Stanley Baldwin, the only child of the industrialist, Alfred Baldwin and Louisa MacDonald Baldwin, was born in Bewdley on 3rd August 1867. His father was a prosperous ironmaster and the sole proprietor of the sheet-metal firm of E.P. & W. Baldwin. He was also chairman of the Great Western Railway. (1)
Baldwin's mother came from an artistic background. Her sister, Agnes MacDonald, married the painter Sir Edward John Poynter. Another sister, Georgiana MacDonald, married the painter Edward Coley Burne-Jones. A third sister, Alice MacDonald married the art teacher, John Lockwood Kipling and were the parents of the writer Rudyard Kipling. (2)
Baldwin was proud of his Quaker background: "I owe my Quaker strain to the earliest days of the Quakers. One of my ancestors went out in the reign of William III as a missionary to the American colonies. He devoted half a century to missionary life there and in the West Indies, where ultimately he died, leaving a name that was perhaps the most prominent and best known of the Quaker missionaries in those colonies. Now, that Quaker blood is peculiarly persistent, and I attribute to that a certain obstinacy I find existing in otherwise one of the most placable dispositions of any man I ever met. I find sometimes that when I conceive a matter to be a matter of principle I would rather go to the stake than give way." (3)
In May 1878 Baldwin went to Hawtrey's Preparatory School at Slough, where he was active in sports and won eighteen prizes, coming top of the school. In 1881 he became a pupil of Harrow School. During his first four years won form prizes for history and mathematics, and competed in football, cricket, and squash. In June 1883 his father was summoned by a telegram from the headmaster, Dr Montagu Butler, owing to an item of juvenile pornography which Stanley had written and sent to his cousin Ambrose Poynter at Eton. Alfred Baldwin told his wife that the affair was "much exaggerated and far more folly than anything else" but the incident had a long-term impact on his studies and in the sixth form his work deteriorated as he assumed an attitude of detachment and laziness. (4)
In the autumn of 1885 he went up to Trinity College where he read for the historical tripos. It was claimed that at university he was "shy, diffident, and bad at coping with emergencies". Baldwin's son and biographer, Arthur Windham Baldwin, the author of My Father: The True Story (1955) believes that it was his time at university "which produced the curious nervous symptoms, twitching of the face and snapping of the fingers, that became such noticeable features of his father behaviour in later life." (5)
Baldwin came under the influence of William Cunningham, the chaplain of his college and a lecturer in economics. He provided theoretical support for the conviction that the interests of workers and employers were, over time, identical. Philip Williamson, the author of Stanley Baldwin (1999) has argued that Cunningham taught him that "an economic, moral and Christian Conservatism as the positive and truly national alternative to both Liberalism and socialism." (6) Cunningham also introduced Baldwin to the ideas of Arnold Toynbee, the founder of the settlement Toynbee Hall, where he worked during his vacations. (7)
According to Roy Jenkins: "Baldwin read history and achieved a steady deterioration in each year's performance. He got a First at the end of his first year, a Second at the end of his second, and a Third at the end of his third. But more surprising than his lack of academic prowess was his failure to make any sort of impact. He made few friends; he joined few clubs or societies, and after being elected to the college debating society was asked to resign because he never spoke." (8) When he graduated from Cambridge University with a third class degree his father said: "I hope you won't have a Third in life." (9)
Alfred Baldwin was a member of the Conservative Party and in 1892 was elected as member of parliament for the local constituency of Bewdley. That year Baldwin married Lucy Ridsdale. Over the next few years she gave birth to two sons and four daughters. Baldwin worked for his father's business and in 1898 he oversaw the company's flotation on the Stock Market, and in 1902 the rationalisation of its various parts were amalgamated into Baldwins Ltd together with other steelworks and collieries in south Wales. A series of horizontal and vertical mergers brought the whole iron-working process, from commodity extraction to finishing, under one umbrella. It had a publicly-quoted value of £1 million (about £62 million at today's prices) and employed about 4,000 workers, which put it among the hundred largest companies in Britain. (10)
In 1904 Stanley Baldwin was selected for the Conservative safe seat of Kidderminster. However, in the 1906 General Election, the Liberal Party achieved a landslide victory and lost the seat to Edmund Broughton Barnard. In 1908 his father died and he inherited nearly £200,000 (£15 million in today's money) and was offered his parliamentary seat of Bewdley. After an unopposed return was introduced into the House of Commons on 3rd March 1908. (11)
In his maiden speech he used his own business experience to explain his views on trade unions: "I might mention, not as of any interest to the House, but merely as showing what the House might expect of me in the way of fair debate, that although my family had been engaged for 130 years in trade, the disputes they had had with their men could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. I myself have been in active business for twenty years, and have never had the shadow of a dispute with any of my own men, and I gave my men in the sheet-rolling trade an eight-hour day long before the question excited any interest in the House or the country. (12)
Baldwin's first biographer, Adam Gowans Whyte, attempted to explain why he entered politics so late in life: "Experience in manufacturing and in trade is a valuable asset to a politician, but distinguished success in these spheres leaves a man little enough time for the duties of an ordinary member of the House of Commons. Moreover, the qualities which make for high achievement in the factory or counting-house are not identical with those which must be cultivated by the leader of a party or a popular statesman... In the case of Mr. Baldwin, there was also a transition from business to politics, but it was of a less deliberate and drastic character. He may be said to have inherited the double strain of industry and public service, since he succeeded both to his father's business and to his father's seat in the House of Commons." (13)
Baldwin held progressive political ideas and was one of twelve Conservative MPs who voted for the second reading of the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908, and he approved the principle of the National Insurance Act. However, he only made only five speeches in his first six years. One of these was over the issue of "unfair competition of foreign producers in British markets, and in the high tariffs of foreign countries, has caused capital to be employed abroad which might have been used at home to the great advantage of the wage-earning population of the country." (14)
On the outbreak of the First World War he was forty-seven, and too old for military service. He encouraged his own workers to join the armed forces by paying out of his own pocket, the Friendly Society subscriptions. Arthur Bonar Law, appointed Baldwin as his parliamentary private secretary, and by late 1916 he gave his support to David Lloyd George in his plot to overthrow H. H. Asquith, the prime minister. (15)
Lloyd George brought Baldwin into his government as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and President of the Board of Trade. He was a few weeks short of his fiftieth birthday, a somewhat elderly junior minister. He held the post for the next four years. He served under two Chancellors, Bonar Law and Austen Chamberlain. He admired rather than liked Lloyd George. He would often have breakfast with the prime minister and wrote: "The breakfasts give me a good opportunity of studying that strange little genius who presides over us. He is an extraordinary compound." (16)
Baldwin's company continued to grow and it is estimated that his fortune had reached £600,000 ((£45 million in today's money). "He enjoyed cricket in the summer and mixed hockey matches in the winter. He was a great walker... The Baldwins lived modestly... He disliked ostentation and high living. It was perhaps part of the puritan inheritance from his ancestors that he preferred to spend his money on charity rather than on the adornment of his house or the provisioning of his table." (17) As one of his biographers pointed out, he had discovered that "goodwill was no alternative to taxation". (18)
Baldwin was embarrassed by the huge profits made by his company during the First World War and in June, 1919, Baldwin had an anonymous letter to The Times where he appealed to the "wealthy classes" to help deal with the national debt. "I have made as accurate an estimate as I am able of the value of my own estate, and have arrived at a total of about £580,000. I have decided to realise 20% of that amount or say £120,000 which will purchase £150,000 of the War Loan, and present it to the Government for cancellation. I give this portion of my estate as a thank-offering in the firm conviction that never again shall we have such a chance of giving our country that form of help which is so vital at the present time." (19)
As one biographer pointed out: "The gesture was generous and public spirited, with an element of naïveté about it. The anonymity (not perhaps best protected by the choice of pseudonym) held just long enough for Baldwin to be alone in the secret amongst those present when he performed his statutory Financial Secretary's duty of witnessing the burning of the cancelled bonds, but not for much longer. And the attempt to start an avalanche of donations was a complete failure. Baldwin had aimed by his example at a debt reduction of £1,000 million. In the result only about £1½ million, including his own gift, was received." (20)
Baldwin found politics very frustrating and in 1921 stated that "many times in the life of anyone who is working in Parliament and in the Government, and in times like these, one feels that one would like to throw the whole thing up, get out of the country, and never come back again." In another speech he said that he was looking forward to retirement so he could devote himself to the things he enjoyed: "I look forward to the time when I can pick up the books in my library that are now covered with dust, which I never have time to look at, when I can devote myself to studies and to delights of that kind from which I have been too long alienated." (21)
In March 1921 Baldwin was promoted to be President of the Board of Trade and joined the Lloyd George Coalition Cabinet. The prime minister gradually lost the support of his Cabinet colleagues. After Edwin Montagu resigned in March 1922, he criticised the style of Lloyd George's leadership: "We have been governed by a great genius - a dictator who has called together from time to time conferences of Ministers, men who had access to him day and night, leaving all those who, like myself, found it impossible to get him for days together. He has come to epoch-making decisions, over and over again. It is notorious that members of the Cabinet had no knowledge of those decisions." (22)
In August 1922 Lloyd George had to defend himself from the charge of profiteering from the First World War when The Evening Standard revealed that a United States publisher had offered £90,000 for the American rights to his memoirs. (23) It was claimed that he was going to make a fortune out of a conflict in which so many men had died. The public outcry far exceeded the expressions of distaste which were provoked by the honours scandal. After two weeks of hostile newspaper articles, Lloyd George made a statement that the money would be "devoted to charities connected with the relief of suffering caused by the war." (24)
Baldwin became convinced that Lloyd George was a corrupt politician who had sold appointments. He was also concerned that he was "casually destroying working class confidence in government by abandoning social reform, fudging the question of nationalising the coal mines and bodging compromises to end industrial disputes, all decisions that could only strengthen Labour's appeal." (25)
At a meeting on 14th October, 1922, Stanley Baldwin and Leo Amery, urged the Conservative Party to remove Lloyd George from power. Andrew Bonar Law disagreed as he believed that he should remain loyal to the Prime Minister. In the next few days Bonar Law was visited by a series of influential Tories - all of whom pleaded with him to break with Lloyd George. This message was reinforced by the result of the Newport by-election where the independent Conservative won with a majority of 2,000, the coalition Conservative came in a bad third. (26)
Another meeting took place on 18th October. Austen Chamberlain and Arthur Balfour both defended the coalition. However, it was a passionate speech by Baldwin: "The Prime Minister was described this morning in The Times, in the words of a distinguished aristocrat, as a live wire. He was described to me and others in more stately language by the Lord Chancellor as a dynamic force. I accept those words. He is a dynamic force and it is from that very fact that our troubles, in our opinion, arise. A dynamic force is a terrible thing. It may crush you but it is not necessarily right." The motion to withdraw from the coalition was carried by 187 votes to 87. (27)
David Lloyd George was forced to resign and his party only won 127 seats in the 1922 General Election. The Conservative Party won 344 seats and formed the next government under Andrew Bonar Law. The Labour Party promised to nationalise the mines and railways, a massive house building programme and to revise the peace treaties, went from 57 to 142 seats, whereas the Liberal Party increased their vote and went from 36 to 62 seats. (28)
Andrew Bonar Law, the leader of the Conservative Party, replaced David Lloyd George as prime minister. Baldwin was rewarded for his role in bringing down Lloyd George by becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer. Bonar Law's first task was to persuade the French government to be more understanding of Germany's ability to pay war reparations. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), agreed to 226 billion gold marks. In 1921, the amount was reduced to 132 billion. However, they were still unable to pay the full amount and by the end of 1922, Germany was deeply in debt. Bonar Law suggested lowering the payments but the French refused and on 11th January, 1923, the French Army occupied the Ruhr. (29)
Bonar Law also had the problem of Britain's war debt to the United States. In January 1923, Baldwin, sailed to America to discuss a settlement. Initially the loans to Britain had been made at an interest rate of 5 per cent. Bonar Law urged Baldwin to get it reduced to 2.5 per cent, but the best American offer was for 3 per cent, rising to 3.5 per cent after ten years. This amounted to annual repayments of £25 million and £36 million, rising to £40 million. Baldwin, acting on his own initiative, accepted the American offer and announced to the British press that they were the best terms available. Bonar Law was furious and on 30th January announced at cabinet that he would resign rather than accept the settlement. However, the rest of the cabinet thought it was a good deal and he was forced to withdraw his threat. (30)
The American settlement meant a 4 per cent increase in public expenditure at a time when Bonar Law was committed to a policy of reducing taxes and public expenditure. This brought him into conflict with the trade union movement that was deeply concerned by growing unemployment. Robert Blake, the author of The Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill (1970) argued that Bonar Law was not sure how the working class would react to this situation. Could they gain their support "by making moderate concessions" or to make "a direct appeal to the working-class over the heads of the bourgeoisie, a new form of Tory radicalism?" (31)
In the House of Commons he argued the case for the Conservative Party to move to the left. "I am myself of that somewhat flabby nature that always prefers agreement to disagreement...When the Labour Party sit on these benches, we shall all wish them well in their effort to govern the country. But I am quite certain that whether they succeed or fail there will never in this country be a Communist Government, and for this reason, that no gospel founded on hate will ever seize the hearts of our people - the people of Great Britain... No Government in this country today, which has not faith in the people, hope in the future, love for his fellow-men, and which will not work and work and work, will ever bring this country through into better days and better times, or will ever bring Europe through or the world through." (32)
In April 1923, Bonar Law began to have problems talking. On the advice of his doctor, Sir Thomas Horder, he took a month's break from work, leaving Lord George Curzon to preside over the cabinet and Stanley Baldwin to lead in the House of Commons. Horder examined Bonar Law in Paris on 17th May, and diagnosed him to be suffering from cancer of the throat, and gave him six months to live. Five days later Bonar Law resigned but decided against nominating a successor. (33)
John C. Davidson, the Conservative Party MP, sent a memorandum to King George V advising him on the appointment: "The resignation of the Prime Minister makes it necessary for the Crown to exercise its prerogative in the choice of Mr Bonar Law's successor. There appear to be only two possible alternatives. Mr Stanley Baldwin and Lord Curzon. The case for each is very strong. Lord Curzon has, during a long life, held high office almost continuously and is therefore possessed of wide experience of government. His industry and mental equipment are of the highest order. His grasp of the international situation is great."
Davidson pointed out that Baldwin also had certain advantages: "Stanley Baldwin has had a very rapid promotion and has by his gathering strength exceeded the expectations of his most fervent friends. He is much liked by all shades of political opinion in the House of Commons, and has the complete confidence of the City and the commercial world generally. He in fact typifies the spirit of the Government which the people of this country elected last autumn and also the same characteristics which won the people's confidence in Mr Bonar Law, i.e. honesty, simplicity and balance."
