8                  
               UNEMNPLOYMENT.........................            9               
                         THREE-PARTY  POLITICS,   1922-5                         
Politics after the fall of Lloyd George seemed far from the tranquillity which
Law had promised. There were three general elections in less than two years
(^November 1922; 6 December 1923; 29 October 1924), and the terrible portent of
a Labor government. The turmoil was largely technical. Though Labor had emerged
as the predominant party of the Left, the Liberal party refused to die; and the
British electoral system, mainly of one-member constituencies, was ill adapted
to cope with three parties. The general elections of 1931 and 1935 were the
only ones in which a single party (the Conservatives) received a majority of
the votes cast.1 Otherwise a parliamentary majority was achieved
more or less by accident, if at all. How­ever, there was no profound cleavage
between the parties, despite much synthetic bitterness. They offered old
policies which had been their stock-in-trade before the war. Labor offered
social reform; the Conservatives offered Protection. The victors in the
twenties were the Liberals, in policy though not in votes. The old Liberal
cause of Free Trade had its last years of triumph. If Sir William Harcourt had
still been alive, he could have said: 'We are all Liberals nowadays.' By 1925
England was back, for a brief period, in the happy days of Gladstone.
The government which Law formed was strikingly Con­servative, even obscurantist,
in composition. There had been nothing like it since Derby's 'Who? Who? '
ministry of 1852. The great figures of the party—Austen Chamberlain, Balfour,
Birkenhead—sulkily repudiated the decision at the Carlton Club: 'The meeting
today rejected our advice. Other men who have given other counsels must inherit
our burdens.' The only minister of established reputation, apart from Law
himself, was Curzon, who deserted Lloyd George as successfully as he had
deserted Asquith and, considering the humiliating way in which Lloyd George
treated him, with more justification;2 he remained foreign
secretary. Law tried to enlist McKenna as chancellor of the exchequer—an odd
choice for a Protectionist prime minister to make, but at least McKenna, though
a Free Trader, hated Lloyd George. McKenna doubted whether the government would
last and refused to leave the comfortable security of the Midland Bank. Law
then pushed Baldwin into the vacant place, not without misgiving. Otherwise he
had to make do with junior ministers from Lloyd George's government and with
holders of historic names. His cabinet was the most aristocratic of the period,
1 and the only one to contain a duke (the duke of Devon­shire) . Churchill
called it 'a government of the second eleven'; Birkenhead, more contemptuously,
of second-class intellects.
The general election of 1918 had been a plebiscite in favour of Lloyd George.
The general election of 1922 was a plebiscite against him. Law's election
manifesto sturdily promised negations. 'The nation's first need', it
declared, 'is, in every walk of life, to get on with its own work, with the
minimum of interference at home and of disturbance abroad.' There would be
drastic economies and a foreign policy of non-interference. The prime
minister would no longer meddle in the affairs of other ministers. Law
returned the conduct of foreign affairs to Curzon. He re­fused to meet a
deputation of the unemployed—that was a job for the ministry of labor. In the
first flush of reaction, Law announced his intention of undoing all Lloyd
George's innova­tions in government, including the cabinet secretariat. He
soon thought better of this, and, though he dismantled Lloyd George's body of
private advisers, 'the garden suburb', he kept Hankey and the secretariat.
The cabinet continued to perform its work in a businesslike way with prepared
agenda, a record of its" decisions, and some control on how they were carried
                               THE PRIME MINISTER                               
This preservation of the cabinet secretariat was Law's con­tribution as prime
minister to British history. The contribution was important, though how
important cannot be gauged until the cabinet records are opened. The cabinet
became a more formal, perhaps a more efficient body. Maybe also there was an
increasing tendency for a few senior ministers to settle things between
themselves and then to present the cabinet with a vir­tual fait accompli, 
as MacDonald did with J. H. Thomas and Snowden or Neville Chamberlain with
Halifax, Hoare, and Simon. But this practice had always existed. A cabinet of
equals, discussing every question fully, was a legend from some imagin­ary
Golden Age. On the other hand, the power and authority of the prime minister
certainly increased in this period, and no doubt his control of the cabinet
secretariat was one of the causes for this. It was not the only one. Every
prime minister after Lloyd George controlled a mighty party machine. The prime
minister alone determined the dissolution of parliament after 1931, and the
circumstances of 1931 were peculiar. Above all, the loaves and fishes of
office, which the prime minister dis­tributed, had a greater lure than in an
aristocratic age when many of the men in politics already possessed great
wealth and titles. At any rate, Law, willingly or not, helped to put the prime
minister above his colleagues.
