Ramsay Macdonald and the Labour Party
Since his death in 1937, Ramsay MacDonald has not attracted much attention from historians and might seem to have fallen into an oblivion unparalleled among the Prime Ministers of the twentieth century.1 It is true that the centenary of his birth in 1966 did not pass unnoticed; indeed the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, spoke at a lunch to mark it, which suggested that a reconciliation between the Labour Party and MacDonald’s shade was in the making. The forthcoming biography by David Marquand may well succeed in rehabilitating him as one of the Labour Party’s great figures, second only to Keir Hardie among the first generation; meanwhile a provisional estimate may be worth attempting. For the trouble has been that MacDonald’s action in forming the ‘National’ Government in 19:51 left him in a biographical limbo, a renegade in Labour’s eyes and a very short-lived hero to his new friends among the Conservatives and Liberals. The last six years of his long political life cast a blight over his previous record, causing it to be read largely by hindsight. He left few champions, either from right or left, to cherish his memory.
KeywordsPrime Minister Trade Union Labour Movement Labour Government Labour Party
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