Рефераты. Three-party politics

Minister that ever held office in England if I accepted those terms.' His

opposition was sustained by the two independent experts whom he consulted,

McKenna and Keynes. The cabinet, however, was for acceptance. Law found

himself alone. He wished to resign and was persuaded to stay on by the

pleas of his colleagues. He satisfied his conscience by publishing an

anonymous attack on the policy of his own government in the columns of The


As things worked out, Great Britain was not ruined by the settlement of

the American debt, though it was no doubt irksome that France and Italy

later settled their debt on easier terms. Throughout the twenties the

British collected a balancing amount from their own debtors and in

reparations. The real harm lay elsewhere. While the settlement perhaps

improved relations with the United States, it compelled the British to

collect their own debts and therefore to insist on the payment of

reparations by Germany both to others and to themselves. This was already

clear in 1923. Poincare, now French premier, attempted to enforce the

payment of reparations by occupying the Ruhr. The Germans took up passive

resistance, the mark tumbled to nothing, the finances of central Europe

were again in chaos. The British government protested and acquiesced.

French troops were allowed to pass through the British zone of occupation

in the Rhineland. While the British condemned Poincare's method, they could

no longer dispute his aim: they were tied to the French claim at the same

time as they opposed it.

The debt settlement might have been expected to turn Law against Baldwin.

There were powerful factors on the other side. Law knew that Curzon was

unpopular in the Conservative party—disliked both for his pompous arrogance

and his weakness. Curzon lacked resolution, despite his rigid appearance.

He was one of nature's rats. He ran away over the Parliament bill; he

succumbed to women's suffrage. He promised to stand by Asquith and then

abandoned him. He did the same with Lloyd George. Beaverbrook has called

him 'a political jumping jack'. Law regarded the impending choice between

Curzon and Baldwin with more than his usual gloom. He tried to escape from

it by inviting Austen Chamberlain to join the government with the prospect

of being his successor in the autumn. Chamberlain appreciated that his

standing in the Conservative party had been for ever shaken by the vote at

the Carlton club, and refused.

The end came abruptly. In May Law was found to have incurable cancer of

the throat. He resigned at once. Consoled by the misleading precedent of

what happened when Gladstone resigned in 1894, he made no recommendation as

to his successor. He expected this to be Curzon, and was glad that it would

be none of his doing. However, the king was led to believe, whether

correctly or not, that Law favoured Baldwin, and he duly followed what he

supposed to be the advice of his retiring prime minister as the monarch has

done on all other occasions since 1894.3 Law lingered on until 30 October.

He was buried in Westminster Abbey—the first prime minister to follow

Gladstone there and with Neville Chamberlain, so far, as his only

successor. The reason for this distinction is obscure. Was it because he

had reunited the Conservative party? or because he had overthrown Lloyd



Baldwin did not follow Law's example of waiting to accept office until he

had been elected leader of the Conservative party. He became prime minister

on 21 May, was elected leader on 28 May. Curzon proposed the election with

phrases adequately fulsome. Privately he is reputed to have called Baldwin

'a man of the utmost insignificance'. This was Baldwin's strength. He

seemed, though he was not, an ordinary man. He presented himself as a

simple country gentleman, interested only in pigs. He was in fact a wealthy

ironmaster, with distinguished literary connexions.2 His simple exterior

concealed a skilful political operator. Lloyd George, after bitter

experience, called him 'the most formidable antagonist whom I ever

encountered'—no mean tribute. Baldwin played politics by ear. He read few

official documents, the newspapers not at all. He sat on the treasury bench

day after day, sniffing the order-paper, cracking his fingers, and studying

the house of commons in its every mood. He had in his mind a picture, no

doubt imaginary, of the patriarchal relations between masters and men at

his father's steel works, and aspired to establish these

relations with Labor on a national scale. This spirit met a response from

the other side. MacDonald said of him as early as 1923: 'In all essentials,

his outlook is very close to ours.' It is hard to decide whether Baldwin or

MacDonald did more to fit Labor into constitutional life.

Baldwin did not set the Conservative pattern alone. He acquired, almost

by accident, an associate from whom he was never parted: Neville

Chamberlain.3 The two were yoke-fellows rather than partners, bound

together by dislike of Lloyd George and by little else. Chamberlain was

harsher than Baldwin, more impatient with criticism and with events. He

antagonized where Baldwin conciliated. He was also more practical and eager

to get things done. He had a zest for administrative reform. Nearly all the

domestic achievements of Conservative governments between the wars stand to

his credit, and most of the troubles also. Active Conservatives often

strove to get rid of Baldwin and to put Chamberlain in his place. They did

not succeed. Chamberlain sinned against Napoleon's rule: he was a man of No

Luck. The cards always ran against him. He was humiliated by Lloyd George

at the beginning of his political career, and cheated by Hitler at the end.

