Britain 1914-1929 - Crisis and recovery

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Post-war coalition government

  • LG in coalition with Conservatives under BL - re-elected December 1918.
  • LG PM but Conservatives biggest party.
  • Opposition weak -  Asquith Libs only 28  - Labs main opposition
  • Sinn Fein won 73 seats - refused to participate - unofficial  Dail  in Dublin.
  •  Peacetime coalitions rare in British politics
  • War coalition patriotic and effective - united nation working together
  • Hard political reality - LG needed Cons to stay in power. - prepared to support LG - 'the man who won the war' - reputation as social reformer would stave off political extremism
  • LG in weak position - power rested on former enemies - would have support as long as he was successful  
  • Cons could withdraw backing once wartime spirit ended
  • LG had no political base - leader of one wing of divided party in decline.
  • Radical instincts for social reform - promises i.e. 'homes fit for heroes' - carrying out policies difficult 
  • ‘Coupon election' was disaster for Libs and LG.
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Economic problems facing the Lloyd George governme

  • B4 1914;
    •  Competition from Germany and USA
    • growth TU movement
    •  Home Rule for Ireland
  • war
    • government debt
    • Dislocation of trade and industry
    • Demobilising 5 mil> men.
  • Had to confront issues while negotiating post-war peace settlement
  • Failure of Staple industries
    • Cotton industry found it difficult to win back pre-war trading position & coal mines inneed of modernisation.
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Economic problems cont'd

  • Sankey Commission -  recommended nationalisation - Cons opposed it
  • Unrest in coalfields and TUs stronger and > militant. - Membership had doubled - £4 mill > 8 mil 1914-1920 - large unions -  amalgamation -Transport and General Workers Union
  • Police strike in Liverpool & riots in Glasgow 1919
  • May 1920 - dockers refused to load weapons used against Bolsheviks in Russian Civil 
  • May 1920 - dockers refused to load weapons used against Bolsheviks in Russian Civil War - 'Hands off Russia' campaign
  • April 1921 - national miners' strike - owners cut wage rates.
  • Threat of general strike - 1921 Emergency Powers Act -
  • Addison's Housing Act 1919 - 200,000> 'council houses' for WC
  • Fisher's Education Act 1918 - >ed school leaving age to 14 - promised part time education to 18
  • Pensions extended - war widows’ pensions introduced
  • New National Insurance Act - extended unemployment benefit to xtra 8 mil workers
  • Costs & war debts - financial pressure
  • Geddes Axe’ 1921 - proposed £86 mil cuts - LG promise of 'land fit for heroes' betrayed
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Economic successes

  • Coalition contained talented politicians e.g. A.J. Balfour and Winston Churchill.
  • New ministries for health and transport set up
  • Churchill took responsibility for demobilisation - carried through in 1919 without much more unemployment
  • Economy switched war production to peacetime
  • Controls over prices rents and profits ended.
  • Rationing gradually ended
  • railways returned to private ownership and reorganised into four companies for greater efficiency
  • coal industry was re-privatised
  • Brief post-war boom
  • 1921 unemployment = 2 mil
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Ireland

  • Home Rule Bill  due to be law 1921 - divisions in Ireland intense
  • Irish Nats overtaken by Sinn Fein (‘Ourselves Alone’)
  • 1916 Easter Rising regarded as heroes and martyrs
  • British rule directly challenged by setting up of Dail in Dublin and rise of IRA.
  •  Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921 - 'Black and Tans' vs IRA.
  • 1920 - Government of Ireland Act - Partitioned Ireland - Unionist rule in north & autonomy to Catholic nationalist south - council of Ireland
  •  Accepted by unionists - Province of Northern Ireland created - parliament in Belfast 
  •  Sinn Fein rejected act – wanted complete independence
  • LG proposed second solution - Anglo-Irish Treaty - Irish Free State
  •  LG persuaded Sinn Fein that although Ulster remained separate it would be so small and unviable it would soon join united Ireland. 
  •  Sinn Fein signed but opened up deep divisions among Nationalists - minority in Sinn Fein lead by Eamon de Valera rejected

 

