The Second Labour Government 1929-1931

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Why did the Labour Party win the 1929 Election?

  • Weakness of the Conservative Party

1. ‘Safety First’ campaign was unsuccessful, it was too safe and boring. It meant the Tories failed to solve the problems of rising unemployment (10.4%)and the decline of the Staple Industries.

2. The General Strike 1926 – the 9-day strike of 3 million workers against     denationalization of the coal industry decreased production across Britain, therefore reducing economic activity, leading to a slow down in the economy.

3. Trade Disputes Act 1927 – this shifted the Party from the centre to the right, hence they lost moderate voters to the liberals. It made sympathetic strikes illegal and reduced Labour funding. This led the 3 million strikers to unite under MacDonald against the Tories.

4. Gold Standard 1925 – this made exports more expensive by 10% and decreased coal exports by 20% due to the competitiveness from the Ruhr, Poland and USA.

LEE: ‘the least inspiring campaign ever devised’ and ‘dull and competent record' 

AJP Taylor: ‘it sealed the fate of an increase in Labour and nationalization

*When the Tories are strong, Labour suffer eg. 1931 Labour 52 seats to Conservatives 470. Balwin forced MacDonald to join a National Government weakening the influence of Labour.

  • Liberal Revival

1. Green Book ‘Land and the Nation’ 1925 – argued for land reform and farmers could now purchase land from land owners.

2. Yellow Book ‘Britain’s Industrial Future’ 1928 – government loans of over £200 million and an increase in road building which provided jobs.

3. Orange Book ‘We Can Conquer Unemployment’ – increased road building and house building which in turn increased the number of jobs available.

4. Liberals had the backing of the LG Fund, so they could field a further 167 candidates, hence an increase in votes from 2.9 mil to 5.3 mil. 33 of the 35 seats that the Liberals gained were at the expense of the Conservatives as they appealed to moderate voters and help deplete the Conservative majority.

THORPE: ‘due to a high number of Liberal candancies’

WILSON: ‘far sighted and responsible party programmes’

  •  The Strength of the Labour Party

1. ‘Labour and the Nation’ 1928 – proposals for nationalization

2. Already proved themselves in 1924 with substantial reform like the Wheatley Housing Act, the Dawes Plan and loosening the terms of unemployment benefit.

3. The ‘flapper vote’ - the Second Representation of the People Act in 1928 increased the franchise by 6 million, Labour received an extra 2.6 million votes, whereas the Conservatives only received 600,000 more votes.

Domestic Policy

1. Greenwood Housing Act (1930) – renewed the subsidy for house building creating jobs in the process and introduced slum clearance, however this act was suspended in the 1931 financial crisis.

2. The Coal Mines Act (1930) – reduced working hours of the miners from 8 hrs to 7.5 hrs.

3. London Transport Bill (1931) – efficient underground and bus services, provides


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