Gloomy as ever, Law doubted whether the Conservatives would win the election
and even thought he might lose his own seat at Glasgow. When pressed by Free
Trade Conservatives such as Lord Derby, he repudiated Protection, much to
Beaver-brook's dismay, and gave a pledge that there would be no funda­mental
change in the fiscal system without a second general election. The other
parties were equally negative. Labor had a specific proposal, the capital
levy, as well as its general pro­gramme of 1918; but, deciding half-way
through the campaign that the capital levy was an embarrassment, dropped it,
just as Law had dropped Protection. The independent Liberals, led by Asquith,
merely claimed, with truth, that they had never supported Lloyd George. The
Coalition, now called National Liberals, hoped to scrape back with
Conservative votes. Beaver-brook spoilt their game by promoting, and in some
cases financ­ing, Conservative candidates against them; fifty-four, out of
the fifty-six National Liberals thus challenged, were defeated. The voting
was as negative as the parties. Five and a half million voted Conservative;
just over 4 million voted Liberal (Asquithians 2-5 million, National i-6
million); 4-2 million voted Labor. The result was, however, decisive, owing
to the odd working of three- or often four-cornered contests. The
Conservatives held almost precisely their numbers at the dissolution: with
345 seats they had a majority of 77 over the other parties combined. Labor
won 142 seats; the Liberals, with almost exactly the same vote (but about 70
more candidates), only 117. All the National Liberal leaders were defeated
except Lloyd George in his pocket borough at Caernarvon. Churchill, who had
just lost his appendix, also lost his seat at Dundee, a two-member
consti­tuency, to a Prohibitionist and to E. D. Morel, secretary of the Union
of Democratic Control. This was a striking reversal of fortunes.
                                 THE LABOR PARTY                                 
The Conservatives and Liberals were much the same people as before, with a drop
of twenty or so in the number of company directors—mainly due no doubt to the
reduction of National Liberals by half. Labor was so changed as to be almost a
differ­ent party. In the previous parliament the Labor members had all been
union nominees, as near as makes no odds (all but one in 1918, all but three at
the dissolution); all were of working-class origin. Now the trade unionists
were little more than half (80 out of 142), and middle-class, even upper-class,
men sat on the Labor benches for the first time.3 In composition
Labor was thus more of a national party than before and less an interest group.
In outlook it was less national, or at any rate more hostile to the existing
order in economics and in nearly everything else. The old Labor M.P.s had not
much to distin­guish them except their class, as they showed during the war by
their support for Lloyd George. The new men repudiated both capitalism and
traditional foreign policy.
There were combative working-class socialists of the I.L.P., particularly from
Glasgow. These Clydesiders, as they were called, won twenty-one out of
twenty-eight seats in their region. They imagined that they were about to
launch the social revolution. One of them, David Kirkwood, a shop steward who
ended in the house of lords, shouted to the crowd who saw him off: 'When we
come back, this station, this railway, will belong to the people!' The men from
the middle and upper classes had usually joined the Labor party because of
their opposition to the foreign policy which, in their opinion, had caused and
pro­longed the war. Often, going further than the U.D.C. and its condemnation
of secret diplomacy, they believed that wars were caused by the capitalist
system. Clement Attlee,1 who entered parliament at this election,
denned their attitude when he said: 'So long as they had capitalist governments
they could not trust them with armaments.'2
The cleavage between old Labor and new was not absolute. Not all the trade
unionists were moderate men, and the mode­rates had turned against Lloyd George
after the war, even to the extent of promoting a general strike to prevent
intervention against Russia. All of them, thanks to Henderson, had accepted a
foreign policy which was almost indistinguishable from that of the U.D.C.3 
On the other hand, not all the I.L.P. members were extremists: both MacDonald
and Snowden, for example, were still I.L.P. nominees. The new men understood
the need for trade union money and appreciated that they had been re­turned
mainly by working-class votes. For, while Labor had now some middle-class
adherents at the top, it had few middle-class voters; almost any middle-class
man who joined the Labor party found himself a parliamentary candidate in no
time. More­over, even the most assertive socialists had little in the way of a
coherent socialist policy. They tended to think that social reform, if pushed
hard enough, would turn into socialism of itself, and therefore differed from
the moderates only in pushing harder. Most Labor M.P.s had considerable
experience as shop stew­ards or in local government, and they had changed
things there simply by administering the existing machine in a different
spirit. The Red Flag flew on the Clyde, in Poplar, in South Wales. Socialists
expected that all would be well when it flew also at Westminster.
