The Second Labour Administration and the National Government, 1929–35
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The 1929 election campaign was a rather unsatisfactory affair. The Conservatives, who, despite their unpopularity at by-elections, were favoured to win, campaigned under the rather curious slogan of ‘Safety First’. This was an echo of a successful road safety campaign (and hence already well known as a slogan to the public) and also of previous appeals to the electorate portraying the Tories as the sensible policy of moderation. Labour had produced a gradualist, but in the British context, recognisably socialist programme (written by R.H. Tawney and Ramsay MacDonald) pledging to nationalise land, coal, power, transport, and life insurance, to extend social services, and cut expenditure on armaments. On the crucial issue of unemployment the programme was extremely vague, offering some generalities such as suggestions that waste and inefficiency in industry would be attacked and that there would be ‘a direct increase of purchasing power in the hands of the workers’, a goal obviously impossible to achieve. This last point may have represented an indirect bow to the proposals already offered privately to MacDonald by Sir Oswald Mosley. Mosley (1896–1980), a brilliant aristocrat who joined the Labour party in 1924, tried repeatedly to win MacDonald over to a programme of proto-Keynesian reflation of the economy to cure unemployment, but without much obvious success. As noted, the Liberal party, still led by Lloyd George, campaigned in 1929 on a very similar policy, and held high expectations of winning many seats.
KeywordsGeneral Election National Government Unemployment Benefit Labour Government Labour Party
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