The story

1923 General Election

Andrew Bonar Law, the leader of the Conservative Party, replaced David Lloyd George as prime minister. His 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. (1)

Bonar Law also had the problem of Britain's war debt to the United States. In January 1923 Bonar Law's chancellor, Stanley 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. (2)

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?" (3)

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. (4)

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." (5)

Arthur Balfour, the prime minister between July, 1902 and December, 1905, was also consulted and he suggested the king could chose Baldwin. (6) "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." (7)

Andrew Bonar Law was the shortest-serving prime minister of the 20th century. He is also the only British prime minister to be born outside the British Isles. Bonar Law died aged 65, on 30th October, 1923. His estate was probated at £35,736 (approximately £1,900,000 as of 2017). (8)

Stanley 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. (9)

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." (10)

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." (11)

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. (12)

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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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.

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.

After a year of barren effort, the Conservative Government has admitted its inability to cope with the problem of Unemployment, and is seeking to cover up its failure by putting the nation to the trouble and expense of an election on the Tariff issue.


The Labour Party challenges the Tariff policy and the whole conception of economic relations underlying it. These inequalities the Labour Party means to remove.


Unemployment is a recurrent feature of the existing economic system, common to every industrialised country, irrespective of whether it has Protection or Free Trade. The Labour Party alone has a positive remedy for it. We denounce as wholly inadequate and belated the programme of winter work produced by the Government, which offers the prospect of employment for only a fraction of the unemployed in a few industries; and in particular provides no relief for women and young persons.


The Labour Party has urged the immediate adoption of national schemes of productive work, with adequate maintenance for those who cannot obtain employment to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. The flow of young workers from the schools must be regulated to relieve the pressure on the labour market, and full educational training, with maintenance, must be provided for the young people who are now exposed to the perils and temptations of the streets.

The Labour Programme of National Work includes the establishment of a National System of Electrical Power Supply, the development of Transport by road, rail and canal, and the improvement of national resources by Land Drainage, Reclamation, Afforestation, Town Planning, and Housing Schemes. These not only provide a remedy for the present distress, but are also investments for the future.


Agriculture, as the largest and most essential of the nation's industries, calls for special measures to restore its prosperity and to give the land workers a living wage. The Labour Policy is one that will develop Agriculture and raise the standard of rural life by establishing machinery for regulating wages with an assured minimum, providing Credit and State insurance facilities for Farmers and Smallholders, promoting and assisting Co-operative Methods in Production and Distribution, so as to help stabilise prices, and make the fullest use of the results of research.


The Labour Party proposes to restore to the people their lost rights in the Land, including Minerals, and to that end will work for re-equipping the Land Valuation Department, securing to the community the economic rent of land, and facilitating the acquisition of land for public use.


Labour's vision of an ordered world embraces the nations now torn with enmity and strife. It stands, therefore, for a policy of International Co-operation through a strengthened and enlarged League of Nations; the settlement of disputes by conciliation and judicial arbitration; the immediate calling by the British Government of an International Conference (including Germany on terms of equality) to deal with the Revision of the Versailles Treaty, especially Reparations and Debts; and the resumption of free economic and diplomatic relations with Russia. This will pave the way for Disarmament, the only security for the nations.


Labour condemns the failure of the Government to take steps to reduce the deadweight War Debt. No effective reform of the National Finances can be attempted until the steady drain of a million pounds a day in interest is stopped. Treasury experts, in evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Commons, expressed their view that a Tax on War Fortunes could be levied, and have therefore admitted both the principle and its practicability. A Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, in consultation with Treasury experts, would at once work out a scheme to impose a non-recurring, graduated War Debt Redemption Levy on all individual fortunes in excess of £5,000, to be devoted solely to the reduction of the Debt.

The saving thus effected, with reduction of expenditure on armaments, other sane economies, and the increased revenue derived from Taxation of Land Values, would make it possible to reduce the burden of Income Tax, abolish not only the Food Duties, but also the Entertainments Tax and the Corporation Profits Tax, as well as provide money for necessary Social Services.


The Labour Party is working for the creation of a Commonwealth of Co-operative Service. It believes that so far only a beginning has been made in the scientific organisation of industry. It will apply in a practical spirit the principle of Public Ownership and Control to the Mines, the Railway Service and the Electrical Power Stations, and the development of Municipal Services. It will make work safe for the worker by stricter Inspection of Workplaces, and more effective measures against Accidents and Industrial Diseases. It will provide fuller Compensation for the Workers and improve the Standard of Hours.


