To what extent was the 1929 - 31 second Labour Government as successful as circumstances permitted.
After the 'sporting' resignation of Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay Macdonald became prime minister of a minority Labour government for the second time on the 5th June 1929. The second Labour Government took office at a time when unemployment was under 10% and arguably Britain was enjoying a period of relative prosperity. However in 1931 the government's annual pay out in unemployment benefit had increased from £12 million a year in 1928 to £125 million by 1931, this at a time when in certain other European countries democratic regimes were being overthrown and replaced by dictatorships. However these events occurred as a result not of the inadequacy of the Labour Government but because of events out of the control of it. The Wall Street Crash brought with it massive world wide economic depression and a situation that neither Labour, the Conservatives nor the Liberals were well equipped enough to deal with.
As had been the case with the previous Labour administration the foreign policies of the second Labour government were a, in the words of Hugh Dalton, 'moderate success story. Both Macdonald and Henderson (the new foreign minister) were able to improve on the successes of the first Labour government; Henderson was to become a dominant figure in the League of Nations (influential in the negotiating of the Young plan) and eventually became the first British statesman to win the confidence of both France and Germany. In conjunction Macdonald was able to successfully negotiate an agreement regarding the respective tonnages of ships therefore disbanding the growing naval rivalry between British and American navies. Once again the Labour government had proven themselves capable enough to successfully deal with foreign affairs.
However domestic policies were to be a completely different story, in the words of Dalton the Labour government's 'record at home' was 'a hard luck story with failure almost unredeemed by either courage or skill.' The only notable successes were the coal miner's act which reduced the standard eight hour shift by thirty minutes and the change in rules which allowed applicants for unemployment benefits to claim their benefit providing that an officer could prove that they had turned down a reasonable offer of work in the first place.
The Wall Street Crash brought with it the 'Great Depression' in October of 1929, the previous unemployment figure was to prove only a mere blip for the events to follow were, to a certain extent, out of the control of any British Government. Due to Britain's heavy reliance upon American loans and American prosperity the already struggling British industries saw their...