Second L. Govt

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  • The Second Labour Government
    • Ramsay MacDonald took office in June 1929
    • MacDonald appointed a cabinet that was predominantly right wing and moderate
    • The Labour government was eventually overwhelmed by the economic problems caused by the depression
    • Coal Mines Act, 1930
      • Attempted to alleviate the bitterness within the mining industry in the aftermath of the GS 4 years earlier
        • Miners' working hours were reduced from 8 to 7.5 hour shifts
        • Employers were entitled to fix minimum wages and production quotas
        • A commission was set up to consider how unprofitable mines could be phased out with least damage to miners' livelihoods
    • Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931
      • Aim was to improve the supply of food to the public. Set up boards of food producers with the power to fix prices and arrange supplies more efficiently
    • Education Bill, 1930
      • Charles Trevelyan
      • The bill would have raised the school leaving age to 15, but even before the HoL rejected it, Catholic MPs on the Labour back benches resisted it.
        • They complained that insufficient attention had been paid in the Bill to Catholic schools. Their objection was that Catholic parents who paid taxes that went towards the general provision of state education still had to provide out of their own pocket for the upkeep of Catholic schools.
          • The debate over faith schools and how far they should be financed by the State remained an unresolved question.
    • London Transport Bill, 1931
      • Herbert Morrison
      • Did not become law until 1933
      • Created a public corporation responsible for providing cheap and efficient bus and underground transport for London's population
    • Housing Act, 1930
      • Arthur Greenwood
      • Extended the work of John Wheatley, 1924, by re-introducing govt. subsidies for council housing and granting greater powers to local authorities to enforce slum clearance
        • As a result, more slums cleared between 1934-39 than in the whole of the previous half century
    • Ramsay MacDonald's SLG was disappointing to the left wing of the Labour Party because it failed to reverse the 1927 Trade Disputes Act, seen as vindictive towards TUs. Lab gave into the Libs when they stated that they wouldn't accept it being reversed, and so didn't press ahead with it - weak.
    • Foreign affairs: Young Plan and the Ratio Principle
      • Arthur Henderson became foreign secretary - insisted he was the man for the job and would not consider any other govt. post - was justified in his self-confidence
      • After only 2 months in office he played a key role as negotiator in a conference at the Hague which ended with the European nations agreeing to the Young Plan (August 1929), which saw Germany accepted as an equal nation in Europe again
        • The Young Plan greatly reduced Germany's reparation payments and advanced it a loan of $300 million.
      • Henderson also made a considerable impression at the LoN in Geneva. Both the French and Germans found him amenable and dependable - he helped bring France and Germany closer together than at any point since 1918
      • Henderson was able to rejuvenate the disarmament talks that had stalled - recognition of achievement led him to be made  president of the disarmament conference in 1932
      • Ramsay MacDonald also worked for international conciliation. In October 1929 he visited the US, with which Britain's relations had not always been warm in the 1920s, largely because the Cons govts. had feared that America's strong anti-imperialist stance was an implied threat to Britain's own empire (patched up Cons. mess)
        • He discussed the relative strength of national navies - the USA, Japan and Britain were reluctant to risk reducing their armed fleets
          • Early in 1930, as a result of MacD's American talks, Britain hosted a tri-nation conference specially convened to seek a compromise on naval matters
            • Ratio principle established as a result - USA, Britain and Japan to abide by a ratio of 5:5:3. For every 5 American vessels, there would be 5 British and 3 Japanese.
              • Japan unhappy with the agreement and ceased to abide by it as it prepared for war
              • The closer contacts that Britain made with the USA were to have important consequences when WW2 began in 1939
      • Foreign affairs: Anglo-Soviet relations
        • There had been a hope among the left-wing members of the party that with Labour in office, there would be a major improvement in Britain's relations with the USSR - they believed that 'left could speak unto left', meaning that socialist Britain was well fitted to understand socialist Russia
          • MacD's govt. never showed any inclination to follow an international socialist path
            • MacD. believed sincerely in the need to pursue international co-operation as a principle, but at no time was he willing to risk national interests by aligning Britain with Soviet ideas of revolution
              • This marked his achievement as a political leader in that he made his party electable by showing the voters that no matter what a few hotheads might say, the Lab. Party was a responsible and committed upholder of the British parliamentary system
                • The govt. still formally resumed full relations with the USSR in October 1929 though, but the Anglo-Soviet Treaty drafted in the 1924 Lab. govt. was not resurrected
    • Foreign affairs: India
      • First provisional steps taken towards the independence of India
      • In December 1929 the Indian Congress Party made a declaration of Indian independence
        • Knowing that Britain would not recognise this, Gandhi organised a 'salt protest'. In 1930, collecting thousands of followers along the way, he led a 250-mile march to the coastal town of Dandi, picked up a lump of salt from the beach and crushed it in his hands.
          • Showed that people were not allowed to gather natural sea salt but were forced to buy the heavily taxed govt.-owned variety. Arrested and imprisoned for this.