Baldwin kept him in the second place, almost without trying.

Chamberlain's Housing Act (introduced in April, enacted in July) was the

one solid work of this dull government. It was provoked by the complete

stop in house building when Addison's programme ended. Chamberlain

believed, like most people, that Addison's unlimited subsidies were the

main cause of high building costs. He was also anxious, as a good

Conservative, to show that private enterprise could do better than local

authorities. His limited subsidy (Ј6 a year for twenty years) went to

private and public builders alike, with a preference for the former; and

they built houses only for sale. Mean houses ('non-parlour type' was the

technical phrase) were built for those who could afford nothing better.

Predominantly, the Chamberlain act benefited the lower middle class, not

the industrial workers. This financial discrimination caused much

bitterness. Chamberlain was marked as the enemy of the poor, and his

housing act lost the Conservatives more votes than it gained.


Still, there seemed no reason why the government should not jog on. Its

majority was solid; economic conditions were not markedly deteriorating.

Without warning, Baldwin raised the ghost which Law had exorcized in 1922.

On 25 October he announced that he could fight unemployment only if he had

a free hand to introduce Protection. His motives for this sudden decision

remain obscure. Protection had been for many years at once the inspiration

and the bane of the Conservative party. There would hardly have been a

lively mind or a creative personality on the Conservative benches without

it. On the other hand, it had repeatedly brought party disunion and

electoral defeat. Hence Balfour had sworn off it in 1910, and Law in 1922.

There seemed little reason to revive this terrible controversy now. An

imperial conference was indeed in session, principally to ensure that no

British government would ever take such an initiative as Chanak again. The

conference expressed the usual pious wish for Imperial Preference. This

meant in practice British tariffs on foreign food, while foodstuffs from

the Dominions came in free. There would be Dominion preferences for British

manufactures only in the sense that Dominion tariffs, which were already

prohibitively high, would go up further against the foreigner. This was not

an attractive proposition to put before the British electorate, and Baldwin

did not attempt it. He pledged himself against 'stomach taxes'. There would

be 'no tax on wheat or meat'. Imperial Preference was thus ruled out.

Later, when Protection had brought defeat for the Conservatives, Baldwin

excused himself on grounds of political tactics. Lloyd George, he alleged,

was returning from a triumphal tour of North America with a grandiose

programme of empire development. Baldwin 'had to get in quick'. His

championing of Protection 'dished the Goat' [Lloyd George].1 Austen

Chamberlain and other Conservatives who had adhered to Lloyd George swung

back on to Baldwin's side. This story seems to have been devised after the

event. Chamberlain and the rest were already swinging back; there was no

serious sign that Lloyd George was inclining towards Protection. Perhaps

Baldwin, a man still little known, wished to establish his reputation with

the Conservative rank and file. Perhaps he wished to show that he, not

Beaverbrook, was Law's heir. The simplest explanation is probably the true

one. Baldwin, like most manufacturers of steel, thought only of the home

market. He did not grasp the problem of exports and hoped merely that there

would be more sale for British steel if foreign supplies were reduced. For

once, he took the initiative and learnt from his failure not to take it


Protection involved a general election in order to shake off Law's pledge

of a year before. The cry of Protection certainly brought the former

associates of Lloyd George back to Baldwin. This was more than offset by

the resentment of Free Trade Conservatives, particularly in Lancashire.

Defence of Free Trade at last reunited the Liberal party, much to Lloyd

George's discomfiture—though this was hardly Baldwin's doing. With Free

Trade the dominant issue, Lloyd George was shackled to the orthodox

Asquithian remnant. Asquith was once more undisputed leader; Lloyd George,

the man who won the war, merely his unwilling lieutenant. It was small

consolation that the Asquithians had their expenses paid by the Lloyd

George Fund.

The election of December 1923 was as negative as its predecessor. This

time negation went against Protection, and doing nothing favoured the once-

radical cause of Free Trade. Though the overall vote remained much the

same— the Conservatives received about 100,000 less,3 the Liberals 200,000,

and Labor 100,000 more—the results were startlingly different. The

Conservatives lost over ninety seats, the Liberals gained forty, and Labor

fifty.4 The dominant groups of 1918 were further depleted, relatively in

one case, absolutely in the other. The trade unionists, once all-powerful,

were now a bare majority in the Labor party (98 out of 191). The National

(Lloyd George) Liberals, already halved in 1922, were now halved again,

despite the Liberal gains. There were only twenty-six of them. Their former

seats nearly all went to Labor, evidence that they had formed the Liberal

Left wing. The outcome was a tangle: no single party with a majority, yet

the Liberals barred from coalition by their dislike of Protection on the

one side, of socialism on the other.


It was obvious that the government would be defeated when parliament met.

