The Communists

Part 8 - The 1923 and 1924 elections

well_chuffed, Going Postal
May 01, 1921: Supporters toast suffragette campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960, centre) at a breakfast to celebrate her release from prison, east London, May 1921. Pankhurst had been imprisoned since October 1920 for allegedly seditious articles in her Communist Party newspaper The Workers’ Dreadnought. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This is a bit of an afterthought but having read about these elections it seems only fair to write an article about them. It seems that Stanley Baldwin was a bit of a Saggy Tits in some ways. The background is the aftermath of Lord Curzon’s ultimatum to the Soviets and the retirement of Andrew Bonar Law on health grounds, he had throat cancer and was going to at least lose his voice. Only a few months later he lost his life. In May 1923 Lord Curzon was convinced the King would ask him to form the next administration but the call never came. George V was of the opinion that the Prime Minister should come from the elected House and there has not been a peer in Number 10 since the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury in 1902. Lord Curzon was mega unhappy he didn’t get the job but grumpily stayed on as Foreign Secretary.

The Tory manifesto in the May 1922 election contained the desire for free trade. Baldwin wanted to introduce tariffs on goods from outside the Empire to help the fight against unemployment. He called an election for December 1923 supposedly to get backing for his tariffs though there are many other theories why he actually called it when it was not strictly necessary. He was of course convinced he would walk it (Saggy’s 20 point lead anyone). To cut a long story short, although the Conservatives won the most seats Labour and the Liberals combined to keep them out of power with their 350 seats. On the 22nd January 1924 Ramsay McDonald became Prime Minister in the first ever Labour Government in Westminster.

As usual it is easy to generalise on the background to an election. There were a mass of unresolved problems, there was still a war going on in Turkey, the mess of the Versailles Treaty was descending into farce with Germany’s inability to pay the reparations, unemployment was rising partially caused by free trade and this was the reason Baldwin wanted his tariffs. It only proved to be divisive with the Tories unable to agree among themselves. After the election Baldwin remained as Prime Minister until Parliament reconvened and he lost the very first vote of confidence. He remained as leader of the party though there were calls for him to step down, he was just as stubborn as Saggy though probably nowhere near as useless.

As usual the Labour Party contained a wide variety of opinions from communist to fairly moderate. A recipe for disaster one would think and so it proved. There was a lot of disagreement over recognition of the Soviet Union. the UK had already accepted the Bolsheviks as the de facto government but Labour wanted to recognise them as the legitimate government and negotiate more treaties with them. The collapse of the administration came when the Worker’s Weekly published an article that was interpreted as a call to servicemen to mutiny. The Conservatives tabled a motion of censure and the Liberals added an amendment which was carried. The Liberal support had been tacit, incitement to mutiny had been a step too far and they withdrew their support so MacDonald had to go the the Palace and ask for a dissolution.

The following election was dominated by the call to mutiny and the treaties that were being negotiated with Russia. This election in October was heavily influenced by the Zinoviev letter which appeared just a few days before polling. Grigorii Zinoviev was the boss of the Comintern. It has since been debunked as a forgery but was believed to be true at the time. It called for the urgent ratification of the new treaties with Russia. This would assist the revolutionising of the British proletariat and make it possible to develop the ideas of Lenin in England and the colonies. Whether the letter was a forgery or not, it was in line with the Comintern’s thinking and this made it credible. The left of course blames the defeat of their first government on this letter.

The end result of the election was that the Tories got 413 seats, Labour got 151 and the Liberals were reduced to 40 seats. Ever since this election the Liberals have been the third party with no sign of a comeback regardless of David Steel’s rallying cry of “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government”. Yet again, the smaller party in a coalition gets most of the blame for its failings. You would think they would learn but they did it again in 2010.

Stanley Baldwin inherited a government with a majority of 74, went to the country unnecessarily in 1924 and lost his majority and office. Somehow he survived and went on to win the next election 10 months later. Who says the Tories are ruthless with leaders who fail because Saggy nearly did the same and was only dragged out of the mire by her agreement with the DUP.

The left blamed their defeat on the Zinoviev letter rather than the usual “it was the wrong kind of socialism or, it wasn’t real socialism” in the aftermath of the first Labour government here. There was plenty of scope to apportion blame because they relied on support from the Liberals so they could not get too carried away.


© well_chuffed 2018

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