Nevertheless, the advance of Labor and its new spirit raised an alarm of
'Bolshevism' particularly when two Communists now appeared in parliament—both
elected with the assistance of Labor votes.1 The alarm was
unfounded. The two M.P.s represented the peak of Communist achievement. The
Labor party repeatedly refused the application of the Communist party for
affiliation and gradually excluded individual Communists by a system more
elaborate than anything known since the repeal of the Test Acts.2 
Certainly there was throughout the Labor movement much interest in Soviet
Russia, and even some admiration. Russia was 'the workers' state'; she was
build­ing socialism. The terror and dictatorship, though almost uni­versally
condemned, were excused as having been forced on Russia by the Allied
intervention and the civil war. English socialists drew the consoling moral
that such ruthlessness would be unnecessary in a democratic country.
Democracy—the belief that the will of the majority should prevail—was in
their blood. They were confident that the majority would soon be on their
side. Evolution was now the universal pattern of thought: the idea that
things were on the move, and always upwards. Men assumed that the curve of a
graph could be proj ected indefinitely in the same direction: that national
wealth, for example, would go on increasing auto­matically or that the birth
rate, having fallen from 30 per thousand to 17 in thirty years, would in the
next thirty fall to 7 or even o. Similarly, since the Labor vote had gone up
steadily, it would continue to rise at the same rate. In 1923 Sidney Webb
solemnly told the Labor annual conference that 'from the rising curve of
Labor votes it might be computed that the party would obtain a clear majority
. . . somewhere about 1926'.' Hence Labor had only to wait, and the
revolution would come of itself. Such, again according to Webb, was 'the
inevitability of gradualness'.
                                RAMSAY MACDONALD                                
When parliament met, the Labor M.P.s elected Ramsay MacDonald as their leader.
The election was a close-run thing: a majority of five, according to Clynes,
the defeated candidate; of two, according to the later, perhaps jaundiced,
account by Philip Snowden. The Clydesiders voted solid for MacDonald to their
subsequent regret. The narrow majority was misleading: it reflected mainly the
jealousy of those who had sat in the previous parliament against the newcomers.
MacDonald was in­deed the predestined leader of Labor. He had largely created
the party in its first years; he had already led the party before the war; and
Arthur Henderson had been assiduously preparing his restoration.2 He
had, in some undefined way, the national stature which other Labor men lacked.
He was maybe vain, moody, solitary; yet, as Shinwell has said, in presence a
prince among men. He was the last beautiful speaker of the Gladstone school,
with a ravishing voice and turn of phrase. His rhetoric, though it defied
analysis, exactly reflected the emotions of the Labor movement, and he
dominated that movement as long as he led it.
There were practical gifts behind the cloud of phrases. He was a first-rate
chairman of the cabinet, a skilful and successful negotiator, and he had a
unique grasp of foreign affairs, as Lord Eustace Percy, by no means a
sympathetic judge, recognized as late as 1935.3 With all his faults,
he was the greatest leader Labor has had, and his name would stand high if he
had not outlived his abilities. MacDonald's election in 1922 was a por­tent in
another way. The Labor M.P.s were no longer electing merely their chairman for
the coming session. They were electing the leader of a national party and,
implicitly therefore, a future prime minister. The party never changed its
leader again from session to session as it had done even between 1918 and 1922.
Henceforth the leader was re-elected each year until old age or a major
upheaval over policy ended his tenure.
Ramsay MacDonald set his stamp on the inter-war years. He did not have to wait
long to be joined by the man who set a stamp along with him: Stanley Baldwin.