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Ireland cont'd

  • Civil war between 'pro' and 'anti' treaty until 1922 - victory for de Valera & murder of Michael Collins - borders fixed but leaders of Irish Free State claimed sovereignty over all of Ireland until 2007
  • LG fiercely criticised Anglo-Irish War, civil war south & emergence of oppresiveregime in North Ire
  • Libs and Labs appalled by methods of 'Black and Tans' + Cons & Unionists never forgave LG for Ireland from B
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The fall of Lloyd George

  • BL resigned May 1921 - LG's relations with Cons
  • 1922 - 'Honours Scandal' - accused of selling peerages to finance own party
  •  'Chanak Affair' - LG accused of ordering British troops into action without consulting coalition
  •  Cons felt they would be better off without LG - victory in Newport by-election 
  • Meeting at Carlton Club in October 1922 - key speeches by Baldwin & BL - voted to fight the next election alone - LG resigned & coalition ended.
  •  Conservatives won election November 1922.
  • LG Libs and Asquithian Liberals won 116 seats  in total  
  • Lab = 142
  • King George V wrote LG would be PM again - never happened - reunited Libs 1926 but career over.
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Politics 1922-24

  • Labs became main opposition to Cons - minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1923-4 & 1929 - dependent on support from other parties
  • 8 months> - BL ill & resigned - succeeded by Baldwin
  •  called general election December 1923 & Ramsay MacDonald became 1st Lab PM 1924.
  • dependant on Lib support but passed reforms,
    • >ed pensions & unemployment benefi
    •    Wheatley's Housing Act 1924 -  500,000 council houses built in 10 years
    •   set up a committee on future of secondary education.
  • Only lasted 10 months - Libs withdrew support & Labs accused of being 'soft on Communism' - Row over trade deal with USSR.
  • Campbell case - communist journalist urged men in armed forces to disobey orders if sent to put down general strike - MacDonald's failed to act & resigned.
  • October 1924 general election - 3rd in <2 years
  • dominated by Lab's links to communist - 'Zinoviev Letter' published 4 days B4 election - exploited by Cons - damaged Lab's campaign
  • Lab's share of vote >ed but Cons won &  Libs 3rd 
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Economic Problems 1923-29

  • Degree of economic recovery and Baldwin was successful in projecting an image of calmness and stability despite underlying economic problems and industrial unrest.
  • Staple industries in decline
    • 50% Britain's GNP 
    • ¼  of employment and 
    •  ¾  of exports B4 1914
  • 10-15% unemployment - share of world export trade <ed 18% > 11%
  •  Drop in value of overseas investments - struggling to pay for imports.
  •  USA became world moneylender so $ displaced  £ as world's major currency
  •  New industries of 'Second Industrial Revolution' - chemicals, motor vehicles, electrical goods and canned foods - were growing at a fast pace.
  • Motor car production by mid-1920s was three times better than 1913.
  •  Central Electricity Generating Board in 1926 and development of National Grid brought a new and more flexible form of power to industry and homes.
  • Output per worker increased.
  • 1923 and 1929, overall economic growth was faster than before 1914.
  •  The service sector grew due to spread of retailing, road transport, mass entertainment and administration.
  •  Rising living standards
  •  Million jobs created in service sector during 1920s
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Economic development

  • New industries of 'Second Industrial Revolution' - chemicals, motor vehicles, electrical goods and canned foods - were >ing at fast pace.
  • Motor car production mid-1920s was >ed X3 than 1913.
  • Central Electricity Generating Board 1926 & National Grid brought - new & flexible power to industry and homes.
  • Output per worker increased - 1923-1929 economic growth was faster than <1914.
  •  service sector grew due to spread of retailing, road transport, mass entertainment and administration. millions of new jobs - rising living standards 
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Government Economic Policies 1923-9

Conservatives 1922-3

  • Trade - Baldwin proposed tariff reform to protect British industry from foreign competition.

