First Lab. Govt.

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  • The First Labour Government, 1924
    • Asquith and the Liberals
      • Asquith prepared to commit his Liberals to conditional support of the Labour Party because...
        • It was a way of ousting the Cons. from power
        • He thought that since Lab would be dependent on Lib. support, he would be able to exercise effective control over the govt., limiting it to those measures of which the Libs approved and capable of bringing it down altogether should he choose.
      • Asq., and also the Cons., believed that Lab's inexperience would lead it to fail in office
        • It was true that Lab's minority position denied it the opportunity of introducing radical or socialist measures
    • Took office under Ramsay MacDonald in January 1924
      • MacDonald decided not to listen to those who advised him against taking office, as if he held office even if only for a limited time, he wanted to show Labour as a party that respected the constitution and could govern responsibly - this was a notable achievement
    • Labour's record
      • Restrictions on unemployment benefit were eased
      • More public funds were directed to educational provision
      • Wheatley's Housing Act (1924) was passed
        • Developed Chamberlain's scheme by increasing the subsidy per property to £9, and the annual payment to local councils was extended to 40 years (doubled)
          • Wheatley stressed to local authorities that the council housing subsidised in this way was to be rented, not sold. He didn't want the rich to buy the properties if they came up for sale, because the whole point of the scheme was to provide homes for the poor at affordable rents.
          • Success - by 1933, half a million council houses had been built
      • The Campbell Case, September 1924
        • Govt. appeared to interfere improperly in the justice system. It was accused of using its influence to have a prosecution withdrawn against a left-wing journalist, J.R. Campbell, for encouraging troops to mutiny.
          • Campbell had urged soldiers to disobey orders if ever they were called upon to fire on striking workers.
            • MacDonald chose not to use the time he had been offered and instead took it to a confidence vote in the Commons. He said that if the Commons voted in a majority for the inquiry, he would resign. They did, and he kept his promise.
              • Despite Labour having only 9 months in office, the fact that it had come into govt. showed that Lab had replaced and superseded the Libs as the only realistic alternative party to the Cons.
                • This was proven by the election in October 1924. Although Lab lost 40 seats whilst the Cons gained 151, the Libs came off by far the worst, losing 119 seats and nearly 1.4 million votes.
                  • Oct. 1924 election results: Cons - 419 seats, 48.3% of the vote, Lab - 151 seats, 33%, Libs - 40 seats, 17.6%
    • The Zinoviev Letter Crisis, 25th October 1924 (4 DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION)
        • Beneath the headline it printed a letter supposedly from Grigor Zinoviev, chief of the Comintern. It was addressed to the British Communist Party, urging its members to infiltrate the Labour Party and use it to bring down the British state.
          • Letter now believed to have been a forgery, concocted by White Russian emigres (Communists' main opponents) to suggest that the Lab. Party was a front for Soviet subversion.
            • Created so much drama because MacDonald's government had negotiated trade and diplomatic agreements with the Soviet Union - an Anglo-Russian treaty had been drawn up:
              • Britain agreed to advance a £30 million loan to the Soviet Union. In return, the Soviet Union would pay compensation for the British financial assets and investments the Communists had seized after taking power in the 1917 Russian Revolution
                • Treaty never put into operation as the govt. went out of office before it could be ratified, but still concerned public about relations between MacDonald's govt. and revolutionary Russia.
    • Ramsay MacDonald and foreign affairs
      • First and only British PM to attend the LoN in Geneva
        • Instrumental in drafting the Geneva Protocol - nations to accept collective decision-making to settle disputes, consider ways of achieving disarmament and acting together to prevent/deal with unprovoked aggression
          • Protocol not formally accepted by the LoN, but an interesting restatement of the principle of collective security and pleasing to the pacifists who were still an important part of the Lab movement. Also encouraged France and Germany to lessen their animosity.
            • MacDonald encouraged France and Germany to move towards a reparations settlement - up until then, France had consistently demanded the full amount of reparations from Germany as stated in the ToV, but Germany said the reparations were too heavy and couldn't be paid.
              • Led to Dawes Plan - France agreed to lower reparations figure, Germany allowed to pay lower rate for 5 years so industry could recover + could raise international loans to help economy recover, Britain to act as go-between, collecting sums paid, passing them on to USA to help pay off Britain's war debts.
                • Dawes Plan not agreed on until August 1925, so MacD. not given as much credit as deserved. Still major achievement for Lab. govt


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