Law doubted his own physical capacity when he took office and did not intend to
remain more than a few months. It seemed obvious at first who would succeed
him: Marquis Gurzon,1 foreign secretary, former viceroy of India,
and sole survivor in office (apart from Law) of the great war cabinet.
Moreover, in the brief period of Law's premiership, Curzon enhanced his
reputation. Baldwin, the only possible rival, injured what reputation he had.
Curzon went off to make peace with the Turks at the conference of Lausanne. He
fought a lone battle, almost without resources and quite without backing from
home, in the style of Castle-reagh; and he carried the day. Though the Turks
recovered Constantinople and eastern Thrace, the zone of the Straits re­mained
neutralized, and the Straits were to be open to warships in time of peace—a
reversal of traditional British policy and an implied threat to Soviet Russia,
though one never operated. Moreover, the Turks were bewitched by Curzon's
seeming moderation and laid aside the resentment which Lloyd George had
provoked. More important still, Curzon carried off the rich oil wells of Mosul,
to the great profit of British oil companies and of Mr. Calouste Gulbenkian,
who drew therefrom his fabulous 5 per cent.
                              DEBTS AND REPARATIONS                              
Baldwin, also in search of tranquillity, went off to Washington to settle Great
Britain's debt to the United States. Law held firmly to the principle of the
Balfour note that Great Britain should pay her debt only to the extent that she
received what was owed to her by others. Anything else, he believed, 'would
reduce the standard of living in this country for a generation'. Baldwin was
instructed to settle only on this basis. In Washing­ton he lost his nerve,
perhaps pushed into surrender by his com­panion, Montagu Norman, governor of
the bank of England, who had an incurable zest for financial orthodoxy. Without
securing the permission of the cabinet, Baldwin agreed to an unconditional
settlement on harsh terms2 and, to make matters worse, announced the
terms publicly on his return. Law wished to reject the settlement: 'I should be
the most cursed Prime Minister that ever held office in England if I accepted
those terms.' His opposition was sustained by the two independent experts whom
he consulted, McKenna and Keynes. The cabinet, however, was for acceptance. Law
found himself alone. He wished to resign and was persuaded to stay on by the
pleas of his colleagues. He satisfied his conscience by publishing an anonymous
attack on the policy of his own government in the columns of The Times.
As things worked out, Great Britain was not ruined by the settlement of the
American debt, though it was no doubt irk­some that France and Italy later
settled their debt on easier terms. Throughout the twenties the British
collected a balancing amount from their own debtors and in reparations. The
real harm lay elsewhere. While the settlement perhaps improved relations with
the United States, it compelled the British to col­lect their own debts and
therefore to insist on the payment of reparations by Germany both to others
and to themselves. This was already clear in 1923. Poincare, now French
premier, attempted to enforce the payment of reparations by occupying the
Ruhr. The Germans took up passive resistance, the mark tumbled to nothing,
the finances of central Europe were again in chaos. The British government
protested and acquiesced. French troops were allowed to pass through the
British zone of occupation in the Rhineland. While the British condemned
Poincare's method, they could no longer dispute his aim: they were tied to
the French claim at the same time as they opposed it.
The debt settlement might have been expected to turn Law against Baldwin.
There were powerful factors on the other side. Law knew that Curzon was
unpopular in the Conservative party—disliked both for his pompous arrogance
and his weak­ness. Curzon lacked resolution, despite his rigid appearance. He
was one of nature's rats. He ran away over the Parliament bill; he succumbed
to women's suffrage. He promised to stand by Asquith and then abandoned him.
He did the same with Lloyd George. Beaverbrook has called him 'a political
jumping jack'. Law regarded the impending choice between Curzon and Bald­win
with more than his usual gloom. He tried to escape from it by inviting Austen
Chamberlain to join the government with the prospect of being his successor
in the autumn. Chamberlain appreciated that his standing in the Conservative
party had been for ever shaken by the vote at the Carlton club, and refused.
The end came abruptly. In May Law was found to have incurable cancer of the
throat. He resigned at once. Consoled by the misleading precedent of what
happened when Gladstone resigned in 1894, he made no recommendation as to his
suc­cessor. He expected this to be Curzon, and was glad that it would be none
of his doing. However, the king was led to believe, whether correctly or not,
that Law favoured Baldwin, and he duly followed what he supposed to be the
advice of his retiring prime minister as the monarch has done on all other
occasions since 1894.3 Law lingered on until 30 October. He was buried in
Westminster Abbey—the first prime minister to follow Glad­stone there and
with Neville Chamberlain, so far, as his only successor. The reason for this
distinction is obscure. Was it because he had reunited the Conservative
party? or because he had overthrown Lloyd George?