Labour Policy is directed to the creation of a humane and civilised society. When Labour rules it will take care that little children shall not needlessly die; it will give to every child equality of opportunity in Education; it will make generous provision for the aged people, the widowed mothers, the sick and disabled citizens.

It will abolish the slums, promptly build an adequate supply of decent homes and resist decontrol till the shortage is satisfied. It will place the Drink Traffic under popular control.


In accordance with its past actions inside and outside Parliament, the Labour Party will do its utmost to see that the Ex-Service men and their dependants have fair play.


Labour stands for equality between men and women: equal political and legal rights, equal rights and privileges in parenthood, equal pay for equal work.


The Labour Party submits to the men and women of the country its full programme. It urges them to refuse to make this General Election a wretched partisan squabble about mean and huckstering policies. It appeals to all citizens to take a generous and courageous stand for right and justice, to believe in the possibility of building up a sane and ordered wants, to oppose the squalid materialism that dominates the world to-day, and to hold out their hands in friendship and good-will to the struggling people everywhere who want only freedom, security and a happier life.

The Outbreak of the General Strike (Answer Commentary)

The 1926 General Strike and the Defeat of the Miners (Answer Commentary)

The Coal Industry: 1600-1925 (Answer Commentary)

Women in the Coalmines (Answer Commentary)

Child Labour in the Collieries (Answer Commentary)

Child Labour Simulation (Teacher Notes)

1832 Reform Act and the House of Lords (Answer Commentary)

The Chartists (Answer Commentary)

Women and the Chartist Movement (Answer Commentary)

Benjamin Disraeli and the 1867 Reform Act (Answer Commentary)

William Gladstone and the 1884 Reform Act (Answer Commentary)

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Answer Commentary)

Robert Owen and New Lanark (Answer Commentary)

James Watt and Steam Power (Answer Commentary)

Road Transport and the Industrial Revolution (Answer Commentary)

Canal Mania (Answer Commentary)

Early Development of the Railways (Answer Commentary)

The Domestic System (Answer Commentary)

The Luddites: 1775-1825 (Answer Commentary)

The Plight of the Handloom Weavers (Answer Commentary)

Health Problems in Industrial Towns (Answer Commentary)

Public Health Reform in the 19th century (Answer Commentary)

Classroom Activities by Subject

(1) Conan Fischer, The Ruhr Crisis, 1923–1924 (2003) pages 28-31

(2) Ewen Green, Andrew Bonar Law : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(3) Robert Blake, The Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill (1970) page 207

(4) Robert Blake, The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law (1955) page 516

(5) John C. Davidson, Conservative Party member of the House of Commons, memorandum sent to Arthur Bigge, 1st Baron Stamfordham, private secretary of King George V (22nd May, 1923)

(6) John C. Davidson, Memoirs of a Conservative (1969) page 157

(7) Robert Blake, The Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill (1970) page 213

(8) Ewen Green, Andrew Bonar Law : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(9) Stanley Ball, Stanley Baldwin : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(10) Conservative Party Manifesto (November, 1923)

(11) Labour Party Manifesto (November, 1923)

(12) Robert Shepherd, Westminster: A Biography: From Earliest Times to the Present Day (2012) page 313

Stanley Baldwin's Successful Political Gamble: A TL from 1923

In Ireland, Sean MacBride founded Clann na Poblachta (Family/Children of the Republic) in July 1946. (1) It attracted support from Fianna Fail and the left wing of the Labour Party, dissatisfied with the coalition with Fine Gael.

A general election was held in Ireland on Wednesday 2 June 1948. The number of TDs elected for each party and independents were as follows (1943 general election):
Fianna Fail: 59 (51)
Labour: 35 (56)
Fine Gael: 31 (49)
Clann na Poblachta: 23 (n/a)
Clann na Talmhan: 14 (18)
Independents: 8 (5)
Total: 170 (170)
(1) For Clann na Poblachta see


Theoretically there were four combinations of parties which would have a majority of seats in the Dail, that is 86 out of the 170 seats. These were Fianna Fail/Fine Gael, Fianna Fail/Labour, Fianna Fail/Clann na Poblachta/Clann na Talmhan, Labour/Fine Gael/Clann na Poblachta. The first combination was not politically possible. So that left one of the other three combinations. But Fianna Fail had traditionally refused to go into coalition with another party. Instead from 1930 to 1939 they were a minority government with confidence and supply from Labour. But that party wanted to be the lead party in a coalition.