            • Embarrassed MacD.'s govt, which was dedicated to Indian independence but now seemed the ultimate authority suppressing this.
              • MacD. called a Round Table Conference in 1930. At first the Congress Party refused to attend. Gandhi released from prison but by the time he arrived for the talks, Lab govt. had resigned from office.
                • Still showed a willingness to accept that any lasting settlement would have to be on Indian terms though.
    • The Financial and Political Crises of 1931
      • Unemployment had risen to nearly 3 million. To meet the hardship suffered by the victims, the govt. raised unemployment benefit
        • But the decline in industrial production in Britain had caused a sharp fall in revenue from taxation and the Govt. simply began to run out of money
          • Philip Snowden as Chancellor of the Exchequer had no new ideas - believed in balanced budgets, involving restricting public expenditure to essentials
            • This attitude angered younger members of the Lab. Party like Oswald Mosley, who believed that the govt. should be trying alternative economic and financial strategies
      • The May Committee
        • Appointed by Snowden in February 1931
          • Report presented in July 1931 - nothing to suggest other than cuts in public expenditure. Recommended a wide range of reductions in pay for teachers, civil servants and those in the armed services.
            • Report had a lack of originality. Keynes described it as 'the most foolish document I have ever had the misfortune to read'
              • May Committee's proposal that aroused the most dispute within the Govt. was the suggestion that unemployment pay be cut by 10% - the initial proposal was 20%. Many in the Cabinet believed that if this was done than Labour's principle of the protection of the working class would be destroyed
                • MacD. under pressure from international bankers who were unwilling to advance further loans to Britain unless it reduced its welfare expenditure.
                  • When the proposal to make the cuts was put to a cabinet vote, 10 of the 21 members rejected it
                  • MacD. called this 'the most valuable help'
      • The end of the Labour government - Ramsay MacDonald's act of 'betrayal'/'the great betrayal'
        • The Cabinet split led MacDonald to declare his intention of resigning on his and the Govt.'s behalf
          • After consultations with Lib leader Herbert Samuel and Cons. leader Baldwin, he went formally to see the King, George V.
            • MacDonald did not resign. He came back to tell his bemused colleagues in the last Lab. cabinet meeting that he had agreed to stay on as PM in a new 'National Government'
              • His explanation was that he was putting 'country before party' and that the economic crisis in Britain was so serious that it could only be met by forming a cross-party govt. of national unity
                • This enraged the Labour ranks - said it was a plot for MacD. to retain personal power and that the National Govt. was already decided on long before he told the cabinet; that he had gone behind the backs of his colleagues and done a deal with the opposition leaders
                  • Immediately expelled from his party. Hugh Dalton,  a Labour junior minister at the time, was present at the critical cabinet meetings. He described it 'as though a martyr was speaking, just before a cruel death'.
    • The impact of 'the great betrayal' on the Labour Party
      • Only 3 ministers and a handful of Labour backbenchers switched their loyalties to the National Govt.
      • Labour took a pummelling at the polls in 1931, losing 236 seats and seeing its popular support drop by 1.7 million votes, but it was now free in opposition to redevelop its ideas and policies
      • Despite 'the great betrayal', Dalton, Morrison, Bevin and Attlee, who in the 1930s were to work for the recovery and growth of the Labour Party, did so along the lines that MacDonald had laid down. MacDonald's legacy endured.
      • George Lansbury became Labour Party leader following the general election of 1931
        • Little to offer in terms of new ideas; his anti-war views inhibited him from adopting a strong stand on the rise of fascism and Nazism
      • Lansbury succeeded in 1935 by Clement Attlee - in his characteristically quiet but authoritative way, Attlee skilfully maintained the balance between the competing wings of the party and provided a leadership that helped the party revive during a difficult period when the National Government remained electorally dominant.
      • The 'popular front'
        • 'Popular front' means an alliance of all communist, socialist and progressive parties
        • Turn about in Soviet policy. During the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet Union had rebelled almost the non-Marxist socialist parties of Europe, like the Labour Party, dismissing them as 'social fascists'.
          • But after 1935 Stalin, fearful at the rise of an aggressive Nazi Germany, tried to gain some sort of security by reversing his policy of non-alignment with the Left
            • Through the Comintern, he now appealed to the parties of the left in Europe to unite a 'popular front' against the evils of fascism. But the European socialists were unwilling to do so...
              • The 'popular front'
                • 'Popular front' means an alliance of all communist, socialist and progressive parties
                • Turn about in Soviet policy. During the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet Union had rebelled almost the non-Marxist socialist parties of Europe, like the Labour Party, dismissing them as 'social fascists'.
                  • But after 1935 Stalin, fearful at the rise of an aggressive Nazi Germany, tried to gain some sort of security by reversing his policy of non-alignment with the Left
                    • Through the Comintern, he now appealed to the parties of the left in Europe to unite a 'popular front' against the evils of fascism. But the European socialists were unwilling to do so...

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