Baldwin did not follow Law's example of waiting to accept office until he had
been elected leader of the Conservative party. He became prime minister on 21
May, was elected leader on 28 May. Curzon proposed the election with phrases
adequately fulsome. Privately he is reputed to have called Baldwin 'a man of
the utmost insignificance'. This was Baldwin's strength. He seemed, though he
was not, an ordinary man. He presented himself as a simple country gentleman,
interested only in pigs. He was in fact a wealthy ironmaster, with
distinguished literary connexions.2 His simple exterior concealed a
skilful political operator. Lloyd George, after bitter experience, called him
'the most formidable antagonist whom I ever encountered'—no mean tribute.
Baldwin played politics by ear.  He read few official documents, the newspapers
not at all. He sat on the treasury bench day after day, sniffing the
order-paper, cracking his fingers, and studying the house of commons in its
every mood. He had in his mind a picture, no doubt imaginary, of the
patriarchal relations between masters and men at his father's steel  works,
and   aspired   to  establish  these   relations   with Labor on a national
scale. This spirit met a response from the other side. MacDonald said of him as
early as 1923: 'In all essentials, his outlook is very close to ours.' It is
hard to decide whether Baldwin or MacDonald did more to fit Labor into
constitutional life.
Baldwin did not set the Conservative pattern alone. He acquired, almost by
accident, an associate from whom he was never parted: Neville Chamberlain.
3 The two were yoke-fellows rather than partners, bound together by
dislike of Lloyd George and by little else.  Chamberlain was  harsher than
Baldwin, more impatient with criticism and with events. He antagonized where
Baldwin conciliated. He was also more practical and eager to get things done.
He had a zest for administrative reform. Nearly all the domestic achievements
of Conservative govern­ments between the wars stand to his credit, and most of
the troubles also. Active Conservatives often strove to get rid of Baldwin and
to put Chamberlain in his place. They did not suc­ceed. Chamberlain sinned
against Napoleon's rule: he was a man of No Luck. The cards always ran against
him. He was humiliated by Lloyd George at the beginning of his political
career, and cheated by Hitler at the end. Baldwin kept him in the second place,
almost without trying.
Chamberlain's Housing Act (introduced in April, enacted in July) was the one
solid work of this dull government. It was pro­voked by the complete stop in
house building when Addison's programme ended. Chamberlain believed, like
most people, that Addison's unlimited subsidies were the main cause of high
building costs. He was also anxious, as a good Conservative, to show that
private enterprise could do better than local authori­ties. His limited
subsidy (Ј6 a year for twenty years) went to private and public builders
alike, with a preference for the former; and they built houses only for sale.
Mean houses ('non-parlour type' was the technical phrase) were built for
those who could afford nothing better. Predominantly, the Chamberlain act
benefited the lower middle class, not the industrial workers. This financial
discrimination caused much bitterness. Chamberlain was marked as the enemy of
the poor, and his housing act lost the Conservatives more votes than it
                             BALDWIN AND PROTECTION                             
Still, there seemed no reason why the government should not jog on. Its
majority was solid; economic conditions were not markedly deteriorating.
Without warning, Baldwin raised the ghost which Law had exorcized in 1922. On
25 October he announced that he could fight unemployment only if he had a
free hand to introduce Protection. His motives for this sudden decision
remain obscure. Protection had been for many years at once the inspiration
and the bane of the Conservative party. There would hardly have been a lively
mind or a creative person­ality on the Conservative benches without it. On
the other hand, it had repeatedly brought party disunion and electoral
defeat. Hence Balfour had sworn off it in 1910, and Law in 1922. There seemed
little reason to revive this terrible controversy now. An imperial conference
was indeed in session, principally to ensure that no British government would
ever take such an initiative as Chanak again. The conference expressed the
usual pious wish for Imperial Preference. This meant in practice British
tariffs on foreign food, while foodstuffs from the Dominions came in free.
