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Atomic number and istopes


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Britain: First Labour Government, 1924 - Domestic Policy


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An election was held in December 1923. The total percentages of votes cast hardly changed, but the result was a swing against the Conservatives and Protectionism, with the Conservatives losing more than 90 seats; the Liberals gained 40, and Labour 50; but the National Liberals, under Lloyd George, saw their parliamentary representation dwindle to just 26. Since the Conservatives were bound to lose a vote of confidence, a minority government under either Asquith (the Liberals) or MacDonald (Labour) would have to be formed. Labour had a larger parliamentary party, Asquith agreed that Labour should be put in office, and the king took the view that Labour must be given 'a fair chance'. The Conservatives lost the vote of confidence on 21st January, and on 22nd January, MacDonald became the first Labour prime minister. MacDonald combined the offices of prime minister and foreign secretary; Snowden became Chancellor of the Exchequer. No members of the revolutionary Left were appointed as cabinet ministers - their leader, Lansbury, was not included. Wheatley was the only radical who was given office, as minister for health. Being a minority government Labour were 'in office, but not in power', and the aim of the leadership was to establish that Labour could govern, rather than institute a radical programme. This upset the left. The lack of dynamism in the government was also caused by the inevitable reliance of ministers on civil servants, most of whom did not support an extensive socialist programme. Wheatley was the most successful member of the cabinet, and he correctly analysed the long-term shortage of housing. The Wheatley Act of 1923 raised the subsidy and ensured that houses should be built for rent. Wheatley also organised cooperation between the state and industry, by ensuring that government subsidies would run for 15 years. The programme was discontinued during the economic crisis of 1932, but by then the housing shortage had been largely redressed. The Wheatley Act did not solve the problem of slums, and benefited the prosperous working classes rather than the very poor, but it was an achievement. It also signalled the change in opinion among the ruling classes as it was barely opposed - men of all parties agreed that the provision of houses was a social duty, though they differed over the method and the speed with which this should be done. The other main achievement of the Labour administration was in education. Trevelyan was placed in charge of the Board of Education. He reversed the cuts implemented by the Geddes axe. He set up a committee under Sir Henry Hadow to devise a way of practically implementing the Labour education policy stated in their document, Secondary Education for All. The Hadow committee reported in 1926, after the fall of the Labour government, but it established the pattern for English state education, and set the goal of raising the school leaving age to 15. It advocated a break between primary and secondary education at 11. These achievements should largely be attributed to Trevelyan. Snowden's budget was in the Gladstonian tradition of tight control over public expenditure and a balanced budget. Government expenditure was reduced, taxes were reduced, and the McKenna Duties, imposed during wartime, were abolished. Labour had no remedy to the problem of unemployment. The socialist tradition did not help them - mass unemployment was not understood. Economists were equally puzzled - only Keynes was moving towards the idea of public works, and his was an isolated voice at the time. Industrial conflict did not end with the establishment of a Labour government, and there were serious strikes, first by engine drivers, and then by dockers and London tramwaymen. The Labour government contemplated using the Emergency Powers Act to quell the unrest, but the dispute was settled by the intervention of Bevin.
Contents of
Atomic number and istopes

1 Britain, 1922: Conservative Administration following the Fall of Lloyd George
2 Britain 1922: The Parliamentary Labour Party
3 Britain: First Labour Government, 1924 - Domestic Policy
4 Britain: First Labour Government, 1924 - Foreign Policy
5 Britain: The 1924 Election and the "Zinoviev" letter
6 The Treaty of Locarno
7 Britain 1924: The Return to the Gold Standard

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