Cons. 1924-29

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  • Baldwin's Government, 1924-29
    • Baldwin accepted that tariff reform was no longer a viable policy and quietly shelved it
    • Industrial troubles - the path to the General Strike
      • Red Friday, July 1925
        • June 1925 - mine owners declared that they were obliged to cut wages due to falling orders and increased production costs - desperate state of coal industry
          • Miners' Federation resisted bitterly, general strike planned for 31st July (Red Friday)
            • Baldwin's govt. bought itself time by offering a temporary subsidy to maintain wage levels and by setting up the Samuel Commission. However, this financial decision made by Churchill at the Treasury damaged the country financially.
      • The return to the gold standard, April 1925
        • Suspended in 1919 for 6 years due to economic disruption caused by WW1
        • Churchill decided to strengthen the pound by restoring it to its pre-war parity with the US dollar - this meant raising the pound's exchange rate from $3.40 to $4.86.
          • Helped British financiers but British exporters found it even harder to sell their goods abroad at the newly inflated prices required by the increased value of the pound.
            • Foreign traders had to pay larger amounts of their own currency when purchasing British goods - obvious disincentive to buy British. British goods priced out of the market.
    • The General Strike, May 1926
      • Samuel Commission presented its report in March 1926 - main recommendation that the coal industry be totally restructured, but in the meantime the miners should accept a cut in wages
      • Mine owners responded to the a call for strike by imposing lock-outs
      • Poor liaison between TUC and miners. TUC didn't want a strike on this scale and hoped, as had happened a year earlier, that the govt. would back down rather than risk conflict.
        • Talks in Downing Street between govt. officials and the TUC seemed to be on the verge of success by Saturday 1st May. A compromise, by which the employers would withdraw their lock-out notices and the workers would lift their strike threats, was close to being agreed.
          • But on the evening of 2nd May, these negotiations were destroyed when the printers at the Daily Mail refused to print an editorial by the paper's editor...
            • This editorial said that: 'The general strike is not an industrial dispute; it is a revolutionary movement, intended to inflict suffering upon the great mass innocent persons in the community and thereby put forcible constraint upon the Government.'
              • Baldwin and his cabinet delivered an ultimatum to the TUC: no further talks could take place unless the TUC condemned the 'overt action' of the printers and all strike notices be withdrawn.
                • The TUC denied knowledge of the printers' action and protested that they had not been consulted by the printers at the Daily Mail and were still willing to negotiate.
                  • Govt. declined to wait for the TUC's reply and closed the door to a settlement. On 3rd May, the next day, the govt. declared a state of emergency and the TUC began the strike.
    • The failure of the General Strike
      • TUC did not want a strike, despite its apparent militancy. As a consequence, the workers' side had made few preparations.
      • It was never, in fact, a GS. Only selected unions were called out, the main ones being transport and railway workers, printers, workers in heavy industry and gas and electricity workers.
        • While these would have made up a formidable industrial force if they had acted resolutely together, from the beginning there was a crippling lack of cohesion. Some of the workers in the unions and regions selected simply carried on working.
      • Govt. fully prepared, in contrast. Baldwin had 'bought time' since Red Friday + govt. greatly aided by 1920 Emergency Powers Act.
        • Under the terms of the EPA, the govt. had set up the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (OMS), which created a national network of voluntary workers to maintain vital services should a strike occur. One of the key initiatives of the OMS was to do a deal with the road hauliers to keep food supplies moving.
      • It was only on the eve of the strike when leaders of the TGWU (Transport and General Workers Union) made their TUC colleagues recognise what they had let themselves in for that detailed plans were belatedly and hurriedly drawn up.
      • Little active support for strikers from the general public. Many ordinary people sympathised, but did little to help. Those who did become involved tended to be on the govt.'s side.
      • Ex-officers from the armed services enrolled as special constables, while university students volunteered as bus and train drivers.
      • BBC officially neutral in its news bulletins  - said nothing critical of govt. or supportive of the strikers
      • Aim and behaviour of the mass of the strikers were peaceful and responsible. As A.J.P. Taylor said, the strikers 'did not seek to challenge the government, still less to overthrow the constitution. They merely wanted the miners to have a living wage.'
      • On 12th May, after 10 days, the TUC called off the strike without winning any concessions from the employers or the govt. - weak, but had no choice as the Osborne Judgement ruled the strike as illegal.
      • Miners carried on for 7 months but after this they also gave in unconditionally - weak?
      • Few unions were willing to support the miners in a fight to the finish
    • Aftermath of the General Strike
      • Trade Disputes Act, May 1927
        • Aimed at making another strike impossible...
          • Outlawed general and sympathetic strikes
          • Restricted strike action to specific disputes
          • Forbade trade union funds being used for political purposes unless the individual member chose to contribute by 'contracting in'
            • Seen as blatant attempt at restricting trade union freedoms and  deliberately punitive towards strikers
    • Chief measures of Baldwin's government
      • 1925
        • Britain's currency was returned to the gold standard
        • Pensions Act enabled contributors to draw their pension at 65
      • 1926
        • Electricity Act set up the National Grid to provide power throughout Britain
      • 1927
        • BBC established a national radio broadcasting system
        • Trade Disputes Act restricted TU freedoms
      • 1929
        • In an effort to stimulate production and commerce, a Local Government Act  exempted all farms and 25% of factories from local rates.
          • The Act also effectively ended the old Poor Law by abolishing the Boards of Guardians and phasing out the workhouses.
      • 1928
        • Parliamentary Reform Act - vote granted to women on the same terms as men - all citizens able to vote over the age of 21
    • 1929 Election
      • Cons. election slogan 'safety first' was not inspiring after 5 years in office
      • Cons. vote dropped by 10% (48.3% to 38.2%) compared with 1924
      • Failure to control rising unemployment went against Conservatives
      • Libs nearly doubled their aggregate vote - staged a recovery
      • Lab. vote increased by 4.1% since 1924 - largest single party again - SLG.
      • Election results, May 1929: Lab = 288 seats, 37.1% of the vote, Cons - 260 seats, 38.2%, Libs - 59 seats, 23.4%

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