Labour 1923-4

  • Trade
    • The Labour government signed trade treaty with Soviet Russia to revive Anglo-Russian trade.
    •  MacDonald negotiated Dawes Plan 1924 and Young Plan 1929
    • Aimed to restore Germany as trading partner by easing burden of reparations.
  • Unemployment
    •   Aimed to create jobs by public spending on roads, council houses, etc
    •    Labour government launched public works programme
  • IndustrySubsidies were extended to imperial Airways
  • Trade - Pre-war rate of pound to gold and other currencies
    • Winston Churchill put Britain back on  Gold Standard in 1925 
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General Strike - Causes

  • Demand for British coal fell due - foreign competition & use of substitutes 
  • old and inefficient & Short of investment.
  • 1913 - dockers, miners and railwaymen formed 'triple alliance'
  •  miners wanted coal industry to be nationalised  - re-privatised after war 
  • Major strikes & lockouts in 1919, 1920 & 1925.
  • 1925 - Britain back on Gold Standard at pre-1914 exchange rate - too high -  exports too expensive.
  • owners called for further wage cuts and longer working hours, but the miners rejected these demands - threatened a lockout.
  •  Baldwin subsidise miners' wages & owners' profits for 9 months - nicknamed 'Red Friday'.
  • Samuel Commission - rejected nationalisation and wage cuts essential to save jobs but reorganisation of mines
  • Owners declared that 1 May 1926>  miners would be locked out unless they accepted wage cuts & longer hours - government subsidies ended in April 1926
  • 'Not a penny off the pay, not a second on the day.'
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Causes of General Strike cont'd

  • Miners appealed to the TUC for support - 1 May - decided to call on strike for miners' case.
  • Balwin failed to reach a compromise or shown a greater willingness to talk to the TUC
  • 1921 Emergency Powers Act - state of emergency
  • abruptly ended talks with  TUC after unofficial strike at Daily Mail the day before
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General Strike

  • May 1926 - Coal, iron, steel, chemical and newspaper industries ceased production.
  • Ships were neither loaded nor unloaded.
  • Railway trains, the London Underground & bus services stopped running.
  •  Government sent soldiers and armoured cars into London & warships sent into Clyde, Tyne and Mersey.
  • Lasted 9 days 
  • Term 'General Strike' controversial - began with a lockout by employers
  • 3 million workers involved - fraction of total workforce.
  • Baldwin: 'a challenge to parliament and a step on the road to ruin' (British Gazette, 6 May 1926).
  • General Council of Trade Union Congress: 'no challenge to the constitution, the TUC is engaged in an industrial dispute' (British Worker, 11 May 1926).
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Impact of General Strike

  • Emergency Powers Act - Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies - 100,000 volunteer workers to move essential supplies.
  • Baldwin argued General Strike was a threat to British constitution - won public sympathy -  turned issue away from miners' grievances to question of who ruled Britain
  • ·   Put Churchill in British Gazette - fought a relentless campaign to undermine support for the strike - played on general desire to avoid violence and disorder.
  • TUC stressed need for striking workers to behave
  • Herbert Smith and A. J. Cook turned public opinion against them - refused to compromise
  • Called General Strike off - miners continued fought alone - had to accept wage cuts and longer working hours
  • Failures in TUC leadership - only began preparations <1 week - no national system for coordinating strike action
  • Newspapers were closed when TUC called print workers out on strike
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Impact of General Strike cont'd

  • TUC published British Worker - too late 
  • TUC divided moderates like J. H. Thomas against General Strike - A. J. Cook wanted to bring down government.
  •  TUC had hoped that threat of general strike would be enough - left struggling to find a way out
  • General Strike did not harm the unions or the Labour Party as much as expected
  • 1927 government passed Trades Disputes Act - limitations on unions & outlawed 'sympathy' strikes.
  • Ramsay MacDonald refused to involve Labs strike - image of moderation - helped Labour to win 1929 election.
  • unions were strengthened - allowed moderate union leaders to come to forefront - wanted a better deal for their members by negotiating with the employers.
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End of Baldwin's Governments

  • Baldwin's reputation based on ability to reassure party and people that everything was under control
  •  Handling of miners' strike dramatic example of his style
  • Leader of Cons for 14 years and PM 3x 1922 -1937 
  • Criticised for putting Britain back on Gold Standard in 1925
  • Did have successes; set up BBC, built new houses, range of reforms in local government, widows' pensions and health
  •  Equal Franchise Act - equal voting rights for woman 1928.
  • Cons lost power 1929 general election
  • Labs grew after 1924> - MacDonald distanced party leadership from TU movement - >ed party's electoral appeal
  • Labour’s programme 'Labour and the Nation' aimed at cautious reform - gained new seats 
  • 288 seats vs. Conservatives' 260 & Liberals' 59
  • Largest party in Commons for 1st time - MacDonald formed 2nd government.
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