Given their relative merits, Davidson believed that the king should select Baldwin: "Lord Curzon temperamentally does not inspire complete confidence in his colleagues, either as to his judgement or as to his ultimate strength of purpose in a crisis. His methods too are inappropriate to harmony. The prospect of him receiving deputations as Prime Minister for the Miners' Federation or the Triple Alliance, for example, is capable of causing alarm for the future relations between the Government and labour, between moderate and less moderate opinion... The time, in the opinion of many members of the House of Commons, has passed when the direction of domestic policy can be placed outside the House of Commons, and it is admitted that although foreign and imperial affairs are of vital importance, stability at home must be the basic consideration. There is also the fact that Lord Curzon is regarded in the public eye as representing that section of privileged conservatism which has its value, but which in this democratic age cannot be too assiduously exploited." (34)
Arthur Balfour, the prime minister between July, 1902 and December, 1905, was also consulted and he suggested the king could chose Baldwin. (35) "Balfour... pointed out that a Cabinet already over-weighted with peers would be open to even greater criticism if one of them actually became Prime Minister; that, since the Parliament Act of 1911, the political centre of gravity had moved more definitely than ever to the Lower House; and finally that the official Opposition, the Labour party, was not represented at all in the House of Lords." (36)
Stanley Baldwin became prime minister on 22nd May, 1923. He told the House of Commons: "I never sought the office. I never planned out or schemed my life. I have but one idea, which was an idea that I inherited, and it was the idea of service - service to the people of this country. My father lived in the belief all his life… It is a tradition; it is in our bones; and we have to do it. That service seemed to lead one by way of business and the county council into Parliament, and it has led one through various strange paths to where one is; but the ideal remains the same, because all my life I believed from my heart the words of Browning, 'All service ranks the same with God'. It makes very little difference whether a man is driving a tramcar or sweeping streets or being Prime Minister, if he only brings to that service everything that is in him and performs it for the sake of mankind." (37)
Baldwin was faced with growing economic problems. This included a high-level of unemployment. Baldwin believed that protectionist tariffs would revive industry and employment. However, Bonar Law had pledged in 1922 that there would be no changes in tariffs in the present parliament. Baldwin came to the conclusion that he needed a General Election to unite his party behind this new policy. On 12th November, Baldwin asked the king to dissolve parliament. (38)
During the election campaign, Baldwin made it clear that he intended to impose tariffs on some imported goods: "What we propose to do for the assistance of employment in industry, if the nation approves, is to impose duties on imported manufactured goods, with the following objects: (i) to raise revenue by methods less unfair to our own home production which at present bears the whole burden of local and national taxation, including the cost of relieving unemployment; (ii) to give special assistance to industries which are suffering under unfair foreign competition; (iii) to utilise these duties in order to negotiate for a reduction of foreign tariffs in those directions which would most benefit our export trade; (iv) to give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle of mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of our trade, and the development, in co-operation with the other Governments of the Empire, of the boundless resources of our common heritage." (39)
The Labour Party election manifesto completely rejected this argument: "The Labour Party challenges the Tariff policy and the whole conception of economic relations underlying it. Tariffs are not a remedy for Unemployment. They are an impediment to the free interchange of goods and services upon which civilised society rests. They foster a spirit of profiteering, materialism and selfishness, poison the life of nations, lead to corruption in politics, promote trusts and monopolies, and impoverish the people. They perpetuate inequalities in the distribution of the world's wealth won by the labour of hands and brain. These inequalities the Labour Party means to remove." (40)
In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservative Party had 258 seats, Herbert Asquith announced that the Liberal Party would not keep the Tories in office. If a Labour Government were ever to be tried in Britain, he declared, "it could hardly be tried under safer conditions". On 22nd January, 1924 Stanley Baldwin resigned. At midday, the 57 year-old, Ramsay MacDonald went to Buckingham Palace to be appointed prime minister. He later recalled how George V complained about the singing of the Red Flag and the La Marseilles, at the Labour Party meeting in the Albert Hall a few days before. MacDonald apologized but claimed that there would have been a riot if he had tried to stop it. (41)
Baldwin made a speech on 3rd May, 1924, where he commented on the changes that were taking place in politics: "The government had no mandate to govern, and its members won their seats as a Socialistic vote, but were not carving out a Socialist policy. This could be only temporary. If words meant anything the Labour Party was a Socialist Party, and if they went back on socialism they were little more than a left wing of the Conservative Party. Socialism had certain obvious advantages, possessing cut and dried remedies for every evil under the sun, but Conservatives have been in the fore-front of the battle to help the people more… If we are to live as a party we must live for the people in the widest sense… Every future Government must be Socialistic." (42)
On 10th October 1924, MI5 received a copy of a letter, dated 15th September, sent by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, to Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were asked to take all possible action to ensure the ratification of the Anglo-Soviet Treaties. It then went on to advocate preparation for military insurrection in working-class areas of Britain and for subverting the allegiance in the army and navy. (43)
Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect. (44) Vernon Kell, the head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson the head of Special Branch, were also convinced that the Zinoviev Letter was genuine. Desmond Morton, who worked for MI6, told Sir Eyre Crowe, at the Foreign Office, that an agent, Jim Finney, who worked for George Makgill, the head of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau (IIB), had penetrated Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Morton told Crowe that Finney "had reported that a recent meeting of the Party Central Committee had considered a letter from Moscow whose instructions corresponded to those in the Zinoviev letter". However, Christopher Andrew, who examined all the files concerning the matter, claims that Finney's report of the meeting does not include this information. (45)
Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret until it was discovered to be genuine. (46) Thomas Marlowe, who worked for the press baron, Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, had a good relationship with Reginald Hall, the Conservative Party MP, for Liverpool West Derby. During the First World War he was director of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy (NID) and he leaked the letter to Marlowe, in an effort to bring an end to the Labour government. (47)
The newspaper now contacted the Foreign Office and asked if it was a forgery. Without reference to MacDonald, a senior official told Marlowe it was genuine. The newspaper also received a copy of the letter of protest sent by the British government to the Russian ambassador, denouncing it as a "flagrant breach of undertakings given by the Soviet Government in the course of the negotiations for the Anglo-Soviet Treaties". It was decided not to use this information until closer to the election. (48)
David Lloyd George signed a trade agreement with Russia in 1921, but never recognised the Soviet government. On taking office the Labour government entered into talks with Russian officials and eventually recognised the Soviet Union as the de jure government of Russia, in return for the promise that Britain would get payment of money that Tsar Nicholas II had borrowed when he had been in power. (49)
A conference was held in London to discuss these matters. Most newspapers reacted with hostility to these negotiations and warned of the danger of dealing with what they considered to be an "evil regime". in August 1924 a wide-ranging series of treaties was agreed between Britain and Russia. "The most-favoured-nation status was given to the Soviet Union in exchange for concessions to British holders of Czarist bonds, and Britain agreed to recommend a loan to the Soviet government." (50)
Stanley Baldwin, the leader of the Conservative Party, and H. H. Asquith, the leader of the Liberal Party, decided to being the Labour government down over the issue of its relationship with the Soviet Union. On 30th September, the Liberals condemned the recently agreed trade deal. They claimed, unjustly, that Britain had given the Russians what they wanted without resolving the claims of British bondholders who had suffered in the revolution. "MacDonald reacted peevishly to this, accusing them of being unscrupulous and dishonest." (51)
The following day, Conservatives put down a censure motion on the decision to drop the case against John Ross Campbell. The debate took place on 8th October. MacDonald lost the vote by 364 votes to 198. "Labour was brought down, on the Campbell case, by the combined ranks of Conservatives and Liberals... The Labour government had lasted 259 days. On six occasions the Conservatives had saved MacDonald from defeat in the 1923 parliament, but it was the Liberals who pulled the political rung from under him." (52)
The Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter on 25th October 1924, just four days before the 1924 General Election. Under the headline "Civil War Plot by Socialists Masters" it argued: "Moscow issues orders to the British Communists... the British Communists in turn give orders to the Socialist Government, which it tamely and humbly obeys... Now we can see why Mr MacDonald has done obeisance throughout the campaign to the Red Flag with its associations of murder and crime. He is a stalking horse for the Reds as Kerensky was... Everything is to be made ready for a great outbreak of the abominable class war which is civil war of the most savage kind." (53)
The rest of the Tory owned newspapers ran the story over the next few days and it was no surprise when the election was a disaster for the Labour Party. The Conservatives won 412 seats and formed the next government. Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, told Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail and The Times, that the "Red Letter" campaign had won the election for the Conservatives. Rothermere replied that it was probably worth a hundred seats. (54)
Stanley Baldwin, became prime minister again and set up a Cabinet committee to look into the Zinoviev Letter. On 19th November, 1924, the Foreign Secretary, Austin Chamberlain, reported that members of the committee were "unanimously of opinion that there was no doubt as to the authenticity of the Letter". This judgement was based on a report written by Desmond Morton. Morton came up with "five very good reasons" why he thought the letter was genuine. These were: its source, an agent in Moscow "of proved reliability"; "direct independent confirmation" from CPGB and ARCOS sources in London; "subsidiary confirmation" in the form of supposed "frantic activity" in Moscow; because the possibility of SIS being taken in by White Russians was "entirely excluded"; and because the subject matter of the Letter was "entirely consistent with all that the Communists have been enunciating and putting into effect". Gill Bennett, who has studied the subject in great depth claims: "All five of these reasons can be shown to be misleading, if not downright false." (55) Eight days later, Morton admitted in a letter to MI5 that "we are firmly convinced this actual thing (the Zinoviev letter) is a forgery." (56)
Baldwin wanted to appoint Neville Chamberlain as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Chamberlain, however, believed that whereas he might make a great Minister of Health he would only ever be a second-rate Chancellor and requested a move to the Department of Health. Baldwin accepted his arguments and appointed Winston Churchill as Chancellor. Chamberlain immediately embarked upon an ambitious programme of social reform in the areas of housing, health, local government, the extension of national insurance and widows' pensions. Over the next five years he proposed 25 pieces of progressive legislation, 21 of which became law. Graham Stewart argued that "under his guidance, the confused and complicated patchwork of local government was entirely rationalised by 1929 with a commanding sweep which - put to a different goal - would have been the envy of any totalitarian planner." (57)
Baldwin often came into conflict with Churchill over economic issues. Despite the problem of low Government revenues Churchill was determined not to increase personal taxes. In 1925 the majority of people did not pay income tax - only 2½ million people were liable and just 90,000 paid super-tax. The standard rate of income tax was reduced from four shillings and sixpence to four shillings in the pound. The super-tax was reduced by £10 million, which was substantial in relation to the total yield of the tax at £60 million: "This was of substantial benefit to the rich, not only as individual taxpayers but also in the capacity of many of them as shareholders, for income tax was then the principal form of company taxation." (58)
In a letter to James Gascoyne-Cecil, 4th Marquess of Salisbury, the leader of the House of Lords, he argued that "the rich, whether idle or not, are already taxed in this country to the very highest point compatible with the accumulation of capital for further production." (59) In a second letter he stated that cutting taxes was a "class measure" that was designed "to help the comfortably off and the rich." (60)
Churchill's social conservatism was also apparent during discussions within the Government over changes to unemployment insurance. The scheme that the Liberal government had introduced in 1911 had collapsed after the war because of large-scale structural unemployment, particularly among trades that were not covered by the scheme. A benefit (the dole) was first introduced for unemployed ex-servicemen, later extended to others and then made subject to a means test in 1922. Churchill thought that far too many people were drawing the "dole". (61)
Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons of the "growing up of a habit of qualifying for unemployment relief" and the need for an enquiry. (62) Three weeks later he told Thomas Jones, the Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet, that "there should be an immediate stiffening of the administration, and the position should be made much more difficult for young unmarried men living with relatives, wives with husbands at work, aliens, etc." (63)
Churchill wrote to Arthur Steel-Maitland, the Minister of Labour, to explain his ideas. He suggested that when the legislation to pay for the dole expired in 1926, rather than reduce the benefit, as most of his colleagues wanted to do, they should abolish it altogether. Churchill said: "It is profoundly injurious to the state that this system should continue; it is demoralising to the whole working class population... it is charitable relief; and charitable relief should never be enjoyed as a right." Churchill told Steel-Maitland that the huge number of unemployed families would have to depend on private charity once their insurance benefits were exhausted. The Government might make some donations to charities but money would only be given to "deserving cases" and that "by proceeding on the present lines we are rotting the youth of the country and rupturing the mainsprings of its energies". (64)
Churchill attempted to get his ideas supported by Stanley Baldwin: "I am thinking less about saving the exchequer than about saving the moral fibre of our working classes." (65) Churchill did not get his way. The other members of the Government, including Neville Chamberlain, regardless of any possible moral consequences, could not face the political impact of ending the ‘dole' at a time when over a million people were out of work. (66)
In 1925 Winston Churchill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, urged the government to introduce legislation to reduce the powers of the trade union movement. It was a time of high employment and Churchill believed this was the time to hurt them when they were economically weak. As the government refused to act, a Conservative Party backbench MP, Frederick A. Macquisten, introduced a private members bill that would force trade union members to voluntarily 'contract in' to pay the political levy to the Labour Party. Macquisten argued that "what I am proposing now is to relieve the working man of this liability to be taxed." (67)
Stanley Baldwin made a speech in the House of Commons on why he could not support this bill. "Those two forces with which we have to reckon are enormously strong, and they are the two forces in this country to which now, to a great extent, and it will be a greater extent in the future, we are committed. We have to see what wise statesmanship can do to steer the country through this time of evolution, until we can get to the next stage of our industrial civilisation. It is obvious from what I have said that the organisations of both masters and men - or, if you like the more modern phrase invented by economists, who always invent beastly words, employers and employees, these organisations throw an immense responsibility on the representatives themselves and on those who elect them... In this great problem which is facing the country in years to come, it may be from one side or the other that disaster may come, but surely it shows that the only progress that can be obtained in this country is by those two bodies of men - so similar in their strength and so similar in their weaknesses - learning to understand each other, and not to fight each other." (68)