There would be Dominion preferences for British manufactures only in the
sense that Dominion tariffs, which were already prohibitively high, would go
up further against the foreigner. This was not an attractive proposition to
put before the British electorate, and Baldwin did not attempt it. He pledged
himself against 'stomach taxes'. There would be 'no tax on wheat or meat'.
Imperial Preference was thus ruled out.
Later, when Protection had brought defeat for the Con­servatives, Baldwin
excused himself on grounds of political tactics. Lloyd George, he alleged, was
returning from a trium­phal tour of North America with a grandiose programme of
empire development. Baldwin 'had to get in quick'. His cham­pioning of
Protection 'dished the Goat' [Lloyd George].1 Austen Chamberlain and
other Conservatives who had adhered to Lloyd George swung back on to Baldwin's
side. This story seems to have been devised after the event. Chamberlain and
the rest were already swinging back; there was no serious sign that Lloyd
George was inclining towards Protection. Perhaps Baldwin, a man still little
known, wished to establish his reputation with the Conservative rank and file.
Perhaps he wished to show that he, not Beaverbrook, was Law's heir. The
simplest explanation is probably the true one. Baldwin, like most manufacturers
of steel, thought only of the home market. He did not grasp the problem of
exports and hoped merely that there would be more sale for British steel if
foreign supplies were reduced. For once, he took the initiative and learnt from
his failure not to take it again.
Protection involved a general election in order to shake off Law's pledge of
a year before. The cry of Protection certainly brought the former associates
of Lloyd George back to Baldwin. This was more than offset by the resentment
of Free Trade Conservatives, particularly in Lancashire. Defence of Free
Trade at last reunited the Liberal party, much to Lloyd George's
discomfiture—though this was hardly Baldwin's doing. With Free Trade the
dominant issue, Lloyd George was shackled to the orthodox Asquithian remnant.
Asquith was once more undisputed leader; Lloyd George, the man who won the
war, merely his unwilling lieutenant. It was small consolation that the
Asquithians had their expenses paid by the Lloyd George Fund.
The election of December 1923 was as negative as its pre­decessor. This time
negation went against Protection, and doing nothing favoured the once-radical
cause of Free Trade. Though the overall vote remained much the same— the
Conservatives received about 100,000 less,3 the Liberals 200,000,
and Labor 100,000 more—the results were startlingly different. The
Conservatives lost over ninety seats, the Liberals gained forty, and Labor
fifty.4 The dominant groups of 1918 were further depleted,
relatively in one case, absolutely in the other. The trade unionists, once
all-powerful, were now a bare majority in the Labor party (98 out of 191). The
National (Lloyd George) Liberals, already halved in 1922, were now halved
again, despite the Liberal gains. There were only twenty-six of them. Their
former seats nearly all went to Labor, evidence that they had formed the
Liberal Left wing. The outcome was a tangle: no single party with a majority,
yet the Liberals barred from coalition by their dislike of Protection on the
one side, of socialism on the other.
                             FIRST LABOR GOVERNMENT                             
It was obvious that the government would be defeated when parliament met. Then,
according to constitutional precedent, the king would send for the leader of
the next largest party, Ramsay MacDonald. Harebrained schemes were aired for
averting this terrible outcome. Balfour, or Austen Chamberlain, should take
Baldwin's place as Conservative premier; Asquith should head a
Liberal-Conservative coalition; McKenna should form a non-parliamentary
government of 'national trustees'. None of these schemes came to anything.
Asquith was clear that Labor should be put in, though he also assumed that he
would himself become prime minister when, as was bound to happen soon, they
were put out. In any case, George V took his own line: Labor must be given 'a
fair chance'. On 21 January the Conservative government was defeated by
seventy-two votes.1 On the following day MacDonald became prime
minister, hav­ing first been sworn of the privy council—the only prime minister
to need this preliminary. George V wrote in his diary: 'Today 23 years ago dear
Grandmama died. I wonder what she would have thought of a Labor Government!';
and a few weeks later to his mother: 'They [the new Ministers] have different
ideas to ours as they are all socialists, but they ought to be given a chance
& ought to be treated fairly.'2
MacDonald was a man of considerable executive ability, despite his lack of
ministerial experience; he had also many years' training in balancing between
the different groups and factions in the Labor movement. On some points he
consulted Haldane, who became lord chancellor, principally in order to look
after the revived committee of imperial defence. Snowden, MacDonald's longtime
associate and rival in the I.L.P., became chancellor of the exchequer.
