Significance of 1923 Election (British Politics 1918-1929)(Britain 1900-1951)

  • Created by: oanderton
  • Created on: 31-08-20 16:47


Key issue of the election: free trade.

Conservatives: Pro-Tarriff Reform

Labour: Pro-free trade

Liberals: Pro-free trade.

Election was significant as it saw Labour rise as the 2nd largest party.

Labour established themselves as a possible party of government and as the new alternative to the Conservatives. 

This election also solidified the Liberal decline, as they had been overtaken.

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  • October 1922: Bonar law becomes Prime Minister after Lloyd George's resignation.
  • November 1922: General election gives the Conservatives an overall majority.
    • Sees Labour increases its seats.
  • May 1923: Bonar Law is too ill to continue, Baldwin chosen as his successor
  • December 1923: Another election held.
    • Labour's seats rise to 191
    • Liberals win 158
    • Conservatives win 258
  • January 1924: Baldwin defeated in the Commons, Labour takes office.
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Why Was an Election Called?

  • No real need for Baldwin to call an election
  • Baldwin wasn't elected in. He called an election to give the public a chance to confirm their approval of him as national leader.

Issue of Import Duties

  • Felt the only way to tackle unemployment was to increase duties on imported goods.
  • Could have been done under the 1921 Safeguarding of Industries Act
    • Controversial
  • Labour and Liberals strongly against import duties.
  • Conservatives divided
  • Eection would give Baldwin the backing he needed
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The Issue of Free Trade


  • Supported free trade.
  • Keep imports cheap to help the workers and provide a strong home market.
  • Provide cheap food for the working class.


  • Conservatives saw import taxes as vital.
    • To protect British industry when there were falling exports and competition from abroad
  • Would strengthen Britain's links with the empire.
  • Free trade was associated with international peace.
  • Free trade had become a moral issue.
    • Seemed selfish to restrict world trade for the good of British industry
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Result of 1923 Election

  • Baldwin and the Conservatives won the election
  • Combined strength of their opponents could and did bring them down
  • Liberals managed 158 seats despite damaging splits, campaigned vigorously for free trade.
  • Surprise was the growth of Labour, confirmation of its emergence as the 2nd largest party
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  • Had adopted an explicit socialist constitution in 1918.
  • MacDonald was far from wanting to implement this
  • Has an alliance with the Liberals before WWI
  • Shared their views on free trade and reform
  • Had supported their policies before the war
  • Able to gain their support for a coalition in 1924
  • Had cabinet experience in 1916 Coalition
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Consequences of 1923 Election

Had enormous consequences

  • Gave Labour the means to take office
  • Proved the undoing of the Liberals
    • Brought Labour down within months
  • In the 1924 election the electorate faced more of a straight choice
  • Voters seemed reluctant to offer the Liberals the chance for any more power broking.
  • Labour established itself as as a possible party of government.
    • Made people see it as the real alternative to the Conservatives.
  • 2 party system reasserted itself
  • Liberals were marginalised.
  • Issue of free trade was never again dominant.

This election saw Labour rise and establish themselves as a possible party of government and the new alternative to the Conservative party. 

This election solidified the Liberal decline, as they had now been overtaken.

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