On 30th June 1925 the mine-owners announced that they intended to reduce the miner's wages. Will Paynter later commented: "The coal owners gave notice of their intention to end the wage agreement then operating, bad though it was, and proposed further wage reductions, the abolition of the minimum wage principle, shorter hours and a reversion to district agreements from the then existing national agreements. This was, without question, a monstrous package attack, and was seen as a further attempt to lower the position not only of miners but of all industrial workers." (69)
On 23rd July, 1925, Ernest Bevin, the general secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU), moved a resolution at a conference of transport workers pledging full support to the miners and full co-operation with the General Council in carrying out any measures they might decide to take. A few days later the railway unions also pledged their support and set up a joint committee with the transport workers to prepare for the embargo on the movement of coal which the General Council had ordered in the event of a lock-out." (70) It has been claimed that the railwaymen believed "that a successful attack on the miners would be followed by another on them." (71)
In an attempt to avoid a General Strike, the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, invited the leaders of the miners and the mine owners to Downing Street on 29th July. The miners kept firm on what became their slogan: "Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay". Herbert Smith, the president of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, told Baldwin: "We have now to give". Baldwin insisted there would be no subsidy: "All the workers of this country have got to take reductions in wages to help put industry on its feet." (72)
The following day the General Council of the Trade Union Congress triggered a national embargo on coal movements. On 31st July, the government capitulated. It announced an inquiry into the scope and methods of reorganization of the industry, and Baldwin offered a subsidy that would meet the difference between the owners' and the miners' positions on pay until the new Commission reported. The subsidy would end on 1st May 1926. Until then, the lockout notices and the strike were suspended. This event became known as Red Friday because it was seen as a victory for working class solidarity. (73)
Red Friday was a great success for Herbert Smith and Arthur J. Cook. However, Margaret Morris has argued that they had a difficult relationship: "Smith was temperamentally and politically the antithesis of Cook. Where Cook was emotional and voluble, Smith was dour and short of words. He was an old-style union leader, used to dominating the miners in Yorkshire... Relations between Smith and Cook were not always harmonious; neither of them really trusted the other's judgement, but each could respect that the other was dedicated to serving the miners. Neither of them was a very good negotiator: Cook was too excitable, and Smith perhaps a little too defensive in his tactics." (74)
The Royal Commission was established under the chairmanship of Sir Herbert Samuel, to look into the problems of the Mining Industry. The commissioners took evidence from nearly eighty witnesses from both sides of the industry. They also received a great mass of written evidence, and visited twenty-five mines in various parts of Great Britain. The Samuel Commission published its report on 10th March 1926. Interest in it was so great that it sold over 100,000 copies. (75)
The Samuel Report was critical of the mine owners: "We cannot agree with the view presented to us by the mine owners that little can be done to improve the organization of the industry, and that the only practical course is to lengthen hours and to lower wages. In our view huge changes are necessary in other directions, and the large progress is possible". The report recognised that the industry needed to be reorganised but rejected the suggestion of nationalization. However, the report also recommended that the Government subsidy should be withdrawn and the miners' wages should be reduced. (76)
Herbert Smith rejected the Samuel Report and told a meeting with representatives of the colliery owners: "We are willing to do all we can to help this industry, but it is with this proviso, that when we have worked and given our best, we are going to demand a respectable day's wage for a respectable day's work; and that is not your intention." He added: "Not a penny off the pay, not a second on the day." (77)
The National Union of Mineworkers was put in a difficult position when Jimmy Thomas, the general secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), welcomed the Samuel Report as a "wonderful document". A. J. Cook, at the MFGB conference advised delegates not to reject the report outright, so as not to jeopardise the support of the TUC. He was aware of the need to appear reasonable, but he also reaffirmed his opposition to wage reductions: "I am of the opinion we have got the biggest fight of our lives in front of us, but we cannot fight alone." (78)
Stanley Baldwin and his ministers had several meetings with both sides in order to avoid the strike. Thomas Jones, the Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, pointed out: "It is possible not to feel the contrast between the reception which Ministers give to a body of owners and a body of miners. Ministers are at ease at once with the former, they are friends jointly exploring a situation. There was hardly any indication of opposition or censure. It was rather a joint discussion of whether it was better to precipitate a strike or the unemployment which would result from continuing the present terms. The majority clearly wanted a strike." (79)
Considering themselves in a position of strength, the Mining Association now issued new terms of employment. These new procedures included an extension of the seven-hour working day, district wage-agreements, and a reduction in the wages of all miners. Depending on a variety of factors, the wages would be cut by between 10% and 25%. The mine-owners announced that if the miners did not accept their new terms of employment then from the first day of May they would be locked out of the pits. (80)
At the end of April 1926, the miners were locked out of the pits. A Conference of Trade Union Congress met on 1st May 1926, and afterwards announced that a General Strike "in defence of miners' wages and hours" was to begin two days later. The leaders of the Trade Union Council were unhappy about the proposed General Strike, and during the next two days frantic efforts were made to reach an agreement with the Conservative Government and the mine-owners. (81)
The Trade Union Congress called the General Strike on the understanding that they would then take over the negotiations from the Miners' Federation. The main figure involved in an attempt to get an agreement was Jimmy Thomas. Talks went on until late on Sunday night, and according to Thomas, they were close to a successful deal when Stanley Baldwin broke off negotiations as a result of a dispute at the Daily Mail. (82)
What had happened was that Thomas Marlowe, the editor the newspaper, had produced a provocative leading article, headed "For King and Country", which denounced the trade union movement as disloyal and unpatriotic.The workers in the machine room, had asked for the article to be changed, when he refused they stopped working. Although, George Isaacs, the union shop steward, tried to persuade the men to return to work, Marlowe took the opportunity to phone Baldwin about the situation. (83)
The strike was unofficial and the TUC negotiators apologized for the printers' behaviour, but Baldwin refused to continue with the talks. "It is a direct challenge, and we cannot go on. I am grateful to you for all you have done, but these negotiations cannot continue. This is the end... The hotheads had succeeded in making it impossible for the more moderate people to proceed to try to reach an agreement." A letter was handed to the TUC negotiators that stated that the "gross interference with the freedom of the press" involved a "challenge to the constitutional rights and freedom of the nation". (84)
The General Strike began on 3rd May, 1926. The Trade Union Congress adopted the following plan of action. To begin with they would bring out workers in the key industries - railwaymen, transport workers, dockers, printers, builders, iron and steel workers - a total of 3 million men (a fifth of the adult male population). Only later would other trade unionists, like the engineers and shipyard workers, be called out on strike. Ernest Bevin, the general secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU), was placed in charge of organising the strike. (85)
The TUC decided to publish its own newspaper, The British Worker, during the strike. Some trade unionists had doubts about the wisdom of not allowing the printing of newspapers. Workers on the Manchester Guardian sent a plea to the TUC asking that all "sane" newspapers be allowed to be printed. However, the TUC thought it would be impossible to discriminate along such lines. Permission to publish was sought by George Lansbury for Lansbury's Labour Weekly and H. N. Brailsford for the New Leader. The TUC owned Daily Herald also applied for permission to publish. Although all these papers could be relied upon to support the trade union case, permission was refused. (86)
The government reacted by publishing The British Gazette. Baldwin gave permission to Winston Churchill to take control of this venture and his first act was commandeer the offices and presses of The Morning Post, a right-wing newspaper. The company's workers refused to cooperate and non-union staff had to be employed. Baldwin told a friend that he gave Churchill the job because "it will keep him busy, stop him doing worse things". He added he feared that Churchill would turn his supporters "into an army of Bolsheviks". (87)
Stanley Baldwin made several broadcasts on the BBC. Baldwin "had recognized the importance of the new medium from its inception... now, with an expert blend of friendliness and firmness, he repeated that the strike had first to be called off before negotiations could resume, but repudiated the suggestion that the Government was fighting to lower the standard of living of the miners or of any other section of the workers". (88)
In one broadcast Baldwin argued: "A solution is within the grasp of the nation the instant that the trade union leaders are willing to abandon the General Strike. I am a man of peace. I am longing and working for peace, but I will not surrender the safety and security of the British Constitution. You placed me in power eighteen months ago by the largest majority accorded to any party for many years. Have I done anything to forfeit that confidence? Cannot you trust me to ensure a square deal, to secure even justice between man and man?" (89)
By 12th May, 1926, most of the daily newspapers had resumed publication. The Daily Express reported that the "strike had a broken back" and it would be all over by the end of the week. (90) Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, was extremely hostile to the strike and all his newspapers reflected this view. The Daily Mirror stated that the "workers have been led to take part in this attempt to stab the nation in the back by a subtle appeal to the motives of idealism in them." (91) The Daily Mail claimed that the strike was one of "the worst forms of human tyranny". (92)
Walter Citrine, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), was desperate to bring an end to the General Strike. He argued that it was important to reopen negotiations with the government. His view was "the logical thing is to make the best conditions while our members are solid". Baldwin refused to talk to the TUC while the General Strike persisted. Citrine therefore contacted Jimmy Thomas, the general secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), who shared this view of the strike, and asked him to arrange a meeting with Herbert Samuel, the Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry. (93)
Without telling the miners, the TUC negotiating committee met Samuel on 7th May and they worked out a set of proposals to end the General Strike. These included: (i) a National Wages Board with an independent chairman; (ii) a minimum wage for all colliery workers; (iii) workers displaced by pit closures to be given alternative employment; (iv) the wages subsidy to be renewed while negotiations continued. However, Samuel warned that subsequent negotiations would probably mean a reduction in wages. These terms were accepted by the TUC negotiating committee, but were rejected by the executive of the Miners' Federation. (94)
Herbert Smith was furious with the TUC for going behind the miners back. One of those involved in the negotiations, John Bromley of the NUR, commented: "By God, we are all in this now and I want to say to the miners, in a brotherly comradely spirit... this is not a miners' fight now. I am willing to fight right along with them and suffer as a consequence, but I am not going to be strangled by my friends." Smith replied: "I am going to speak as straight as Bromley. If he wants to get out of this fight, well I am not stopping him." (95)
On the 11th May, at a meeting of the Trade Union Congress General Committee, it was decided to accept the terms proposed by Herbert Samuel and to call off the General Strike. The following day, the TUC General Council visited 10 Downing Street and attempted to persuade the Government to support the Samuel proposals and to offer a guarantee that there would be no victimization of strikers. Baldwin refused but did say if the miners returned to work on the current conditions he would provide a subsidy for six weeks and then there would be the pay cuts that the Mine Owners Association wanted to impose. He did say that he would legislate for the amalgamation of pits, introduce a welfare levy on profits and introduce a national wages board. The TUC negotiators agreed to this deal. As Lord Birkenhead, a member of the Government was to write later, the TUC's surrender was "so humiliating that some instinctive breeding made one unwilling even to look at them." (96)
Stanley Baldwin already knew that the Mine Owners Association would not agree to the proposed legislation. They had already told Baldwin that he must not meddle in the coal industry. It would be "impossible to continue the conduct of the industry under private enterprise unless it is accorded the same freedom from political interference that is enjoyed by other industries." (97)
When the General Strike was terminated, the miners were left to fight alone. Cook appealed to the public to support them in the struggle against the Mine Owners Association: "We still continue, believing that the whole rank and file will help us all they can. We appeal for financial help wherever possible, and that comrades will still refuse to handle coal so that we may yet secure victory for the miners' wives and children who will live to thank the rank and file of the unions of Great Britain." (98)
On 21st June 1926, the British Government introduced a Bill into the House of Commons that suspended the miners' Seven Hours Act for five years - thus permitting a return to an 8 hour day for miners. In July the mine-owners announced new terms of employment for miners based on the 8 hour day. As Anne Perkins has pointed out this move "destroyed any notion of an impartial government". (99)
Hardship forced men to begin to drift back to the mines. By the end of August, 80,000 miners were back, an estimated ten per cent of the workforce. 60,000 of those men were in two areas, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. "Cook set up a special headquarters there and rushed from meeting to meeting. He was like a beaver desperately trying to dam the flood. When he spoke, in, say, Hucknall, thousands of miners who had gone back to work would openly pledge to rejoin the strike. They would do so, perhaps for two or three days, and then, bowed down by shame and hunger, would drift back to work." (100)
In October 1926 hardship forced men to begin to drift back to the mines. By the end of November most miners had reported back to work. Will Paynter remained loyal to the strike although he knew they had no chance of winning. "The miners' lock-out dragged on through the months of 1926 and really was petering-out when the decision came to end it. We had fought on alone but in the end we had to accept defeat spelt out in further wage-cuts." (101)
As one historian pointed out: "Many miners found they had no jobs to return to as many coal-owners used the eight-hour day to reduce their labour force while maintaining productions levels. Victimisation was practised widely. Militants were often purged from payrolls. Blacklists were drawn up and circulated among employers; many energetic trade unionists never worked in a pit again after 1926. Following months of existence on meague lockout payments and charity, many miners' families were sucked by unemployment, short-term working, debts and low wages into abject poverty." (102)
Neville Chamberlain wrote "Stanley Baldwin has suffered most from the strike; he too is worn out and has no spirit left." (103) It was claimed that Baldwin was on the edge of nervous collapse and felt he had to go on holiday to France. The national cost of nearly £100 million and a total loss of nearly £250 million had been incurred."Whole communities were alienated and impoverished; a large part of the nation was left with a feeling halfway between guilt and unease; and Baldwin's reputation as a statesman of sagacious moderation was badly dented." (104)
In 1927 the British Government passed the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act. This act made all sympathetic strikes illegal, ensured the trade union members had to voluntarily 'contract in' to pay the political levy to the Labour Party, forbade Civil Service unions to affiliate to the TUC, and made mass picketing illegal. As A. J. P. Taylor has pointed out: "The attack on Labour party finance came ill from the Conservatives who depended on secret donations from rich men." (105)
The legislation defined all sympathetic strikes as illegal, confining the right to strike to "the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged". The funds of any union engaging in an illegal strike was liable in respect of civil damages. It also limited the right to picket, in terms so vague that almost any form of picketing might be liable to prosecution. As Julian Symons has pointed out: "More than any other single measure, the Trade Disputes Act caused hatred of Baldwin and his Government among organized trade unionists." (106)
One of the results of this legislation was that trade union membership fell below the 5,000,000 mark for the first time since 1926. However, despite its victory over the trade union movement, the public turned against the Conservative Party. Over the next three years the Labour Party won all the thirteen by-elections that took place. Stanley Baldwin considered offering government help to relieving distress in high unemployment areas but Winston Churchill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, insisted that "we must harden our hearts". (107)
