5th June 1929

Ramsay MacDonald is elected prime minister

Born in Lossiemouth in October 1866, James Ramsay MacDonald was British prime minister twice. The first of his two terms lasted just over nine months in 1924, and was bookended by the administrations of Stanley Baldwin. However, his most significant prime ministership was that which began on 5 June 1929 and lasted almost exactly six years, until 7 June 1935.

As the leader of the Labour Party, he never achieved an overall majority.

Ground-breaking coalition

In the general election of December 1923, the ruling Conservative Party, while still being the largest party in the House of Commons, lost its overall majority, resulting in a hung Parliament. This left the incumbent prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, with too few MPs to guarantee that his programme for the coming parliament – the King’s Speech – would be voted through. In the event, it was rejected, enabling the Labour Party, under MacDonald, to form its first ever government with the support of the Liberal Party, on 22 January the following year.

The coalition government didn’t last long. During the summer of 1924, Workers Weekly newspaper urged members of the British armed services to turn their weapons against the country’s ruling class. This was declared an incitement to mutiny and its acting editor, Paisley-born John Ross Campbell, was so charged. The charges were soon dropped, which caused the Liberals, which had been supporting MacDonald’s minority Labour government, to line up alongside the Conservatives. This led to the fall of the government, and another election, which saw the Conservatives, under Stanley Baldwin return to power.

Return to Downing Street

But MacDonald would be back in 10 Downing Street five years later, once again heading a minority government supported by the Liberals. This put MacDonald in the driving seat when the American stock market crashed in 1929, causing worldwide economic turmoil. Unemployment soared and members of MacDonald’s own government tendered their resignations when they found they couldn’t agree with his proposals for dealing with the fallout from the crash.

In the face of such opposition, MacDonald did the same but, rather than accept it, the king, George V, suggested he form a national government with the Conservative Party and his existing coalition partners, the Liberals. This, he did, and the three parties stood for election as a National Government in a general election in October 1931.

Policy of appeasement

Inevitably, this delivered a landslide result, with the National Government group securing 554 of the 615 seats in the House of Commons. Although the part of the National Government made up of MacDonald’s own party was far from the majority (the Conservatives had won over 470 constituencies), MacDonald remained prime minister.

The next four years were a strain. Germany was rearming under Hitler, and MacDonald pursued a policy of appeasement. His health and memory both started to deteriorate and, in 1935, he resigned. Once again, it was Stanley Baldwin that took the reins. MacDonald lost his seat in that November’s general election. He was re-elected the following year but died in November 1937 while taking a cruise.



Other events that occured in June

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