Britain in the 1920s: Bonar Law, MacDonald, and Baldwin

  • William D. Rubinstein


Bonar Law was faced with the prospect of forming his Cabinet without the support of most of the heavyweight Tory members of Lloyd George’s government. Thirteen Conservative ministers in the former government declined to support the new government. The most important of these were Austen Chamberlain, Birkenhead, Balfour, and Sir Robert Horne (1871–1940). Indeed, only four Cabinet ministers in the former government were willing to join the Bonar Law Cabinet — Curzon, Baldwin, Viscount Peel, and Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen. Curzon decided at the last minute to desert Lloyd George. This probably cost him the dukedom which he apparently expected as a reward, whenever Lloyd George left office. (He would probably have become Duke of Scarsdale, one of his family titles.) It did, however, gain him reappointment to the Foreign Office, an important source of continuity between the two governments. Curzon was (it was universally conceded) a good Foreign Minister, one of the strongest and most experienced of the century. Deserting Lloyd George did, however, enhance Curzon’s reputation for untrustworthiness, which may have cost him the Prime Ministership less than a year later. Bonar Law gave the Exchequer to the then little-known Stanley Baldwin, President of the Board of Trade in the previous government, and one of the principal speakers in favour of ending the Coalition at the Carlton Club debate. Baldwin was a successful businessman, and the appointment was perfectly sensible, although Bonar Law’s first choice had been the Liberal businessman Reginald McKenna, whose lucrative appointment as Chairman of the Midland Bank prevented him from taking up the offer.


Prime Minister Foreign Policy Trade Union Foreign Minister Labour Government 
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© William D. Rubinstein 2003

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  • William D. Rubinstein

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