Stanley Baldwin, wanted to change the image of the Conservative Party to make it appear a less right-wing organisation. In March 1927 He suggested to his Cabinet that the government should propose legislation for the enfranchisement of nearly five million women between the ages of twenty-one and thirty. This measure meant that women would constitute almost 53% of the British electorate. The Daily Mail complained that these impressionable young females would be easily manipulated by the Labour Party. (108)
Churchill was totally opposed to the move and argued that the affairs of the country ought not be put into the hands of a female majority. In order to avoid giving the vote to all adults he proposed that the vote be taken away from all men between twenty-one and thirty. He lost the argument and in Cabinet and asked for a formal note of dissent to be entered in the minutes. There was little opposition in Parliament to the bill and it became law on 2nd July 1928. As a result, all women over the age of 21 could now vote in elections. (109)
There was little opposition in Parliament to the bill and it became law on 2nd July 1928. As a result, all women over the age of 21 could now vote in elections. Many of the women who had fought for this right were now dead including Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Barbara Bodichon, Emily Davies, Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, Constance Lytton and Emmeline Pankhurst. Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the NUWSS during the campaign for the vote, was still alive and had the pleasure of attending Parliament to see the vote take place. That night she wrote in her diary that it was almost exactly 61 years ago since she heard John Stuart Mill introduce his suffrage amendment to the Reform Bill on May 20th, 1867." (110)
Despite this, Baldwin firmly believed that he would win the 1929 General Election. He realised that he did not have a good manifesto, "but thought that his reputation as a moderate statesman, calmly if slowly steering the country in the right direction, would overcome that". (111) In its manifesto the Conservative Party blamed the General Strike for the country's economic problems. "Trade suffered a severe set-back owing to the General Strike, and the industrial troubles of 1926. In the last two years it has made a remarkable recovery. In the insured industries, other than the coal mining industry, there are now 800,000 more people employed and 125,000 fewer unemployed than when we assumed office... This recovery has been achieved by the combined efforts of our people assisted by the Government's policy of helping industry to help itself. The establishment of stable conditions has given industry confidence and opportunity." (112)
The Labour Party attacked the record of Baldwin's government: "By its inaction during four critical years it has multiplied our difficulties and increased our dangers. Unemployment is more acute than when Labour left office.... The Government's further record is that it has helped its friends by remissions of taxation, whilst it has robbed the funds of the workers' National Health Insurance Societies, reduced Unemployment Benefits, and thrown thousands of workless men and women on to the Poor Law. The Tory Government has added £38,000,000 to indirect taxation, which is an increasing burden on the wage-earners, shop-keepers and lower middle classes." (113)
In the 1929 General Election the Conservatives won 8,656,000 votes (38%), the Labour Party 8,309,000 (37%) and the Liberals 5,309,000 (23%). However, the bias of the system worked in Labour's favour, and in the House of Commons the party won 287 seats, the Conservatives 261 and the Liberals 59. The Conservatives lost 150 seats and became for the first time a smaller parliamentary party than Labour. David Lloyd George, the leader of the Liberals, admitted that his campaign had been unsuccessful but claimed he held the balance of power: "It would be silly to pretend that we have realised our expectations. It looks for the moment as if we still hold the balance." However, both Baldwin and MacDonald refused to form a coalition government with Lloyd George. Baldwin resigned and once again MacDonald agreed to form a minority government. (114)
Winston Churchill was furious with both David Lloyd George and Stanley Baldwin that they had allowed this to happen. Lloyd George argued that he had no choice but to do this as his manifesto promises were much closer to the policies of the Labour Party. Churchill replied: "Never mind, you have done your best, and if Britain alone among modern States chooses to cast away her rights, her interests and her strength, she must learn by bitter experience." (115)
Lord Rothermere believed that Stanley Baldwin did badly in the election because he was too left-wing and probably a "crypto-socialist". Rothermere was especially concerned about the government's attitude towards the British Empire. Rothermere agreed with Brendan Bracken when he wrote: "This wretched Government, with the aid of the Liberals and some eminent Tories, is about to commit us to one of the most fatal decisions in all our history, and there is practically no opposition to their policy". Bracken believed that with the support of the Rothermere and the Beaverbrook newspaper empires it would be possible "to preserve the essentials of British rule in India". (116)
Lord Beaverbrook agreed and as he explained to Robert Borden, the former Canadian prime minister: "The Government is trying to unite Mohammedan and Hindu. It will never succeed. There will be no amalgamation between these two. There is only one way to govern India. And that is the way laid down by the ancient Romans - was it the Gracchi, or was it Romulus, or was it one of the Emperors? - that is Divide and Rule". (117)
Rothermere agreed to join forces with Beaverbrook, in order to remove Baldwin from the leadership of the Tory Party. According to one source: "Rothermere's feelings amounted to hatred. He had backed Baldwin strongly in 1924, and his subsequent disenchantment was thought to be connected with Baldwin's unaccountable failure to reward him with an earldom and his son Esmond, an MP, with a post in the government. By 1929 Rothermere, a man of pessimistic temperament, had come to believe that with the socialists in power the world was nearing its end; and Baldwin was doing nothing to save it. He was especially disturbed by the independence movement in India, to which he thought both the government and Baldwin were almost criminally indulgent." (118)
Rothermere and Beaverbrook believed the best way to undermine Baldwin was to campaign on the policy of giving countries within the British Empire preferential trade terms. Beaverbrook began the campaign on 5th December, 1929, when he announced the establishment of the Empire Free Trade movement. On the 10th December, the Daily Express front page had the banner headlines: "JOIN THE EMPIRE CRUSADE TODAY" and called on its readers to register as supporters. It also proclaimed that "the great body of feeling in the country which is behind the new movement must be crystallised in effective form". The appeal for "recruits" was repeated in Beaverbrook's other newspapers such as the Evening Standard and the Sunday Express. All his newspapers told those who had already registered their support to "enroll your friends... we are an army with a great task before us." (119)
In January, 1930, Rothermere's newspapers came out in support of Empire Free Trade. George Ward Price, a faithful Rothermere mouthpiece, wrote in the Sunday Dispatch, that "no man living in this country today with more likelihood of succeeding to the Premiership of Great Britain than Lord Beaverbrook". (120) The Daily Mail also called on Baldwin to resign and be replaced the press baron. Beaverbrook responded by describing Rothermere as "the greatest trustee of public opinion we have seen in the history of journalism." (121)
Beaverbrook wrote to Sir Rennell Rodd explaining why he had joined forces with Rothermere to remove Baldwin: "I hope you will not be prejudiced about Rothermere. He is a very fine man. I wish I had his good points. It (working with Rothermere) would make the Crusade more popular among the aristocracy - the real enemies in the Conservative Party... It is time these people were being swept out of their preferred positions in public life and their sons and grandsons being sent to work like those of other people." (122)
Rothermere now joined the campaign of Empire Free Trade: "British manufacturers and British work people are turning out the best goods to be bought in the world. They are far ahead of their competitors in two of the most important factors - quality and durability. The achievement of our industrialists and workers in the more impressive because they are handicapped in so many ways. Whereas in foreign countries politicians are considerate of industry and do all that is in their power to aid it, here the politicians will not even condescend to tell those few trades which have some slight vestige of tariff protection whether that protection is going to be continued or abolished." (123)
Beaverbrook had a meeting with Baldwin about the Conservative Party adopting his policy of Empire Free Trade. Baldwin rejected the idea as it would mean taxes on non-Empire imports. Robert Bruce Lockhart, who worked for Lord Beaverbrook, wrote in his diary: "In evening saw Lord Beaverbrook who will announced his New Party on Monday, provided Rothermere comes out in favour of food taxes. It is a big venture." Beaverbrook's plan was to run candidates at by-elections and general elections. This "would wreck the prospects of many Tory candidates, thus destroying Baldwin's hopes of a majority in the next Parliament". (124)
On 18th February, 1930, Beaverbrook announced the formation of the United Empire Party. The following day Lord Rothermere gave his full support to the party. A small group of businessmen, including Beaverbrook and Rothermere, donated a total of £40,000 to help fund the party. The Daily Express also asked its readers to send in money and in return promised to publish their names in the newspaper. Beaverbrook presented Conservative MPs with an implied ultimatum: "No MP espousing the cause of Empire Free Trade will be opposed by a United Empire candidate. Instead, he shall have, if he desires it, our full support. If the Conservatives split, they will do so because at last the true spirit of Conservatism has a chance to find expression." (125)
In the Daily Mail Rothermere ran stories about the new party on the front page for ten days in succession. According to the authors of Beaverbrook: A Life (1992): "With their combined total of eight national papers, and Rothermere's chain of provincial papers, the press barons were laying down a joint barrage scarcely paralleled in newspaper history." Rothermere told Beaverbrook that "this movement is like a prairie fire". Leo Amery described Beaverbrook "bubbling over with excitement and triumph". (126)
Beaverbrook later admitted that as a press baron he had the right to bully the politician into pursuing courses he would not otherwise adopt. (127) Baldwin was badly shaken by these events and in March 1930 he agreed to a referendum on food taxes, and a detailed discussion of the issue at an imperial conference after the next election. This was not good enough for Rothermere and Beaverbrook and they decided to back candidates in by-elections who challenged the official Conservative line. (128)
Ernest Spero, the Labour MP, for West Fulham, was declared bankrupt and was forced to resign. Cyril Cobb, the Conservative Party candidate in the by-election, declared that he supported Empire Free Trade and this gave him the support of the newspapers owned by Rothermere and Beaverbrook. On 6th May, 1930, Cobb beat the Labour candidate, John Banfield, with a 3.5% swing. The Daily Express presented it as a win for Beaverbrook, with the headline: "CRUSADER CAPTURES SOCIALIST SEAT". (129)
Rothermere and Beaverbrook wanted Neville Chamberlain to replace Baldwin. They entered into negotiations with Chamberlain who expressed concerns about the long-term consequences of this attack on the Conservative Party. He was especially worried about the cartoons by David Low, that were appearing in the Evening Standard. Chamberlain argued that before a deal could be arranged: "Beaverbrook must call off his attacks on Baldwin and the Party, cease to include offensive cartoons and paragraphs in the Evening Standard, and stop inviting Conservatives to direct subscriptions to him in order that they might be used to run candidates against official Conservatives." (130) Beaverbrook told one of Chamberlain's friends that "nothing will shift us from the advocacy of duties on foodstuffs". (131)
Chamberlain claimed he remained loyal to Baldwin and refused to undermine his leader. He wrote in his diary: "The question of leadership is again growing acute… I am getting letters and communications from all over the country… I cannot see my way out. I am the only person who might bring about Stanley Baldwin's retirement, but I cannot act when my action might put me in his place." (132)
However, Peter Neville, the author of Neville Chamberlain (1992), has argued that there is evidence that Chamberlain spread information amongst fellow members of the Cabinet that undermined Baldwin: "Chamberlain's behaviour during the leadership crisis was not as disinterested as he subsequently maintained. This in itself was not particularly shocking. Politicians are ambitious, and Neville Chamberlain would in 1931 have attained a position which neither his father nor his half-brother had ever achieved - leadership of the Conservative Party." (133)
In June, 1930, Lord Rothermere wrote to Baldwin demanding that the leader of the Conservative Party needed to promise to submit the list of his planned Cabinet ministers if he wished to have the support of the Daily Mail for the next Tory government. Baldwin decided to make the letter public and argued that "a more preposterous and insolent demand was never made on the leader of any political party." He added: "I repudiate it with contempt and will fight that attempt at domination to the end." (134)
In October 1930, Vice-Admiral Ernest Taylor was selected to stand for the United Empire Party in the Paddington South by-election. Herbert Lidiard, the Conservative Party candidate, declared that he was a Baldwin loyalist. Beaverbrook told the nation that the contest was now between a "Conservative Imperialist" (Taylor) and a "Conservative Wobbler" (Lidiard). (135)
Baldwin was warned that the Conservative Party was in danger of losing the seat and if that happened he might be removed as leader. He decided to hold a meeting of Conservative peers, MPs and candidates before the election took place. Beaverbrook made a speech attacking the resolution expressing confidence in Baldwin was carried by 462 votes to 116. Baldwin claimed that Beaverbrook came out very badly out of the meeting: "The Beaver would not have spoken but Francis Curzon challenged him to speak. He was booed and made a poor speech.. and said that he didn't care two-pence who was leader as long as his policy was adopted!" (136)
With the support of the Rothermere and Beaverbrook press, Taylor defeated the official Conservative Party candidate by 1,415 votes. Beaverbrook wrote: "What a life! Excitement (being howled down at the party meeting), depression (being heavily defeated by Baldwin), exaltation (being successful at South Paddington." (137) Beaverbrook wrote to his good friend, Richard Smeaton White, the publisher of The Montreal Gazette: "I believe the Empire Crusade controls London. And we can, I am sure, dominate the Southern counties of Surrey, Sussex, and Kent, and we will dominate Baldwin too, for he must come to full acceptance of the policy." (138)
Rothermere and Beaverbrook became convinced that the way to remove Baldwin was to fight the official Conservative candidate in by-elections. Beaverbrook wrote to Rothermere: "I am going out entirely for by-elections this year, and shall exclude all other forms of propaganda. I shall make the by-elections the occasions for my propaganda." (139) Rothermere replied: "If you are going to build up a real organisation with full intentions of fighting all by-elections, go ahead and you will find me with you." (140)
In February, 1931, a by-election occurred at East Islington after the death of Ethel Bentham. The Labour candidate was Leah Manning. The Conservatives selected Thelma Cazalet-Keir and Air Commodore Alfred Critchley represented the United Empire Party. Beaverbrook spoke at eleven meetings in support of Critchley. One Tory said that "Lord Beaverbrook comes to East Islington and it compared to an elephant trumpeting in the jungle or a man-eating tiger. I am inclined to compare him to a mad dog running along the streets and yapping and barking." Despite this effort, Critchley only split the Conservative vote and the seat was won by Manning. (141)
The next by-election took place in Westminster St George. Lord Beaverbrook selected Ernest Petter, a Conservative industrialist "who will stand in opposition to Mr Baldwin's leadership and policy." The official Conservative candidate was Duff Cooper. However, on the 1st March, 1931, the party's chief political agent reported that there was "a very definite feeling" that Baldwin was "not strong enough to carry the party to victory". (142)
Neville Chamberlain, told Baldwin that his research suggested that the Conservatives would lose the by-election if he remained leader. On hearing the news Baldwin decided to resign. At the last minute William Bridgeman, a close friend and former Home Secretary, persuaded him to postpone his decision until after the Westminster by-election. (143)
The Daily Mail made a crude and abusive attack on Cooper calling him a "softy" and "Mickey Mouse" and accusing him falsely of having made a speech in Germany attacking the British Empire. Geoffrey Dawson of The Times remained loyal to Baldwin and invited Cooper to let him know if "I can do anything... to correct misstatements which the 'stunt' papers decline to admit." The Daily Telegraph also gave their support to Cooper and he was told by its owner that "you will find all our people, editorial, circulation, and everybody doing their damndest for you." (144)
The Daily Mail now made a personal attack on Baldwin and implied that he was unfit for government because he had squandered the family fortune: "Baldwin's father... left him an immense fortune which so far as may be learned from his own speeches, has almost disappeared... It is difficult to see how the leader of a party who has lost his own fortune can hope to restore that of anyone else, or of his country." (145)
Stanley Baldwin considered taking legal action but instead made a speech at the Queen's Hall on the power of the press barons: He accused Rothermere and Beaverbrook of wanting "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages" and using their newspapers not as "newspapers in the ordinary acceptance of the term", but as "engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes", enjoying "secret knowledge without the general view" and distorting the fortunes of national leaders "without being willing to bear their burdens". (146)
