Please note these notes can also be used for A2 study. Sorry for any typos!
Summary of British History 1918-1997 (Thematically)
Theme 1a: A changing political landscape
· In 1918, Britain saw the extension of the franchise from 7 million to 21 million people now able to vote. This radically altered the political landscape in Britain. The main beneficiary of this change was the growth of the Labour Party who evolved from the Trades Union Congress in 1900.
· The war had elevated Lloyd George to the office of prime minister but the coalition he led unravelled in peacetime with a scandal involving the sale of peerages (100) and knighthoods (1500) in the 1922 Honours List. Many Liberals also declined the growth in power of the state, splitting apart of the party (David Lloyd George campaigned against other Liberals) and after the 1915 Conservative Collation, the idea the party was too close to those principles. The decision to go to war with Turkey was also very unpopular. David Lloyd George was exposed by a meeting of the Conservative Party at the Carlton Club in 1922 who voted to end the coalition. David Lloyd George’s liberals had just 53MPs whilst Herbert Asquith’s liberals had 62 MPs in the 1922 election.
· Labour had governments in 1924 and 1929 led by Ramsay MacDonald but they were minority making it difficult for them to legislate effectively. The 1924 Government was seen as deeply alarming to Conservative supporters and was compared to Soviet Russia in The Times. There were strained relations within The National Executive Committee of the Labour Party as he had to make harsh economic choices. Any attempt to introduce radical change with a Liberal collation would have led to collapse of government. They were in power for 9 months and created legislation such as The Housing Act 1924 which increased the amount of money available to the local authorities to build homes for low-income workers. The 1924 government collapsed when there was a motion of no confidence after Attorney General Sir Patrick Hastings dropped charges of incitement to mutiny against socialist paper The Workers Weekly. MacDonald was accused of being a Soviet sympathiser and was forced to hold an election after pressure from backbench Labour MPs. The 1924 election was then damaged by the Daily Mail who claimed a letter from the Russian communist revolutionary Gregori Zinoviev had been sent to the British Communist Party in aim of persuading people to vote Conservative and Liberal. The letter was a forgery. In 1929, MacDonald returned to power. He had more ambitious reforms including The 1930 Housing Act (cleared ¾ of the million slum houses), The Coal Mines Act of 1930 (attempted to ensure better pay for miners but it was weak legislation) and amendment to the Unemployment Insurance Act which created public work schemes.
· The Liberal Party went into decline in the 1920s, eclipsed by Labour who took on the mantle of social reform.