chapter 5 British Domestic politics 1929-39

  • Created by: loupardoe
  • Created on: 25-06-18 14:37

how successful was Labour's domestic policy in 1929-31?

the situation in 1929

  • MacDonald faced serious problems, did not have complete freedom of action
  • labour was a minority government
  • had a majority of 27 over the conservatives
  • 59 liberals held the balance of power
  • even if he had wanted to pursue radical policies, this would have been difficult
  • the HoL could no longer completely prevent legislation from being passed, but could still obstruct and delay measures
  • conservatives had a majority in the HoL
  • few labour peers
  • economic situation was not strong
  • unemployment- 1.2 million
  • concentrated in areas of Britain's heavy industry which had not recovered from the decline in exports after WW1
  • issue had been prominent in the election campaign in 1929
  • calls in the labour party and by the liberals for imaginative acts to reduce unemployment and promote economic growth
  • MacDonald had moved away from distinctive socialist policies
  • party was committed to free trade
  • leadership was concerned to show that Labour was a moderate party of government for all the people and deserved the confidence of the banks and financial institutions
  • any solutions to unemployment that involved raising taxes or irresponsible borrowing to create jobs would threaten confidence in Britain
  • it was important that Labour should not weaken international confidence in the pound as the earnings from invisible exports were so high and they depended on the pound being a rock solid international currency
  • largely unsympathetic press
  • civil service was likely to raise objection to any radical measures
  • it was unlikely that Labour would offer any substantial domestic change
  • MacDonald showed himself to be more interested in foreign and imperial matters than in domestic policy- much less restrained by his party's lack of an overall majority
  • discussions on the future of India involved much cross party agreement
  • foreign policy did not become a strong party issue- MacDonald and foreign secretary Henderson struggled with the international repercussions of the international slump

the labour ministers

  • Arthur Henderson- foreign secretary
  • J.H.Thomas- Lord Privy Seal, minister responsible for unemployment
  • both were from a moderate trade union background
  • Philip Snowden- chancellor, entered political life through the ILP, conservative in outlook, committed to a financial policy which maintained a balanced budget and would be acceptable to Britain's important financial sector
  • John Clynes- home secretary, veteran
  • Sidney Webb- former fabian, Baron Passfield, colonial secretary
  • left wing of the party was not strongly represented
  • Oswald Mosley- more radical and energetic, assisted Thomas
  • first female Cabinet minister- Margaret Bondfield
  • not a radical cabinet

domestic measures 1929-31

  • domestic policy inhibited by growing economic problems
  • declining trade reduced revenue and the money available for reforms and improvements
  • legislative record was limited
  • there were some achievements
  • Housing Act 1930- passed by Arthur Greenwood, restored the subsidies for local authorities to build houses that had been given in Wheatley's Act, began subsidies for slum clearance
  • slum areas of housing existed in most inner city areas, were generally old neglected unhealthy places to live
  • many of the houses had originally been built for workers…


No comments have yet been made