The attacks on Baldwin by Rothermere and Beaverbrook backfired. Duff Cooper won the seat easily. Beaverbrook struggled to come to terms with the result. He wrote: "I am horribly disappointed by the failure. It is much worse than I expected. I cannot believe that Press dictatorship was the reason for it." He told a friend that: "We lost St George's because of the strong cross-currents. It was a baffling contest and we were driven off course. We cannot take the result as a rejection of Empire Free Trade." (147)
Beaverbrook and Rothermere decided to bring the United Empire Party to an end. Rothermere, unlike Beaverbrook, did believe that Baldwin's attack on the press barons did have an impact on the result. He told one of his editors: "The amount of nonsense talked about the power of the newspaper proprietor is positively nauseating... Of course, I have long ceased to have any illusions on the point myself... How could I have any illusions on this score, after the way Baldwin managed to survive years of the most bitter newspaper attacks on his... muddle-headed policies." (148)
In July, 1931, the George May Committee produced (the two trade unionists refused to sign the document) its report that presented a picture of Great Britain on the verge of financial disaster. It proposed cutting £96,000,000 off the national expenditure. Of this total £66,500,000 was to be saved by cutting unemployment benefits by 20 per cent and imposing a means test on applicants for transitional benefit. Another £13,000,000 was to be saved by cutting teachers' salaries and grants in aid of them, another £3,500,000 by cutting service and police pay, another £8,000,000 by reducing public works expenditure for the maintenance of employment. "Apart from the direct effects of these proposed cuts, they would of course have given the signal for a general campaign to reduce wages; and this was doubtless a part of the Committee's intention." (149)
The five rich men on the committee recommended, not surprisingly, that only £24 million of this deficit should be met by increased taxation. As David W. Howell has pointed out: "A committee majority of actuaries, accountants, and bankers produced a report urging drastic economies; Latham and Pugh wrote a minority report that largely reflected the thinking of the TUC and its research department. Although they accepted the majority's contentious estimate of the budget deficit as £120 million and endorsed some economies, they considered the underlying economic difficulties not to be the result of excessive public expenditure, but of post-war deflation, the return to the gold standard, and the fall in world prices. An equitable solution should include taxation of holders of fixed-interest securities who had benefited from the fall in prices." (150)
The May Report had been intended to be used as a weapon to use against those Labour MPs calling for increased public expenditure. What it did in fact was to create abroad a belief in the insolvency of Britain and in the insecurity of the British currency, and thus to start a run on sterling, vast amounts of which were held by foreigners who had exchanged their own currencies for it in the belief that it was "as good as gold". This foreign-owned sterling was now exchanged into gold or dollars and soon began to threaten the stability of the pound. (151)
Philip Snowden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented his recommendations to the Cabinet on 20th August. It included the plan to raise approximately £90 million from increased taxation and to cut expenditure by £99 million. £67 million was to come from unemployment insurance, £12 million from education and the rest from the armed services, roads and a variety of smaller programmes. Most members of the Cabinet rejected the idea of the proposed cut in unemployment benefit and the meeting ended without any decisions being made. Clement Attlee, who was a supporter of John Maynard Keynes, condemned Snowden for his "misplaced fidelity to laissez-faire economics". (152)
At another meeting on 23rd August, 1931, nine members (Arthur Henderson, George Lansbury, John R. Clynes, William Graham, Albert Alexander, Arthur Greenwood, Tom Johnson, William Adamson and Christopher Addison) of the Cabinet stated that they would resign rather than accept the unemployment cuts. A. J. P. Taylor has argued: "The other eleven were presumably ready to go along with MacDonald. Six of these had a middle-class or upper-class background; of the minority only one (Addison)... Clearly the government could not go on. Nine members were too many to lose." (153)
On 24th August 1931 King George V had a meeting with the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal parties. Herbert Samuel later recorded that he told the king that MacDonald should be maintained in office "in view of the fact that the necessary economies would prove most unpalatable to the working class". He added that MacDonald was "the ruling class's ideal candidate for imposing a balanced budget at the expense of the working class." (154) Baldwin agreed and he wrote to his wife that it was vitally important that it was MacDonald's government that made the cuts. (155)
Later that day Ramsay MacDonald returned to the palace and told the King that he had the Cabinet's resignation in his pocket. The King replied that he hoped that MacDonald "would help in the formation of a National Government." He added that by "remaining at his post, his position and reputation would be much more enhanced than if he surrendered the Government of the country at such a crisis." Eventually, he agreed to form a National Government. (156)
Ramsay MacDonald was only able to persuade three other members of the Labour Party to serve in the National Government: Philip Snowden (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Jimmy Thomas (Colonial Secretary) and John Sankey (Lord Chancellor). The Conservatives had four places and the Liberals two: Stanley Baldwin (Lord President), Neville Chamberlain (Minister of Health), Samuel Hoare (Secretary for India), Herbert Samuel (Home Secretary), Lord Reading (Foreign Secretary) and Philip Cunliffe-Lister (President of the Board of Trade). (157)
Chamberlain was successful in "impaling Labour on a series of ever more difficult hooks of financial policy, forcing Snowden to adopt the large-scale fiscal reforms demanded by the Conservatives and the City, whilst preventing a rise in the level of direct taxation, which would disproportionately affect the rich, the natural constituency". This enabled the Conservatives to promote the image that it was a Labour prime minister who was punishing the unemployment and to deflect unpalatable accusations that an "upper class" government was foisting "economies" on the most vulnerable sectors of society. (158)
The 1931 General Election was held on 27th October, 1931. MacDonald led an anti-Labour alliance made up of Conservatives and National Liberals. It was a disaster for the Labour Party with several leading Labour figures, including Arthur Henderson, John R. Clynes, Arthur Greenwood, Charles Trevelyan, Herbert Morrison, Emanuel Shinwell, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Hastings Lees-Smith, Hugh Dalton, Susan Lawrence, William Wedgwood Benn, Tom Shaw and Margaret Bondfield losing their seats. The Labour Party polled 30.5% of the vote reflecting the loss of two million votes, a huge withdrawal of support. The only significant concentration of Labour victories occurred in South Wales where eleven seats were retained, many by large majorities. (159)
MacDonald, now had 556 pro-National Government MPs and had no difficulty pursuing the policies suggested by Sir George May. Chamberlain was appointed as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. He continued with Snowden's austerity-minded measures and in his first budget speech he argued: "Nothing could be more harmful to the ultimate material recovery of this country or to its present moral fibre… hard work, strict economy, firm courage, unfailing patience, these are the qualifications that are required of us, and with them we shall not fail." (160)
Roy Jenkins points out that Baldwin was the leader of the party which gave the Government nine-tenths of its majority, but he was only the third man in the hierarchy after MacDonald and Chamberlain. "This meant some easing of the burden, which he liked, but it also meant that he was not Prime Minister, which he also liked being, that he did not have Chequers, for which his affection was second only to that of MacDonald, and that his salary as Lord President was £2,000 instead of the £5,000 which Secretaries of State as well as the Prime Minister were paid." (161)
Chamberlain wrote in his diary: "I am more and more carrying this government on my back. The P.M. (MacDonald) is ill and tired, S. B. (Stanley Baldwin) is tired and won't apply his mind to problems. It is certainly time there was a change". (162) On 7th June 1935, MacDonald went to see King George V to tell him he was resigning as head of the National Government. The King said: "I wonder how you have stood it - especially the loss of your friends and their beastly behaviour. You have been the Prime Minister I have liked best; you have so many qualities, you have kept up the dignity of the office without using it to give you dignity." (163)
Stanley Baldwin now became prime minister for the third time. Chamberlain worked much harder than Baldwin and viewed himself as an being in control of the government. He told Hilda Chamberlain that he had become "a sort of Acting PM - only without the actual power of the PM." He complained that he had to say to Baldwin, "Have you thought" or "What would you say" when it would be quicker to say "This is what you must do." (164) In another letter he complained: "You would be astounded if you knew how impossible it is to get any decision taken unless I see that it is done myself and sometimes I wonder what would happen to this government if I were to be smashed up in a taxi collision." (165)
In February 1934, the Defence Requirements Committee (DRC) chaired by Sir Maurice Hankey, which reported to Cabinet that Germany was now Britain's "ultimate potential enemy". It was decided that Neville Chamberlain should be put in charge of defence expenditure. Graham Macklin has pointed out that Chamberlain now "became the supreme arbiter of the nation's defences, holding the purse strings and thus dictating the parameters of the debate surrounding the scale and direction of the rearmament drive. Chamberlain was not inclined either by temperament or desire, particularly in the aftermath of the Wall Street crash, to embark on a vast spending spree. Indeed, his first act was to present Treasury figures for defence estimates lower than at any time since the First World War." (166)
As the 1935 General Election took place on 14th November. Baldwin promised full support to the League of Nations. "The defence programme will be strictly confined to what is required to make the country and the Empire safe, and to fulfill our obligations towards the League. All the world knows that Britain will never use her forces for any aggressive purpose." (167) In the election the Conservative-dominated National Government lost 90 seats from its massive majority of 1931, but still retained an overwhelming majority of 255 in the House of Commons. Labour, with just over 8.3 million votes, 37.9 per cent, took 154 seats. (168)
Robert Blake has attempted to explain Baldwin's popularity: "He was peace-loving at a time when Britain hated the memory and dreaded the prospect of war. He was insular in an era of political isolationism, conciliatory in an age of compromise. He was easy-going during years with high endeavour was not the outstanding quality of his fellow-countrymen. If he misconstrued the European situation, so did almost everyone else. If he evaded realities, the nation was only too glad to follow... Pipe-smoking, phlegmatic, honest, kind, commonsensical, fond of pigs, the classics and the country, he represented to Englishmen an idealized and enlarged version of themselves. While the political climate remained calm they venerated, almost worshipped him." (169)
The DRC suggested that the government needed to spend £85 million on defence to deal with the threat of Germany. Chamberlain rejected this figure and told the DRC that he believed that financial stability was far more important than increasing spending on defence. "Today financial and economic risks are by far the most serious and urgent that the country has to face, and that other risks have to be run until the country has had time and opportunity to recuperate and our financial situation to improve." (170) It has been argued that in 1935 Britain had spent 3 per cent of her Gross National Product on defence compared with Germany's 8 per cent. In 1936 the figures had been 4 per cent for Britain against 13 per cent for Germany. (171)
Some members of the Conservative Party began attacking Chamberlain for his unwillingness to rapidly increase spending on defence. At that year's party conference, Chamberlain admitted that defence spending had reached a dangerous low level, but blamed successive Governments for the last eight and a half years, which, he pointedly reminded his audience, included his most vociferous critic, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill. (172)
Baldwin defended his government's record on rearmament. "I put before the whole House my own views with an appalling frankness. From 1933, I and my friends were all very worried about what was happening in Europe. You will remember at that time the Disarmament Conference was sitting in Geneva. You will remember at that time there was probably a stronger pacifist feeling running through this country than at any time since the War. I am speaking of 1933 and 1934... My position as the leader of a great party was not altogether a comfortable one. I asked myself what chance was there... within the next year or two of that feeling being so changed that the country would give a mandate for rearmament? Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was rearming and that we must rearm, does anybody think that this pacific democracy would have rallied to that cry at that moment? I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain. I think the country itself learned by certain events that took place during the winter of 1934-35 what the perils might be to it. All I did was to take a moment perhaps less unfortunate than another might have been, and we won the election with a large majority...In 1935 we got from the country - with a large majority - a mandate for doing a thing that no one, 12 months before, would have believed possible. (173)
Anne Perkins pointed out that in "a country wanted peace and plenty, rearming promised only the threat of war and the transfer of spending from the home front to the defence industry". Perkins goes on to argue that between the years "1930-7, spending on health and unemployment exceeded spending on defence for the only time in the 50-year period when a comparison can be made." (174)
The Conservative Party feared the spread of communism from the Soviet Union to the rest of Europe. Stanley Baldwin shared this concern and was fairly sympathetic to the military uprising in Spain against the left-wing Popular Front government. On the 19th July, 1936, Spain's prime minister, José Giral, sent a request to Leon Blum, the prime minister of the Popular Front government in France, for aircraft and armaments. The following day the French government decided to help and on 22nd July agreed to send 20 bombers and other arms. This news was criticized by the right-wing press and the non-socialist members of the government began to argue against the aid and therefore Blum decided to see what his British allies were going to do. (175)
Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, received advice that "apart from foreign intervention, the sides were so evenly balanced that neither could win." Eden warned Blum that he believed that if the French government helped the Spanish government it would only encourage Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to aid the Nationalists. Edouard Daladier, the French war minister, was aware that French armaments were inferior to those that Franco could obtain from the dictators. Eden later recalled: "The French government acted most loyally by us." On 8th August the French cabinet suspended all further arms sales, and four days later it was decided to form an international committee of control "to supervise the agreement and consider further action." (176)
In a speech in October, 1936, Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, described the Spanish Civil War as "a fight for the soul of Europe", charging that non-intervention had become "a farce". For the first time he stated that the government was guilty of incremental steps of appeasement. If Britain had stood firm against Mussolini over Abyssinia, there would not have been this trouble in Spain. He argued there had been "no policy in foreign affairs except the policy of giving way. The result of that is a world in anarchy." The government's policy "has not brought us nearer peace but has brought us closer and closer to the danger of war." (177)
Baldwin told Eden that he hoped that the next war Nazi Germany would fight would be against the Soviet Union. (178) In a letter to Churchill, Baldwin argued: "I do not believe Germany wants to move West because West would be a difficult programme for her, and if she does it before we are ready. I quite agree the picture is perfectly awful. If there is any fighting in Europe to be done, I should like to see the Bolshies and the Nazis doing it." (179)
King George V died on 20th January 1936. Thomas Jones, Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet, recorded in his diary that Baldwin was worried about the prospect of Prince Edward becoming King. "The King was sinking and died peacefully just before midnight. The Prince had been in on Sunday to have tea with the P.M. The P.M. found him normal, neither elevated at the prospect of kingship, nor depressed at his father's dying. There was no affection between the two... S.B. is distinctly nervous about him." (180)
For the last year the intelligence services had been concerned about Edward's relationship with Wallis Simpson, an American married woman. Henry Channon, the Conservative Party MP recorded: "Much gossip about the Prince of Wales' alleged Nazi leanings; he is alleged to have been influenced by Emerald Cunard (who is rather reprise with Herr Ribbentrop) through Mrs Simpson. The Coopers are furious, being fanatically pro-French and anti-German. He has just made an extraordinary speech to the British Legion advocating friendship with Germany; it is only a gesture, but a gesture that may be taken seriously in Germany and elsewhere. If only the Chancelleries of Europe knew that his speech was the result of Emerald Cunard's intrigues, themselves inspired by Herr Ribbentrop's dimple!" (181)