Then, according to constitutional precedent, the king would send for the

leader of the next largest party, Ramsay MacDonald. Harebrained schemes

were aired for averting this terrible outcome. Balfour, or Austen

Chamberlain, should take Baldwin's place as Conservative premier; Asquith

should head a Liberal-Conservative coalition; McKenna should form a non-

parliamentary government of 'national trustees'. None of these schemes came

to anything. Asquith was clear that Labor should be put in, though he also

assumed that he would himself become prime minister when, as was bound to

happen soon, they were put out. In any case, George V took his own line:

Labor must be given 'a fair chance'. On 21 January the Conservative

government was defeated by seventy-two votes.1 On the following day

MacDonald became prime minister, having first been sworn of the privy

council—the only prime minister to need this preliminary. George V wrote in

his diary: 'Today 23 years ago dear Grandmama died. I wonder what she would

have thought of a Labor Government!'; and a few weeks later to his mother:

'They [the new Ministers] have different ideas to ours as they are all

socialists, but they ought to be given a chance & ought to be treated


MacDonald was a man of considerable executive ability, despite his lack of

ministerial experience; he had also many years' training in balancing

between the different groups and factions in the Labor movement. On some

points he consulted Haldane, who became lord chancellor, principally in

order to look after the revived committee of imperial defence. Snowden,

MacDonald's longtime associate and rival in the I.L.P., became chancellor

of the exchequer. MacDonald himself took the foreign office, his consuming

interest; besides, he was the only name big enough to keep out E. D. Morel.

The revolutionary Left was almost passed over. Lansbury, its outstanding

English figure, was left out, partly to please George V, who disliked

Lansbury's threat to treat him as Cromwell treated Charles I. Wheatley, a.

Roman Catholic businessman who became minister of health, was the only

Clydesider in the government; to everyone's surprise he turned out its most

successful member. Broadly the cabinet combined trade unionists and members

of the U.D.C. It marked a social revolution despite its moderation: working

men in a majority, the great public schools and the old universities

eclipsed for the first time.

The Labor government recognized that they could make no fundamental

changes, even if they knew what to make: they were 'in office, but not in

power'. Their object vas to show that Labor could govern, maybe also that

it could administer in a more warm-hearted way. The" Left did not like this

tame outlook and set up a committee of backbench M.P.s to control the

government; it did not have much effect. The Labor ministers hardly needed

the king's exhortation to 'prudence and sagacity'.1 All, except Wheatley,

were moderate men, anxious to show their respectability. They were willing

to hire court dress (though not knee-breeches) from Moss Bros. It was a

more serious difficulty that they lacked experience in government routine.

Only two (Haldane and Henderson) had previously sat in a cabinet. Fifteen

out of the twenty had never occupied any ministerial post. Inevitably they

relied on the civil servan:s in their departments, and these, though

personally sympathetic, were not running over with enthusiasm for an

extensive socialist programme.


Wheatley was the only minister with a creative aggressive outlook. His

Housing Act was the more surprising in that it had no background in party

discussion or programme, other than Labor's dislike of bad housing

conditions, Unlike Neville Chamberlain or even Addison, Wheatley recognized

that the housing shortage was a long-term problem. He increased the

subsidy;2 put the main responsibility back on the local authorities; and

insisted that the houses must be built to rent. More important still, he

secured an expansion of the building industry by promising that the scheme

would operate steadily for fifteen years. This was almost the first

cooperation between government and industry in peacetime; it was also the

first peacetime demonstration of the virtues of planning. Though the full

Wheatley programme was broken off short in 1932 at the time of the economic

crisis, housing shortage, in the narrowest sense, had by then been

virtually overcome. Wheatley's Act did not, of course, do anything to get

rid of the slums. It benefited the more prosperous and secure section of

the working class, and slum-dwellers were lucky to find old houses which

the council tenants had vacated. The bill had a passage of hard argument

through the house of commons. Hardly anyone opposed its principle outright.

Men of all parties were thus imperceptibly coming to agree that the

provision of houses was a social duty, though they differed over the method

and the speed with which this should be done.

One other landmark was set up by the Labor government, again almost

unnoticed. Trevelyan, at the board of education, was armed with a firm

statement of Labor policy, Secondary Education for All, drafted by the

historian R. H. Tawney, who provided much of the moral inspiration for

Labor in these years. Trevelyan largely undid the economies in secondary

education which had been made by the Geddes axe, though he also discovered

that Labor would be effective in educational matters only when it

controlled the local authorities as well as the central government. More

than this, he instructed the consultative committee of the board, under Sir

Henry Hadow, to work out how Labor's full policy could be applied, and he

deserves most of the credit for what followed even though the committee did

not report until 1926. The Hadow report set the pattern for English

publicly maintained education to the present day. Its ultimate ideal was to

raise the school-leaving age to 15. Failing this (and it did not come until

after the second World war), there should be an immediate and permanent

innovation: a break between primary and secondary education at n.1 Hence

the pupils at elementary schools, who previously stayed on to 14, had now

to be provided for elsewhere or, at the very least, in special 'senior

classes'. Here was a great achievement, at any rate in principle: a clear

recognition, again imperceptibly accepted by men of all parties, that the

entire population, and not merely a privileged minority, were entitled to

some education beyond 'the three R's'. It was less fortunate that the new

system of a break at 'eleven plus' increased the divergence between the

publicly maintained schools and the private schools for the fee-paying

minority where the break came at 13.