When the Dail met on 20 June 1948, Eamon de Valera and William Norton were both nominated as Taiseaoch. The nomination of De Valera was defeated, and that of Norton was passed. So he continued in office as Taiseaoch at the head of a Labour/Fine Gael/Clann na Poblachta government, with William Cosgrave as Tanaiste and Sean MacBride as Minister of External Affairs. The coalition had 89 out 170 seats in the Dail, a majority of 8.

In September 1948, Eire (the official name of Ireland) left the British Commonwealth and became a republic. Its official name was now the Irish Republic.



In this TL Evan Durbin did not drown on 3 September 1948 while rescuing his daughter and another child in dangerous surf at Crockington Haven, near Bude, Cornwall. He and his family went on holiday to Cornwall, but a few days later than in OTL. His daughter and the other child went swimming at Cockington Haven, but they were not caught up in dangerous surf. He was President of the Board of Trade in 1948.

1948 was a presidential election year in the United States. The Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in June, chose Thomas Dewey, Governor of New York, as candidate for president, and Earl Warren, Governor of California, as vice presidential candidate.

The Democratic National Convention convened in Philadelphia on 12 July. The issue of civil rights was the subject of contest between liberals and Southern conservatives. A plank in the party platform which supported the status quo of states rights was rejected by delegates. A strong civil rights plank was then passed. This led to about three dozen Southern delegates, led by Strom Thurmond, Governor of South Carolina, walking out of the convention. The Southern delegates who stayed nominated Richard Russell Jr. Senator from Georgia as the Democratic candidate for president. However a large majority voted for President Scott Lucas as their party's nominee for president. Vice president Alben Barkley was nominated by acclamation as candidate for vice president. (1)

Voting day was 2 November. The electoral votes won by each ticket were as follows:
Thomas Dewey/Earl Warren (Republican): 316
Scott Lucas/Alben Barkley (Democrat): 176
Strom Thurmond/Fielding Wright (States' Rights Democrat or Dixiecrat): 39
Total: 531
So Thomas Dewey and Earl Warren were elected president and vice president of the United States of America, after 16 years of Democrat rule.

The following states were won by Dewey/Warren: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware. Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Total: 26.

These states voted for Lucas/Barkley: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee (except one faithless elector), Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia. Total: 18.

The following four states voted for Thurmond/Wright:
Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and one faithless elector from Tennessee.

The Unexpected Death of President Harding

Born on a farm in Ohio, Warren G. Harding purchased a struggling local newspaper soon after graduating from college and turned it around financially. He then steadily moved up the political ranks, serving as an Ohio state senator for four years, as lieutenant governor for two years and as a U.S. senator for six years. 

Only a failed campaign for governor in 1910 marred his resume. As luck would have it, the delegates to the 1920 Republican National Convention deadlocked during the presidential nominee balloting and therefore turned to Harding as a compromise candidate. Promising a “return to normalcy,” he went on to win the general election against Democratic opponent James M. Cox in a landslide, garnering about 60 percent of the popular vote and 404 of 531 electoral votes.

As president, Harding signed bills that reduced taxes for both individuals and corporations, set high protective tariffs, created a federal budget system and limited immigration, particularly from southern and eastern Europe. He also hosted a disarmament conference, at which the world’s largest naval powers agreed to reduce their arsenal of warships. 

It is for wrongdoing, however, that Harding’s administration is best remembered. During his time in office, several prominent officials took bribes, including his interior secretary, who granted favorable leases to oil companies in what became known as the Teapot Dome scandal, and his Veterans Bureau director, who, among other things, sold government hospital supplies at artificially low prices. 

“I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends … they’re the ones that keep me walking the floor nights,” Harding reportedly complained to a journalist. Harding himself was never personally implicated in these affairs, but he faced his own allegations of drinking alcohol in the White House during Prohibition and of extramarital affairs. A woman 31 years younger even claimed to be the mother of his only biological child.

President Calvin Coolidge (seated third from left) alongside other members of Warren Harding&aposs Cabinet shortly after his death in 1923.

Library of Congress/VCG/Getty Images

In early 1923, just before the first whiff of scandal began hovering, Harding came down with the flu. He also apparently had trouble sleeping. Nonetheless, he decided to go ahead with his so-called Voyage of Understanding, aimed, perhaps with a second term in mind, at explaining his policies and getting a feel for the pulse of the nation. 