MI5 were also concerned by Simpson's relationship with Ribbentrop and was now keeping her under surveillance. Paul Schwarz, a member of the German Foreign Office staff in the 1930s, claimed in his book, This Man Ribbentrop: His Life and Times (1943), that secrets from the British government dispatch boxes were being widely circulated in Berlin and it was believed that Simpson was the source. A FBI report stated: "Certain would-be state secrets were passed on to Edward, and when it was found that Ribbentrop... actually received the same information, immediately Baldwin was forced to accept that the leakage had been located." (182)
From the beginning of his reign, Edward exhibited something approaching contempt for the routine of monarchy. Baldwin disliked "his general attitude of irresponsibility, selfishness and dislike for any of the functions of kingship other than easy popularity and personal privilege." (183) Baldwin became angry when he heard that Edward had an unofficial meeting with Joachim von Ribbentrop was ambassador to London and had requested a meeting with Adolf Hitler: "Who is King here? Baldwin or I? I myself wish to talk to Hitler and will do that, here or in Germany. Tell him that please." (184)
Most of the Cabinet became concerned about the behaviour of Edward VIII. In the early days of his reign, Neville Chamberlain, drafted a memorandum of complaint urging the king to "settle down". He suggested he should wear drabber clothes, carry out his official duties and not make public remarks about the slums or unemployment. A. J. P. Taylor has pointed out: "Baldwin suppressed the memorandum. As always, he made his time ally and waited on events." (185)
Hitler knew that both France and Britain were militarily stronger than Germany. However, their failure to take action against Italy, convinced him that they were unwilling to go to war with Germany. He therefore decided to break another aspect of the Treaty of Versailles by sending German troops into the Rhineland. The German generals were very much against the plan, claiming that the French Army would win a victory in the military conflict that was bound to follow this action. Hitler ignored their advice and on 1st March, 1936, three German battalions marched into the Rhineland. Hitler later admitted: "The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance." (186)
Sir Anthony Eden, the new foreign secretary, was summoned to Buckingham Palace and the King urged to take a sympathetic view of Germany's reoccupation of the Rhineland. According to the German ambassador, the King told him: "I sent for the PM (Baldwin) and gave him a piece of my mind. I told the old so-and-so- that I would abdicate if he made war. There was a frightful scene. But you needn't worry. There won't be a war." (187)
The British government accepted Hitler's Rhineland coup. Eden informed the French that the British government was not prepared to support military action. The chiefs of staff felt Britain was in no position to go to war with Germany over the issue. The Rhineland invasion was not seen by the British government as an act of unprovoked aggression but as the righting of an injustice left behind by the Treaty of Versailles. Eden apparently said that he would not oppose the move because "Hitler was only going into his own back garden." (188)
In the summer of 1936 the King's relationship with Wallis Simpson, was being reported in the foreign press. Simpson had previously been married to Earl Winfield Spencer. Edward was still a bachelor at 41. "Mrs Wallis Simpson... was gay, witty, attractive. As a royal consort, she had every conceivable disadvantage. She was an American; she was a commoner - and truly common at that, not even a millionaire's daughter, let alone an untitled member of an aristocratic family; she had a former husband living, whom she had divorced; and a present husband, Ernest Simpson." (189)
Baldwin took the view that as long as Wallis Simpson remained married to Ernest Simpson, the matter could be shelved, however much gossip there might be. The government had an agreement with the owners of Britain's national newspapers not to report on the story. The situation changed when Baldwin heard the news that she was filing a divorce petition (undefended) it was clear that he had to take action. On 20th October he asked the King whether the divorce suit could be withdrawn. It was not, and on 27th October a decree nisi was granted. (190)
Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury also made it clear he was strongly opposed to the king's relationship. Although the king received the political support from Winston Churchill who had been Edward's friend since the 1920s. They played polo together, they regularly dined together and Churchill wrote many of the King's speeches. Churchill put forward his own solution to the dilemma - a morganatic marriage. In other words, the King would marry Simpson but she would not become Queen; she would be made Duchess of Cornwall and the children of the marriage would not inherit the throne. (191)
The two main newspaper barons, Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook, supported the idea and when the King met Baldwin on 25th November, he argued that he was sure the public would support a morganatic marriage. Baldwin disagreed and said the political and religious establishment were strongly opposed to the idea. Baldwin told him: "You may think me Victorian, Sir. You may think my views out of date, but I believe that I know how to interpret the minds of my own people; and I say that, although it is true that standards are lower since the war, it only leads people to expect higher standards from their King. People expect more from their King than they did a hundred years ago." (192)
Sir John Colville, a senior civil servant, later recalled that Beaverbrook pretended to offer the king his support, he really believed that the best solution was to drive Wallis Simpson out of England. This involved a member of his staff paid an Australian assassin to murder Wallis. The same man arranged for threatening letters to be sent to her saying that vitriol would be thrown in her face, a substance which would scar and blind her for life. The letters were passed on to Scotland Yard and they arranged for Wallis to be given extra protection. (193)
Baldwin told the King that the proposed marriage would be unacceptable to him, and if it took place the government would resign. He briefed Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, in confidence on the impending crisis concerned the monarchy. If Attlee opposed Baldwin on this issue he would probably be asked to form a government. Attlee refused to take this opportunity and instead told Baldwin that although he did not object to an American queen, a twice-divorced woman and a morganic marriage was unacceptable. Attlee's critics pointed out that he had shown too great a concern for the monarchy and too little for his party. Attlee saw his duty as clear: "to support the constitutional position taken by Baldwin; to fight an election on the issue would be manifestly opportunistic." (194)
Chamberlain drafted a formal submission for Baldwin to send to the King. It included the following: "The advice of Your Majesty's Government is formally tendered, the the effect that in view of the grave danger to which, in their opinion, this country is being exposed, your association with Mrs Simpson should be terminated forthwith. It is hardly necessary for me to point out that should this advice be tendered and refused by Your Majesty, only one result could follow in accordance with the requirements of constitutional monarchy, that is, the resignation of myself and the government. If Mrs Simpson left the country forthwith, the distasteful matter could be settled in a less formal manner." (195)
Baldwin rejected this approach. He felt that it "offended his sense of emollience and he also realized that, if submitted and published, their clamant discourtesy would almost certainly have the effect of swinging opinion towards the King." Baldwin therefore decided that he would have to have a meeting with the King on 16th November. The King asked the prime minister if his marriage would be approved. He replied that the proposal would not be acceptable to the country, thereby keeping any question of the Government's own veto in the background. (196)
The King responded: "I understand that you and several members of the Cabinet have some fears of a constitutional crisis developing over my friendship with Mrs Simpson. I want you to be the first to know that I have made up my mind and nothing will alter it. I have looked at it from all sides. I mean to abdicate and marry Mrs Simpson." According to Lucy Baldwin her husband said: "Sir, this is a very grave decision and I am deeply grieved." (197)
On 7th December, 1936, Stanley Baldwin told the House of Commons that the King had decided to abdicate: "His Majesty himself in conversation with me some weeks ago when he first informed me of his intention to marry Mrs. Simpson whenever she should be free. The subject has, therefore, been for some time in the King's mind and as soon as His Majesty has arrived at a conclusion as to the course he desires to take he will no doubt communicate it to his Governments in this country and the Dominions. It will then be for those Governments to decide what advice, if any, they would feel it their duty to tender to him in the light of his conclusion." (198)
Winston Churchill jumped up and in emotional terms pleaded for delay. He was ruled out of order by the Speaker for trying to make a speech and shouted down by his fellow MPs, who believed he was simply acting for himself and not the King. The Times described it as "the most striking rebuff of modern parliamentary history". (199) Harold Nicolson, one of his admirers, concluded sadly that "he has undone in five minutes the patient reconstruction work of two years." (200)
Thomas Jones agreed: "The country is split in two, but we shall surmount the cleavage, despite all the efforts of Winston, Beaverbrook, Rothermere and Esmond Harmsworth. The House of Commons has stood firm and of course Winston has sent Stanley Baldwin's stock up by his misguided and persistent questioning about the 'irrevocable step'... The Daily Herald... has taken the strictly constitutional line from the start and published an article by Laski on the Real Issue which has had a stabilising effect on Labour. The Express, Mail, and their evening and picture versions, Mirror, etc. have eclipsed themselves in sentimentality to such an extent as to be ridiculous, one would think, to anyone but a young flapper." (201)
At a meeting with his junior ministers in early 1937 Baldwin told them that they should always treat Labour Party MPs with respect: "Never try to score off the Labour Party or to be smart at their expense. Never do anything to increase the sense of bitterness between the parties in Parliament. Never go out of your way to irritate or anger the Labour Party. Remember that one day we may need them." Baldwin was aware that most Labour MPs had difficulty living on their pay of £200 a year. Almost his final act as Prime Minister was to double their pay and to introduce a salary for the Leader of the Opposition so that he would not need to indulge in what he felt was potentially corrupting work outside Parliament. (202)
Baldwin resigned from office on 28th May, 1937, following the successful coronation celebrations of George VI. After retiring from the House of Commons he was granted the title Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. Baldwin was critical of the government's appeasement policy. He complained to Anthony Eden that his own work "in keeping politics national instead of party" had been rendered worthless by the actions of Neville Chamberlain. Eden replied that Chamberlain was attempting to "return to class warfare in its bitterest form". (203)
After the outbreak of the Second World War the public became hostile to both Baldwin and Chamberlain over their appeasement foreign policy in the 1930s. His long-time enemy, Lord Beaverbrook, was Minister of Supply, in 1942, and ordered that the wrought-iron gates that guarded his home, be commandeered for scrap. When this issue was discussed in the House of Commons, Captain Alan Graham, the Conservative M.P. for Wirral said that he was "aware that it is very necessary to leave Lord Baldwin his gates in order to protect him from the just indignation of the mob". (204)
As Roy Jenkins pointed out: "Chamberlain's death left Baldwin more exposed. He became the best available villain for those who wished to fasten upon an individual to blame for Britain's plight. His mail became almost uniformly hostile... Some suggested that the whole estate and house ought to be taken over... He lost nearly all the glow of affection and respect in which he had retired. Most people forgot about him; and the majority of those who did not were unpleasant." (205)
Stanley Baldwin died on 14th December 1947.
Experience in manufacturing and in trade is a valuable asset to a politician, but distinguished success in these spheres leaves a man little enough time for the duties of an ordinary member of the House of Commons. Moreover, the qualities which make for high achievement in the factory or counting-house are not identical with those which must be cultivated by the leader of a party or a popular statesman...
In the case of Mr. Baldwin, there was also a transition from business to politics, but it was of a less deliberate and drastic character. He may be said to have inherited the double strain of industry and public service, since he succeeded both to his father's business and to his father's seat in the House of Commons. He was, in fact, free to choose any path which appealed to him.
I am myself of that somewhat flabby nature that always prefers agreement to disagreement...When the Labour Party sit on these benches, we shall all wish them well in their effort to govern the country. But I am quite certain that whether they succeed or fail there will never in this country be a Communist Government, and for this reason, that no gospel founded on hate will ever seize the hearts of our people - the people of Great Britain. It is no good trying to cure the world by spreading out oceans of bloodshed. It is no good trying to cure the world by repeating that pentasyllabic French derivative, "Proletariat." The English language is the richest in the world in thought. The English language is the richest in the world in monosyllables. Four words, of one syllable each, are words which contain salvation for this country and for the whole world, and they are "Faith," "Hope," "Love," and "Work." No Government in this country to-day, which has not faith in the people, hope in the future, love for his fellow-men, and which will not work and work and work, will ever bring this country through into better days and better times, or will ever bring Europe through or the world through.
I am myself of that somewhat flabby nature that always prefers agreement to disagreement... When the Labour Party sit on these benches, we shall all wish them well in their effort to govern the country. But I am quite certain that whether they succeed or fail there will never in this country be a Communist Government, and for this reason, that no gospel founded on hate will ever seize the hearts of our people - the people of Great Britain. It is no good trying to cure the world by spreading out oceans of bloodshed. It is no good trying to cure the world by repeating that pentasyllabic French derivative, "Proletariat." The English language is the richest in the world in thought. The English language is the richest in the world in monosyllables. Four words, of one syllable each, are words which contain salvation for this country and for the whole world, and they are "Faith," "Hope," "Love," and "Work." No Government in this country to-day, which has not faith in the people, hope in the future, love for his fellow-men, and which will not work and work and work, will ever bring this country through into better days and better times, or will ever bring Europe through or the world through.
Some of those to-day who are loudest in their protestations of international pacifism are loudest in their protestations that nothing but a class war can save society. No truer word was ever said by a philosopher than was said by Kant, a century ago or more, that we are civilised to the point of wearisomeness, but before we can be moralised we have a long way to go. It is to moralise the world that we all desire. ... We have to remember one more thing besides that, that since the War we must not make the mistake of thinking that what may be war weariness is necessarily an excess of innate good will, and we cannot help noting that there has arisen in Europe, in the few years since the peace, a strong local feeling in different places of an extreme nationalism which, unless corrected, may bear in what is not of itself an evil thing the seeds of much future peril for the peace and harmony of Europe.
I am just one of yourselves, who has been called to special work for the country at this time. I never sought the office. I never planned out or schemed my life. I have but one idea, which was an idea that I inherited, and it was the idea of service — service to the people of this country. My father lived in the belief all his life … It is a tradition; it is in our bones; and we have to do it. That service seemed to lead one by way of business and the county council into Parliament, and it has led one through various strange paths to where one is; but the ideal remains the same, because all my life I believed from my heart the words of Browning, "All service ranks the same with God". It makes very little difference whether a man is driving a tramcar or sweeping streets or being Prime Minister, if he only brings to that service everything that is in him and performs it for the sake of mankind.
The future lies between hon. Members opposite and ourselves. We are not afraid on this side of the House of social reform. Members of our party were fighting for the working classes when Members or the ancestors of Members opposite were shackled with laissez faire. Disraeli was advocating combination among agricultural labourers years before the agricultural labourer had the vote, and when he first began to preach the necessity of sanitation in the crowded centres of this country, the Liberal party called it a "policy of sewage." We stand on three basic principles, as we have done for two generations past - the maintenance of the institutions of our country, the preservation and the development of our Empire, and the improvement of the conditions of our own people; and we adapt those principles to the changing needs of each generation. Do my Friends behind me look like a beaten army? We shall be ready to take up the challenge from any party whenever it be issued, wherever it is issued and by whomsoever it be thrown down.