MacDonald himself took the foreign office, his consuming interest; besides, he
was the only name big enough to keep out E. D. Morel. The revolutionary Left
was almost passed over. Lansbury, its outstanding English figure, was left out,
partly to please George V, who disliked Lansbury's threat to treat him as
Cromwell treated Charles I. Wheatley, a. Roman Catholic businessman who
became minister of health, was the only Clydesider in the government; to
everyone's sur­prise he turned out its most successful member. Broadly the
cabinet combined trade unionists and members of the U.D.C. It marked a social
revolution despite its moderation: working men in a majority, the great public
schools and the old univer­sities eclipsed for the first time.
The Labor government recognized that they could make no fundamental changes,
even if they knew what to make: they were 'in office, but not in power'. Their
object vas to show that Labor could govern, maybe also that it could administer
in a more warm-hearted way. The" Left did not like this tame out­look and set
up a committee of backbench M.P.s to control the government; it did not have
much effect. The Labor ministers hardly needed the king's exhortation to
'prudence and sagacity'.1 All, except Wheatley, were moderate men,
anxious to show their respectability. They were willing to hire court dress
(though not knee-breeches) from Moss Bros. It was a more serious difficulty
that they lacked experience in government routine. Only two (Haldane and
Henderson) had previously sat in a cabinet. Fifteen out of the twenty had never
occupied any ministerial post. Inevitably they relied on the civil servan:s in
their depart­ments, and these, though personally sympathetic, were not run­ning
over with enthusiasm for an extensive socialist programme.
                               EDUCATIONAL REFORM                               
Wheatley was the only minister with a creative aggressive outlook. His Housing
Act was the more surprising in that it had no background in party discussion or
programme, other than Labor's dislike of bad housing conditions, Unlike Neville
Chamberlain or even Addison, Wheatley recognized that the housing shortage was
a long-term problem. He increased the subsidy;2 put the main
responsibility back on the local authori­ties; and insisted that the houses
must be built to rent. More important still, he secured an expansion of the
building industry by promising that the scheme would operate steadily for
fifteen years. This was almost the first cooperation between govern­ment and
industry in peacetime; it was also the first peacetime demonstration of the
virtues of planning. Though the full Wheatley programme was broken off short in
1932 at the time of the economic crisis, housing shortage, in the narrowest
sense, had by then been virtually overcome. Wheatley's Act did not, of course,
do anything to get rid of the slums. It benefited the more prosperous and
secure section of the working class, and slum-dwellers were lucky to find old
houses which the council tenants had vacated. The bill had a passage of hard
argument through the house of commons. Hardly anyone opposed its principle
outright. Men of all parties were thus imperceptibly coming to agree that the
provision of houses was a social duty, though they differed over the method and
the speed with which this should be done.
One other landmark was set up by the Labor government, again almost unnoticed.
Trevelyan, at the board of education, was armed with a firm statement of Labor
policy, Secondary Education for All, drafted by the historian R. H.
Tawney, who provided much of the moral inspiration for Labor in these years.
Trevelyan largely undid the economies in secondary education which had been
made by the Geddes axe, though he also discovered that Labor would be effective
in educational matters only when it controlled the local authorities as well as
the central government. More than this, he instructed the consulta­tive
committee of the board, under Sir Henry Hadow, to work out how Labor's full
policy could be applied, and he deserves most of the credit for what followed
even though the committee did not report until 1926. The Hadow report set the
pattern for English publicly maintained education to the present day. Its
ultimate ideal was to raise the school-leaving age to 15. Failing this (and it
did not come until after the second World war), there should be an immediate
and permanent innovation: a break between primary and secondary education at n.
1 Hence the pupils at elementary schools, who previously stayed on to 14,
had now to be provided for elsewhere or, at the very least, in special 'senior
classes'. Here was a great achievement, at any rate in principle: a clear
recognition, again imperceptibly accepted by men of all parties, that the
entire population, and not merely a privileged minority, were entitled to some
educa­tion beyond 'the three R's'. It was less fortunate that the new system of
a break at 'eleven plus' increased the divergence be­tween the publicly
maintained schools and the private schools for the fee-paying minority where
the break came at 13.
