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Labour Party In Britain In The Years 1924 31

3095 words - 12 pages

Labour Party in Britain in the Years 1924-31

Historians have debated just how competent the two Labour
administrations were between 1924 and 1931. Governments are normally
only considered “competent” if they have managed the economy
efficiently, prevented widespread corruption and maintained law and
order. Labour came to power at the end of 1923, a time when the
Conservatives and other right-wing groups were spreading vicious
rumours about Socialism. MacDonald was determined to disprove these
fears, particularly Churchill’s jibe that a Labour Party would “not be
fit to govern”. Since the Prime Minister is an integral part of a
government, it will also be important to look at the competency of
MacDonald himself.

Labour came to power in 1923, even though they had not actually won
the 1923 election, and were therefore not the single largest party.
Therefore, Labour could not form a strong government, thus making it
more difficult to pass legislation and to implement their policies.
However, despite these difficulties, the first Labour Administration
did have numerous successes both in social reform and foreign policy.
For example, with regard to social reform achievements, Labour raised
old age pensions as well as unemployment benefits, and revived state
scholarships to universities. They also passed legislation, which
stated that there was to be no gap between the two periods of 16 weeks
in any year in which benefits could be claimed. These policies were
by no means a sign of radical socialist ideals, but the actions of a
competent and compassionate government. Also, the 1924 “Housing Act”,
which increased Chamberlain’s subsidy by 50% from £6 to £9 for each
house the local authorities built, and stated that in future it was to
be paid for 40 years rather than 20, again showed that Labour was able
to implement competent domestic policies. Wheatly later insisted that
the houses so subsidised should be for rent rather than for sale, and
so the reform benefited the working-class rather than the
middle-class. Under the scheme more than half a million houses were
built before grants were stopped in 1933.

Labour also showed itself to be competent in the sphere of foreign
policy during its first term in office. Foreign affairs were
MacDonald’s speciality, and Labour’s success in this area owed much to
his expertise. Perhaps his most important action regarding foreign
affairs occurred when he convened a conference in London in August, as
a result of which the “Dawes Plan” emerged. This scaled down German
reparations, instituted a new German currency that cured inflation,
and provided for the withdrawal of French troops from the Ruhr. But
this was not the only foreign policy success for Labour. They also
introduced five new naval cruisers and continued the bombing of...

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