It was curiously crossed with two strong strains which worked sometimes comfortably and sometimes very uncomfortably together. I owe my Quaker strain to the earliest days of the Quakers. One of my ancestors went out in the reign of William III as a missionary to the American colonies. He devoted half a century to missionary life there and in the West Indies, where ultimately he died, leaving a name that was perhaps the most prominent and best kinown of the Quaker missionaries in those colonies. Now, that Quaker blood is peculiarly persistent, and I attribute to that a certain obstinacy I find existing in otherwise one of the most placable dispositions of any man I ever met. I find sometimes that when I conceive a matter to be a matter of principle I would rather go to the stake than give way.
The government had no mandate to govern, and its members won their seats as a Socialistic vote, but were not carving out a Socialist policy. This could be only temporary. If words meant anything the Labour Party was a Socialist Party, and if they went back on socialism they were little more than a left wing of the Conservative Party.
Socialism had certain obvious advantages, possessing cut and dried remedies for every evil under the sun, but Conservatives have been in the fore-front of the battle to help the people more…
If we are to live as a party we must live for the people in the widest sense… Every future Government must be Socialistic.
I think the English people are at heart and in practice the kindest people in the world...there is in England a profound sympathy for the under-dog. There is a brotherly and a neighbourly feeling which we see to a remarkable extent through all classes. There is a way of facing misfortunes with a cheerful face. It was shown to a marvellous degree in the war…
Then, in no nation more than the English is there a diversified individuality. We are a people of individuals, and a people of character...The preservation of the individuality of the Englishman is essential to the preservation of the type of the race, and if our differences are smoothed out and we lose that gift, we shall lose at the same time our power. Uniformity of type is a bad thing. I regret very much myself the uniformity of speech. Time was, two centuries ago, when you could have told by his speech from what part of England every member of Parliament came. He spoke the speech of his fathers, and I regret that the dialects have gone, and I regret that by a process which for want of a better name we have agreed among ourselves to call education, we are drifting away from the language of the people and losing some of the best English words and phrases which have lasted in the country through centuries, to make us all talk one uniform and inexpressive language.
The responsibility for progress rests not only on the Government, but on every man and woman in the country. The Government can go no faster in progress than the people will allow them to do. Willing co-operation in new methods is essential, and without the will to work progress is not possible, and with constant stoppages of industry progress is not possible...
It is a testing time for democracy...Democracy, democratic government, calls for harder work, for higher education, for further vision than any form of government known in this world. It has not lasted long yet in the West, and it is only by those like ourselves who believe in it making it a success that we can hope to see it permanent and yielding those fruits which it ought to yield. The assertion of people's rights has never yet provided that people with bread. The performance of their duties, and that alone, can lead to the successful issue of those experiments in government which we have carried further than any other people in this world. Democracy can rise to great heights; it can also sink to great depths. It is for us so to conduct ourselves, and so to educate our own people, that we may achieve the heights and avoid the depths...
When we speak of Empire, it is in no spirit of flag-wagging...we feel that in this great inheritance of ours, separated as it is by the seas, we have yet one home and one people...great as the material benefits are, we do not look primarily to them. I think deep down in all our hearts we look to the Empire as the means by which we may hope to see that increase of our race which we believe to be of such inestimable benefit to the world at large; the spread abroad of people to whom freedom and justice are as the breath of their nostrils, of people distinguished, as we would fain hope and believe, above all things, by an abiding sense of duty. If ever the day should come when an appeal to that sense of duty falls on deaf ears among our own kin, that day indeed would be the end of our country and of our Empire, to which you and I have dedicated our very lives.
The resignation of the Prime Minister makes it necessary for the Crown to exercise its prerogative in the choice of Mr Bonar Law's successor. There appear to be only two possible alternatives. Mr Stanley Baldwin and Lord Curzon. The case for each is very strong.
Lord Curzon has, during a long life, held high office almost continuously and is therefore possessed of wide experience of government. His industry and mental equipment are of the highest order. His grasp of the international situation is great.
Mr Stanley Baldwin has had a very rapid promotion and has by his gathering strength exceeded the expectations of his most fervent friends. He is much liked by all shades of political opinion in the House of Commons, and has the complete confidence of the City and the commercial world generally. He in fact typifies the spirit of the Government which the people of this country elected last autumn and also the same characteristics which won the people's confidence in Mr Bonar Law, i.e. honesty, simplicity and balance. There is however a disadvantage that, compared to many of his colleagues, his official life is short. On the other hand there can be no doubt that Lord Curzon temperamentally does not inspire complete confidence in his colleagues, either as to his judgement or as to his ultimate strength of purpose in a crisis. His methods too are inappropriate to harmony. The prospect of him receiving deputations as Prime Minister for the Miners' Federation or the Triple Alliance, for example, is capable of causing alarm for the future relations between the Government and labour, between moderate and less moderate opinion. The choice in fact seems to be in recognizing in an individual those services which in Lord Curzon's case enable him to act as Deputy Prime Minister, but which as is so often the case when larger issues are involved might not qualify him in the permanent post. The time, in the opinion of many members of the House of Commons, has passed when the direction of domestic policy can be placed outside the House of Commons, and it is admitted that although foreign and imperial affairs are of vital importance, stability at home must be the basic consideration. There is also the fact that Lord Curzon is regarded in the public eye as representing that section of privileged conservatism which has its value, but which in this democratic age cannot be too assiduously exploited.
The number of peers holding the highest offices in the Government, that is four out of the five Secretaries of State, has already produced comment, even among Conservatives. The situation in this respect will be accentuated by placing the direction of Government policy in the Upper House. For any further subordination of the House of Commons will be most strongly resented, not only by the Conservative Party as a whole, but by every shade of democratic opinion in the country. It is thought that the truth of this view finds support in the fact that whereas it would be most unlikely that Lord Curzon could form a government without the inclusion of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the other hand it would clearly be possible for Mr Baldwin to form a government even though Lord Curzon should find himself unable to join it.
In submitting myself to you for re-election, I propose frankly to put before you the present situation as I see it, and the measures which in the opinion of myself and my colleagues are necessary adequately to deal with it.
1. The unemployment and under-employment which our working people and our great national industries are now facing for the fourth winter in succession, on a scale unparalleled in our history, have created a problem which calls urgently for a solution. Their indefinite continuance threatens to impair permanently the trained skill and the independent spirit of our workers, to disorganise the whole fabric of industry and credit, and, by eating away the sources of revenue, to undermine the very foundations of our national and municipal life.
2. In large measure this state of affairs is due to the political and economic disorganisation of Europe consequent on the Great War. In accordance with the policy affirmed by the Imperial Conference we shall continue to devote every effort through the League of Nations and by every other practical means, to the restoration of a true peace in Europe. But that at the best must take time. A year ago Mr. Bonar Law could still hope that a more settled condition of affairs was in prospect, and that with it trade might enjoy a substantial and steady revival, even in the absence of any modification of fiscal policy, of the ultimate necessity of which he himself was always convinced. Since the occupation of the Ruhr it has become evident that we are confronted by a situation which, even if it does not become worse, is not likely to be normal for years to come.
3. The disorganisation and poverty of Europe, accompanied by broken exchanges and by higher tariffs all the world over, have directly and indirectly narrowed the whole field of our foreign trade. In our own home market the bounty given to the importation of foreign goods by depreciated currencies, and by the reduced standard of living in many European countries, has exposed us to a competition which is essentially unfair and is paralysing enterprise and initiative. It is under such conditions that we have to find work for a population which, largely owing to the cessation during the war period of the normal flow of migration to the Dominions, has in the last census period increased by over a million and three quarter souls.
4. No Government with any sense of responsibility could continue to sit with tied hands watching the unequal struggle of our industries or content itself with palliatives which, valuable as they are to mitigate the hardship to individuals, must inevitably add to the burden of rates and taxes and thereby still further weaken our whole economic structure. Drastic measures have become necessary for dealing with present conditions as long as they continue.
5. The present Government hold themselves pledged by Mr. Bonar Law not to make any fundamental change in the fiscal system of the country without consulting the electorate. Convinced, as I am, that only by such a change can a remedy be found, and that no partial measures such as the extension of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, can meet the situation, I am in honour bound to ask the people to release us from this pledge without further prejudicing the situation by any delay. That is the reason, and the only reason, which has made this election necessary.
6. What we propose to do for the assistance of employment in industry, if the nation approves, is to impose duties on imported manufactured goods, with the following objects: -
(i) to raise revenue by methods less unfair to our own home production which at present bears the whole burden of local and national taxation, including the cost of relieving unemployment;
(ii) to give special assistance to industries which are suffering under unfair foreign competition;
(iii) to utilise these duties in order to negotiate for a reduction of foreign tariffs in those directions which would most benefit our export trade;
(iv) to give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle of mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of our trade, and the development, in co-operation with the other Governments of the Empire, of the boundless resources of our common heritage.
7. Such a policy will defend our industries during the present emergency and will enable us, as more normal conditions return, to work effectively to secure a greater measure of real Free Trade both within the Empire and with foreign countries. Trade which is subject to the arbitrary interference of every foreign tariff, and at the mercy of every disturbance arising from the distractions of Europe, is in no sense free, and is certainly not fair to our own people.
8. It is not our intention, in any circumstances, to impose any duties on wheat, flour, oats, meat (including bacon and ham), cheese, butter or eggs.
9. While assisting the manufacturing industries of the country we propose also to give a direct measure of support to agriculture. Agriculture is not only, in itself, the greatest and most important of our national industries, but is of especial value as supplying the most stable and essentially complementary home market for our manufactures.
10. We propose to afford this assistance by a bounty of £1 an acre on all holdings of arable land exceeding one acre. The main object of that bounty is to maintain employment on the land and so keep up the wages of agricultural labour. In order to make sure of this we shall decline to pay the bounty to any employer who pays less than 30/- a week to an ablebodied labourer.
11. The exclusion from any import duties of the essential foodstuffs which I have mentioned, as well as of raw materials, undoubtedly imposes a certain limitation upon the fullest extension of Imperial Preference. But even the preferences agreed to at the recent Economic Conference within our existing fiscal system, have been acknowledged as of the greatest value by the Dominion representatives, and our present proposals will offer a much wider field, the value of which will be progressively enhanced by the increasing range and variety of Empire production.
12. Moreover in the field of Empire development, as well as in that of home agriculture, we are not confined to the assistance furnished by duties. We have already given an earnest of our desire to promote a better distribution of the population of the Empire through the Empire Settlement Act, and at the Economic Conference we have undertaken to co-operate effectively with the Government of any part of the Empire in schemes of economic develop ment. More especially do we intend to devote our attention to the development of cotton growing within the Empire, in order to keep down the cost of a raw material essential to our greatest exporting industry.
13. These measures constitute a single comprehensive and inter-dependent policy. Without additional revenue we cannot assist agriculture at home, but the income derived from the tariff will provide for this and leave us with means which can be devoted to cotton growing and other development in the Empire, and to the reduction of the duties on tea and sugar which fall so directly upon the working class household.
14. For the present emergency, and pending the introduction of our more extended proposals, we are making, and shall continue to make, every effort to increase the volume of work for our people. The Government are spending very large sums on every measure of emergency relief that can help in this direction. Further, the Local Authorities of all kinds throughout the country, and great individual enterprises, such as the railways, with the assistance of the Government, or on its invitation, are co-operating whole-heartedly in the national endeavour to increase the volume of employment. This great combined effort of the Government, of the Local Authorities, and of individual enterprises, represents an expenditure of no less than'100 millions sterling.
15. The position of shipbuilding, one of the hardest hit of all our industries, is peculiar. It can only recover as shipping revives with the development of Empire and foreign trade which we believe will follow from our measures. We propose in the meantime to give it special assistance by accelerating the programme of light cruiser construction which will in any case become necessary in the near future. We are informed by our Naval advisers that some 17 light cruisers will be required during the next few years in replacement of the County class, as well as a variety of smaller and auxiliary craft, and we intend that a substantial proportion of these shall be laid down as soon as the designs are ready and Parliamentary sanction secured.
16. The solution of the unemployment problem is the key to every necessary social reform. But I should like to repeat my conviction that we should aim at the reorganisation of our various schemes of insurance against old age, ill-health and unemployment. More particularly should we devote our attention to investigating the possibilities of getting rid of the inconsistencies and the discouragement of thrift at present associated with the working of the Old Age Pensions Act. The encouragement of thrift and independence must be the underlying principle of all our social reforms.
In my own view, the equity of the case. made by my hon. and learned Friend (Frederick A. Macquisten) is one of great strength. It will probably he supported in various quarters of the House, and indeed as violently opposed. And I suggest that very much of what I said with reference to the Reform Bill a fortnight ago is equally true of a Bill of this magnitude being brought in by private Members on a Friday. But. as I do not wish to detain the House longer than I can, I will do my best now to get away from the direct treatment of the points that have been raised, in order to give the House the reasons that have induced me to put down the Amendment which stands in my name. To some ways this is a very difficult speech for me to make. The matter of the Bill itself digs right into one of the most difficult and fundamental questions in the country to-day, and touches at various points questions which have interested me during the whole of my working life. I have thought so much about them, and I feel that I have so much to say about them, that my difficulty will be in choosing the little that I can possibly say today and finding words to express clearly to the House what is in my mind.
I often wonder if all the people in this country realise the inevitable changes that are coming over the industrial system in England. People are apt either to get their knowledge of the industrial system from textbooks, which must inevitably be half a generation behind, or from some circumstances familiar to them at a fixed and static point in their lives, whereas, as a matter of fact, ever since the industrial system began in this country, it has been not only in a state of evolution, but in a state of evolution which, I think, historians in the centuries to come, when they write its history, will acknowledge to be an evolution that has developed at a far more rapid rate than was visible to the people who lived in these times.
I hope the House will bear with me, and forgive me, if I draw for a few minutes on my own experience, because it so happens that, owing to the peculiar circumstances of my own life, I have seen a great deal of this evolution taking place before my own eyes. I worked for many years in an industrial business, and had under me a large number, or what was then a large number, of men. And it so happened, owing to the circumstances of this being an old family business, with an old and, I venture to say, a very good tradition, that when I was first in business, I was probably working under a system that was already passing. I doubt if its like could have been found in any of the big modern industrial towns of this country, even at that time. It was a place where I knew, and had known from childhood, every man on the ground, a place where I was able to talk with the men not only about the troubles in the works, but troubles at home where strikes and lock-outs were unknown. It was a place where the fathers and grandfathers of the men then working there had worked, and where their sons went automatically into the business. It was also a place where nobody ever "got the sack," and where we had a natural sympathy for those who were less concerned in efficiency than is this generation, and where a number of old gentlemen used to spend their days sitting on the handle of a wheelbarrow, smoking their pipes. Oddly enough, it was not an inefficient community. It was the last survivor of that type of works, and ultimately became swallowed up in one of those great combinations towards which the industries of to-day are tending.