The reforms instituted by Wheatley and by Trevelyan both had the  advantage
that,  while  they involved considerable expenditure over a period of years,
they did not call for much money in the immediate future. This alone enabled
them to survive the scrutiny of Philip Snowden, chancellor of the ex­chequer.
Snowden had spent his life preaching social reforms; but he also believed that
a balanced budget and rigorous economy were the only foundation for such
reforms, and he soon convinced himself that the reforms would have to wait
until the foundation had been well and truly laid. His budget would have
delighted the heart of Gladstone: expenditure down, and taxes also, the 'free
breakfast table' on the way to being restored,1 and the McKenna
Duties—pathetic remnant of wartime Protection —abolished. No doubt a 'Liberal'
budget was inevitable in the circumstances of minority government; but it
caused no stir of protest in the Labor movement. Most Labor men assumed that
finance was a neutral subject, which had nothing to do with politics. Snowden
himself wrote of Montagu Norman: 'I know nothing at all about his politics. I
do not know if has he any.' Far from welcoming any increase in public spending,
let alone advocating it, Labor had inherited the radical view that money spent
by the state was likely to be money spent in­competently and corruptly: it
would provide outdoor relief for the aristocracy or, as in Lloyd George's time,
undeserved wealth for profiteers. The social reforms in which Labor believed
were advocated despite the fact that they cost money, not because of it, and
Snowden had an easy time checking these reforms as soon as he pointed to their
The Labor government were peculiarly helpless when faced with the problem of
unemployment—the unemployed remained at well over a million. Labor theorists
had no prepared answer and failed to evolve one. The traditional evil of
capitalism had been poverty: this gave Labor its moral force just as it gave
Marxists the confidence that, with increasing poverty, capitalism would 'burst
asunder'. No socialist, Marxist or otherwise, had ever doubted that poverty
could be ended by means of the rich resources which capitalism provided. Mass
unemployment was a puzzling accident, perhaps even a mean trick which the
capitalists were playing on the Labor government; it was not regarded as an
inevitable outcome of the existing economic sys­tem, at any rate for some time.
Vaguely, Labor held that socialism would get rid of unemployment as it would
get rid of all other evils inherent in the capitalist system. There would be
ample demand for goods, and therefore full employment, once this demand ceased
to be a matter of 'pounds, shillings, and pence'. The socialist economic system
would work of itself, as capitalism was doing. This automatic operation of
capitalism was a view held by nearly all economists, and Labor accepted their
teaching. Keynes was moving towards the idea that un­employment could be
conquered, or at any rate alleviated, by means of public works. He was
practically alone among pro­fessional economists in this. Hugh Dalton, himself
a teacher of economics, and soon to be a Labor M.P.,1 dismissed
Keynes's idea as 'mere Lloyd George finance'—a damning verdict. Such a policy
was worse than useless; it was immoral.
Economic difficulties arose for the Labor government in a more immediate way.
Industrial disputes did not come to an end merely because Labor was in office.
Ramsay MacDonald had hardly kissed hands before there was a strike of engine
drivers—a strike fortunately settled by an intervention of the T.U.C. general
council. Strikes first of dockers, then of London tramwaymen, were not dealt
with so easily. The government planned to use against these strikes the
Emergency Powers Act, which Labor had denounced so fiercely when introduced by
Lloyd George. It was particularly ironical that the proposed dictator, or chief
civil commissioner, was Wedgwood, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, who was
generally held to be more an anarchist than a socialist. Here was fine trouble
in the making. The unions provided most of the money for the Labor party, yet
Labor in office had to show that it was fit to govern. Both sides backed away.
The government did not actually run armed lorries through the streets of
London,2 and Ernest Bevin, the men's leader, ended the strikes,
though indignant at ‘having to listen to appeal of our own people. The dispute
left an ugly memory. A joint committee of the T.U.C. general council and the
Labor party executive condemned the government’s proposed action. MacDonald
replied that ‘public doles, Poplarism, strikes for increased wages, limitations
of output, not only are not Socialism, but may mislead the spirit and policy of
the Socialist movement.