The reforms instituted by Wheatley and by Trevelyan both had the

advantage that, while they involved considerable expenditure over a

period of years, they did not call for much money in the immediate future.

This alone enabled them to survive the scrutiny of Philip Snowden,

chancellor of the exchequer. Snowden had spent his life preaching social

reforms; but he also believed that a balanced budget and rigorous economy

were the only foundation for such reforms, and he soon convinced himself

that the reforms would have to wait until the foundation had been well and

truly laid. His budget would have delighted the heart of Gladstone:

expenditure down, and taxes also, the 'free breakfast table' on the way to

being restored,1 and the McKenna Duties—pathetic remnant of wartime

Protection —abolished. No doubt a 'Liberal' budget was inevitable in the

circumstances of minority government; but it caused no stir of protest in

the Labor movement. Most Labor men assumed that finance was a neutral

subject, which had nothing to do with politics. Snowden himself wrote of

Montagu Norman: 'I know nothing at all about his politics. I do not know if

has he any.' Far from welcoming any increase in public spending, let alone

advocating it, Labor had inherited the radical view that money spent by the

state was likely to be money spent incompetently and corruptly: it would

provide outdoor relief for the aristocracy or, as in Lloyd George's time,

undeserved wealth for profiteers. The social reforms in which Labor

believed were advocated despite the fact that they cost money, not because

of it, and Snowden had an easy time checking these reforms as soon as he

pointed to their cost.


The Labor government were peculiarly helpless when faced with the problem

of unemployment—the unemployed remained at well over a million. Labor

theorists had no prepared answer and failed to evolve one. The traditional

evil of capitalism had been poverty: this gave Labor its moral force just

as it gave Marxists the confidence that, with increasing poverty,

capitalism would 'burst asunder'. No socialist, Marxist or otherwise, had

ever doubted that poverty could be ended by means of the rich resources

which capitalism provided. Mass unemployment was a puzzling accident,

perhaps even a mean trick which the capitalists were playing on the Labor

government; it was not regarded as an inevitable outcome of the existing

economic system, at any rate for some time. Vaguely, Labor held that

socialism would get rid of unemployment as it would get rid of all other

evils inherent in the capitalist system. There would be ample demand for

goods, and therefore full employment, once this demand ceased to be a

matter of 'pounds, shillings, and pence'. The socialist economic system

would work of itself, as capitalism was doing. This automatic operation of

capitalism was a view held by nearly all economists, and Labor accepted

their teaching. Keynes was moving towards the idea that unemployment could

be conquered, or at any rate alleviated, by means of public works. He was

practically alone among professional economists in this. Hugh Dalton,

himself a teacher of economics, and soon to be a Labor M.P.,1 dismissed

Keynes's idea as 'mere Lloyd George finance'—a damning verdict. Such a

policy was worse than useless; it was immoral.

Economic difficulties arose for the Labor government in a more immediate

way. Industrial disputes did not come to an end merely because Labor was in

office. Ramsay MacDonald had hardly kissed hands before there was a strike

of engine drivers—a strike fortunately settled by an intervention of the

T.U.C. general council. Strikes first of dockers, then of London

tramwaymen, were not dealt with so easily. The government planned to use

against these strikes the Emergency Powers Act, which Labor had denounced

so fiercely when introduced by Lloyd George. It was particularly ironical

that the proposed dictator, or chief civil commissioner, was Wedgwood,

chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, who was generally held to be more an

anarchist than a socialist. Here was fine trouble in the making. The unions

provided most of the money for the Labor party, yet Labor in office had to

show that it was fit to govern. Both sides backed away. The government did

not actually run armed lorries through the streets of London,2 and Ernest

Bevin, the men's leader, ended the strikes, though indignant at ‘having to

listen to appeal of our own people. The dispute left an ugly memory. A

joint committee of the T.U.C. general council and the Labor party executive

condemned the government’s proposed action. MacDonald replied that ‘public

doles, Poplarism, strikes for increased wages, limitations of output, not

only are not Socialism, but may mislead the spirit and policy of the

Socialist movement.

Страницы: 1, 2

2012 © Все права защищены
При использовании материалов активная ссылка на источник обязательна.