I remember very well the impact of the outside world that came on us which showed how industry was changing in this country. Nothing had interrupted the even tenor of our ways for many years, until one day there came a great strike in the coalfields. It was one of the earlier strikes, and it became a national strike. We tried to carry on as long as we could, but of course it became more and more difficult to carry on, and gradually furnace after furnace was damped down; the chimneys erased to smoke, and about 1,000 men who had no interest in the dispute that was going on were thrown out of work through no fault of their own, at a time when there was no unemployment benefit. I confess that that event set me thinking very hard. It seemed to me at that time a monstrous injustice to these men, because I looked upon them as my own family, and it hit me very hard � I would not have mentioned this only it got into the press two or three years ago � and I made an allowance to them, not a large one, but something, for six weeks to carry them along, because I felt that they were being so unfairly treated.
But there was more in it really than that. There was no conscious unfair treatment, of these men by the miners. It simply was that we were gradually passing into a new state of industry, when the small firms and the small industries were being squeezed out. Business was all tending towards great amalgamations on the one side of employers and on the other side of the men, and when we came in any form between these two forces, God help those who stood outside! That has been the tendency of industry. There is nothing that could change it, because it comes largely, if not principally, from that driving force of necessity in the world which makes people combine together for competition, and for the protection they need against that competition.
Those two forces with which we have to reckon are enormously strong, and they are the two forces in this country to which now, to a great extent, and it will be a greater extent in the future, we are committed. We have to see what wise statesmanship can do to steer the country through this time of evolution, until we can get to the next stage of our industrial civilisation. It is obvious from what I have said that the organisations of both masters and men - or, if you like the more modern phrase invented by economists, who always invent beastly words, employers and employees, these organisations throw an immense responsibility on the representatives themselves and on those who elect them. And, although big men have been thrown up on both sides, there are a great many on both sides who have not got the requisite qualities of head and heart. for business. There are many men with good heads and no hearts, and many men with good hearts and no heads.
What the country wants to-day from the men who sit on this side of the House and on that is to exercise the same care as the men who have to conduct those great organisations from inside. I should like to try to clear our minds of cant on this subject, and recognise that the growth of these associations is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but that, whatever associations may call themselves, it is the same human nature in both, and exactly the same problems have to be met, although we hear a good deal more of some of those problems than of others. Now, if you look at an employers' organisation for a moment - and we will assume that it has come into being to protect the industry in the world market - we cannot lose sight of the fact that in that organisation, just as much as in the men's organisation, the mere fact of organising involves a certain amount of sacrifice of personal liberty. That cannot be helped. Everybody knows that perfectly well, both employers and employees.
To a certain extent both these organisations must on one side be uneconomic. A trade union is uneconomic in one sense of the word when it restricts output, and when it levels down the work to a lower level. It is an association for the protection of the weaker men, which has often proved uneconomic. Exactly the same thing happens in the employers' organisation. Primarily, it is protective, hut in effect it is very often uneconomic, because it keeps in existence. works which, if left to the process of competition, would be squeezed out, and whose prolonged existence is really only a weakness to the country. It has also another very curious effect, not at all dissimilar front that of the trade union reaction, which shows that both those organisations are instinct with English 838 traditions. The workmen's organisation is formed to see that under the conditions a workman cannot get his living in a particular trade unless he belong to that union. An employers' organisation is formed in that particular trade for the protection of the trade, and it has the result of effectively preventing any new man starting in that trade.
In this great problem which is facing the country in years to come, it may be from one side or the other that disaster may come, but surely it shows that the only progress that can be obtained in this country is by those two bodies of men - so similar in their strength and so similar in their weaknesses - learning to understand each other, and not to fight each other. It is perfectly true - every point raised by my hon. and learned Friends is true - that trade unionism has its weak spots. We are primarily discussing trade unions, and that is why I shall content myself to speak about trade unions only. It is perfectly true that my hon. and learned Friends have laid their finger on three points which trade unionists themselves know arc their weak spots. That can be seen by the interruptions that came from the Labour benches. Those three points are, the question whether in all cases the subject of the levy is treated fairly, the question of the ballot, and the question of book-keeping. To my mind, it is impossible to dissociate one of these questions from the other, and they really all hang together. The whole tradition of our country has been to let Englishmen develop their own associations in their own way, and with that I agree. But there are limits to that.
I spoke some time ago - and I spoke with a purpose - about the recognition of the change in the industrial situation in. those works with which I was connected, when for the first time what was done in the way of organising the coal strike suddenly came and hit thousands of men who had nothing to do with it, and had no direct interest in it. As these associations come along and become more powerful, on whichever side they are, there may come a time when not only they may injure their own members - about which probably there would be a good deal of argument - but when they may directly injure the State. It is at that moment any Government should say that, whatever freedom and latitude 839 in that field may be left to any kind of association in this free country, nothing shall be done which shall injure the State, which is the concern of all of us and far greater than all of us or of our interests.
I have not very much more to say. I have just tried to put, as clearly as I can in a few words, my conviction that we are moving forward rapidly from an old state of industry into a newer, and the question is: What is that newer going to be? No man, of course, can say what form evolution is taking. Of this, however, I am quite sure, that whatever form we may see, possibly within this generation, or, at any rate, in the time of the next generation, it has got to be a form of pretty close partnership, however that is going to be arrived at. And it will not be a partnership the terms of which will be laid down, at any rate not yet, in Acts. of Parliament, or from this party or that. It has got to be a partnership of men who understand their own work, and it is little help that they can get really either from politicians or from intellectuals. There are few men fitted to judge, to settle and to arrange the problem that distracts the country to-day between employers and employed. There are few men qualified to intervene who have not themselves been right through the mill. 1 always want to see, at the head of these organisations on both sides, men who have been right through the mill, who themselves know exactly the points where the shoe pinches, who know exactly what can be conceded and what cannot, who can make their reasons plain; and I hope that we shall always find such men trying to steer their respective ships side by side, instead of making for head-on collisions.
Having said what I have said about that, what am I to say about the attitude of the party of which I have the honour to be the head? I do not know whether the House will forgive me if I speak for a minute or two on a rather personal note. For two years past in the face of great difficulties, perhaps greater than many were aware of, I have striven to consolidate, and to breathe a living force into, my great party. Friends of mine who have done me the honour to read my speeches during that time have seen pretty clearly, however ill they may have been expressed, the ideals at which I have been aiming. I spoke on that subject again last night at Birmingham, and I shall continue to speak on it as long as I am where I am. We find ourselves, after these two years in power, in possession of perhaps the greatest majority our party has ever had, and with the general assent of the country. Now how did we get there? It was not by promising to bring this Bill in; it was because, rightly or wrongly, we succeeding in creating an impression throughout the country that we stood for stable Government and for peace in the country between all classes of the community.
Those were the principles for which we fought; those were the principles on which we won; and our victory was not won entirely by the votes of our own party, splendidly as they fought. I should think that the number of Liberals who voted for us at the last Election ran into six figures, and I should think that we probably polled more Labour votes than were polled on the other side. That being so, what should our course be at the beginning of a new Parliament? I have not myself the slightest doubt. Last year the Leader of the Labour party, when he was Prime Minister, suspended what had been settled by the previous Government, and that was further progress for the time being on the scheme of Singapore. He did it on the ground that it was a gesture for peace, and he hoped that it would be taken as such by all the countries in the world. He hoped that a gesture of that kind might play its part in leading to what we all wish to see, that is, a reduction in the world's armaments.
I want my party to-day to make a gesture to the country of a similar nature, and to say to them: "We have our majority; we believe in the justice of this Bill which has been brought in to-day, but we are going to withdraw our hand, and we are not going to push our political advantage home at a moment like this. Suspicion which has prevented stability in Europe is the one poison that is preventing stability at home, and we offer the country to-day this: We, at any rate, are not going to fire the first shot. We stand for peace. We stand for the removal of suspicion in the country. We want to create an atmosphere, a new atmosphere in a new Parliament for a new age, in which the people can come together. We abandon what we have laid our hands to. We know we may be called cowards for doing it. We know we may be told that we have gone back on our principles. But we believe we know what at this moment the country wants, and we believe it is for us in our strength do what no other party can do at this moment, and to say that we at any rate stand for peace.
I know - I am as confident as I can he of anything - that that. will he the feeling of all those who sit behind me, and that they will accept the Amendment which I have put down in the spirit in which I have moved it. And I have equal confidence in my fellow countrymen throughout the whole of Great Britain. Although I know that there are those who work for different ends from most of us in this House, yet there are many in all ranks and all parties who will re-echo my prayer: Give peace in our time, O Lord.
I put before the whole House my own views with an appalling frankness. From 1933, I and my friends were all very worried about what was happening in Europe. You will remember at that time the Disarmament Conference was sitting in Geneva. You will remember at that time there was probably a stronger pacifist feeling running through this country than at any time since the War. I am speaking of 1933 and 1934... My position as the leader of a great party was not altogether a comfortable one. I asked myself what chance was there...within the next year or two of that feeling being so changed that the country would give a mandate for rearmament? Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was rearming and that we must rearm, does anybody think that this pacific democracy would have rallied to that cry at that moment? I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain. I think the country itself learned by certain events that took place during the winter of 1934–35 what the perils might be to it. All I did was to take a moment perhaps less unfortunate than another might have been, and we won the election with a large majority...[In 1935] we got from the country - with a large majority - a mandate for doing a thing that no one, 12 months before, would have believed possible.
The king decided for Baldwin, and everything suggests that he was influenced above all else by the fact that Curzon was a peer. His strong inclination to keep the premiership in the Commons was heavily reinforced by the advice of Balfour whom he consulted as an ex-Tory Prime Minister and the leading elder statesman of the party... We know that he privately had long regarded Curzon with a mixture of dislike and contempt. He was, however, careful to say nothing personally detrimental. He merely pointed out that a Cabinet already over-weighted with peers would be open to even greater criticism if one of them actually became Prime Minister; that, since the Parliament Act of 1911, the political centre of gravity had moved more definitely than ever to the Lower House; and finally that the official Opposition, the Labour party, was not represented at all in the House of Lords.
The Battle for the Throne has begun. On Wednesday evening (I know all that follows to be true, though not six people in the Kingdom are so informed), Mr Baldwin spent one hour and forty minutes at Buckingham Palace with the King and gave him his ultimatum that the Government would resign, and that the press could no longer be restrained from attacking the King, if he did not abandon all idea of marrying Mrs Simpson. Mr Baldwin had hoped, and thought to frighten the Monarch, but found him obstinate, in love and rather more than a little mad; he refused point blank, and asked for time to consult his friends. 'Who are they?' Mr Baldwin demanded. The audience was not acrimonious, but polite, sad and even affectionate, I am told.
We the members of the British working class in the British Battalion of the International Brigade now fighting in Spain in defence of democracy, protest against statements appearing in certain British papers to the effect that there is little or no interference in the civil war in Spain by foreign Fascist Powers.
We have seen with our own eyes frightful slaughter of men, women, and children in Spain. We have witnessed the destruction of many of its towns and villages. We have seen whole areas which have been devastated. And we know beyond a shadow of doubt that these frightful deeds have been done mainly by German and Italian nationals, using German and Italian aeroplanes, tanks, bombs, shells, and guns.
We ourselves have been in action repeatedly against thousands of German and Italian troops, and have lost many splendid and heroic comrades in these battles.
We protest against this disgraceful and unjustifiable invasion of Spain by Fascist Germany and Italy; an invasion in our opinion only made possible by the pro-Franco policy of the Baldwin Government in Britain. We believe that all lovers of freedom and democracy in Britain should now unite in a sustained effort to put an end to this invasion of Spain and to force the Baldwin Government to give to the people of Spain and their legal Government the right to buy arms in Britain to defend their freedom and democracy against Fascist barbarianism. We therefore call upon the General Council of the T.U.C. and the National Executive Committee of the Labour party to organise a great united campaign in Britain for the achievement of the above objects.
We denounce the attempts being made in Britain by the Fascist elements to make people believe that we British and other volunteers fighting on behalf of Spanish democracy are no different from the scores of thousands of conscript troops sent into Spain by Hitler and Mussolini. There can be no comparison between free volunteers and these conscript armies of Germany and Italy in Spain.
Finally, we desire it to be known in Britain that we came here of our own free will after full consideration of all that this step involved. We came to Spain not for money, but solely to assist the heroic Spanish people to defend their country's freedom and democracy. We were not gulled into coming to Spain by promises of big money. We never even asked for money when we volunteered. We are perfectly satisfied with our treatment by the Spanish Government; and we still are proud to be fighting for the cause of freedom in Spain. Any statements to the contrary are foul lies.
Stanley Baldwin desired only not to be troubled with foreign affairs at all. He left his successive Foreign Secretaries completely free. (There was, I recall, though I do not mention it tonight, the famous case of Hoare proceeding to Paris to negotiate the Hoare-Laval Pact, and Baldwin, asked in Cabinet by some of the younger Tories whether all was well, and whether there should not be some discussion now before irrevocable decisions were taken, said, 'I think we all have confidence in Sam; we can safely leave it in his hands.'
Halifax relates that Baldwin, in the year of the Abdication, took three months' holiday (repeat three months), at the end of which he asked Eden, then Foreign Secretary, "Have you had many telegrams about the King?" Eden said no. Then Baldwin said, "I have had a great many, some from the most extraordinary people. I foresee that I shall have a lot of trouble over this. I hope that you will not bother me with foreign affairs during the next three months." Yet these were mois mouvementes in foreign affairs. Hitler was arming, arming, arming, day by day. But Baldwin was focused on the tactics of the Abdication.
The death of Lord Baldwin is announced. He died in his sleep at his Worcestershire home. He was a grand old man, humane, and remarkably tolerant of human weakness ... He looked like a stalwart old oak, seemed unapproachable and seldom talked to anybody in the House of Commons. He had an odd habit of tearing up his Order Papers, and of grunting. Lazy and ill informed about anything outside England, he was in a way typical of his age, and accurately reflected the English people. Smuts once told me-one night he was dining at Belgrave Square - that probably the world had rated Baldwin too high when he was at the zenith of his power, and certainly in more recent years had rated him too low. History, he said, would surely restore the balance. Later, in the House, many tributes were paid to Lord Baldwin - the most impressive, because it was so unexpected, came from the comic Communist Gallacher; an emotional hush fell on the Chamber as he sat down, and the House adjourned as a mark of respect to the dead Prime Minister.