On June 20, Harding’s 10-car presidential train left Washington, D.C., for St. Louis, where he gave one of the first presidential speeches to be broadcast live by radio. In it, he toed the line between isolationism and internationalism, advocating for U.S. membership in the Permanent Court of International Justice but not the League of Nations. 

The train then continued on to such cities as Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Helena and Spokane. Besides giving speeches and meeting with official delegations, Harding engaged in photo ops, including driving a wheat binder, visiting a mine, touring veterans’ hospitals and participating in an Oregon Trail dedication. 

The president also took time out to explore Yellowstone and Zion national parks. At the later, he took a horseback ride, only to aggravate his hemorrhoids and become sunburned. “Warren, you look just like a great big Indian,” his wife, Florence, unceremoniously scolded upon his return.

Some observers along the route later claimed that Harding looked tired, and a journalist described him as having swollen lips and puffed eyes. But his personal physician, Dr. Charles E. Sawyer, a close friend of the Hardings who practiced homeopathy, remarked that the president was �ling fit and in splendid physical trim.” On July 4, Harding boarded the USS Henderson for the four-day voyage to Alaska, accompanied by his wife, his staff, reporters, three cabinet members, 460 sailors, 21 officers, 72 Marine guards and a Navy band. 

According to Commerce Secretary and future President Herbert Hoover, Harding insisted on playing the card game bridge all day and night. “There were only four other bridge players in the party, and we soon set up shifts so that one at a time had some relief,” Hoover later wrote. 𠇏or some reason I developed a distaste for bridge on this journey and never played it again.” Harding also apparently asked Hoover, “If you knew of a great scandal in our administration, would you for the good of the country and the party expose it publicly or would you bury it?”

While in Alaska, Harding toured a number of coastal towns and traveled by train as far north as Fairbanks. He then sailed back down to Vancouver, Canada, where he gave a speech to some 40,000 people at Stanley Park. He also tried to play a round of golf but only had the strength for a few holes. 

The next day, July 27, the Henderson collided with another ship in a heavy fog. More ominous signs came later that day, when, as he delivered a speech to over 60,000 people at the University of Washington, Harding referred to Alaska as “Nebraska,” dropped his manuscript and grasped the podium to keep his balance. Following an appearance at the Seattle Press Club, he went to bed early complaining of upper abdominal pain.

Dr. Sawyer attributed the illness to bad seafood and began administrating laxatives. But another White House physician, Dr. Joel T. Boone, believed that Harding had an enlarged heart. As a result, Boone helped arrange to have Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, the president of both Stanford University and the American Medical Association, and Dr. Charles Cooper, a leading cardiologist, meet them in San Francisco. When the train arrived there on July 29, Harding declined the offer of a wheelchair and walked to a waiting limo, which whisked him to the Palace Hotel in the city’s Financial District. 

President Harding along with his wife, Brig. General Sawyer and Secretary Christian, leaving a train on their way to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the president died the next day.

Underwood Archives/Getty Images

The next day he had a fever of 102 and was diagnosed with pneumonia, prompting the remainder of his California appearances to be canceled. This was followed, however, by a slight recovery. On August 1, his temperature was back to normal, his lungs were clearing up and he was capable of sitting up in bed, reading and eating solid food.

Let’s Talk About: Legitimacy (of the parliamentary kind)

The Tories and their allies in the press seem to believe that the party with the most seats in the event of a hung parliament should have the automatic right to form a government. They also claim that should Labour get fewer seats than the Tories and if they form a minority government with the support of smaller parties, then this government would be illegitimate. This has been comprehensively debunked time and time again. Yet the Tories and Nick Clegg continue to lie about this, relying on widespread ignorance of how parliament and governments function.

There is a historical precedent that has never once been mentioned during this election campaign by those commentators whose job it is to ‘explain’ the political system to the voters. The General Election of 6 December 1923, which Stanley Baldwin had called over tariff reform (which meant very little to many working class voters), produced a situation similar to the one commentators claim will happen this Friday. Baldwin hoped that he could cement his authority after succeeding Andrew Bonar Law as party leader and Prime Minister, and he was eager to make his mark.

But Baldwin’s plan to increase his party’s already large majority backfired. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Party came second with 191 seats. Herbert Asquith’s Liberals came third with 158 seats (the Liberals were split). Baldwin’s Tories came first with 251 seats . When added together, the combined anti-Tory seats outweighed the Conservatives’ numbers. However, things were not straightforward: Baldwin claimed legitimacy and appeared before the Commons, but was defeated on 21 January by a no confidence motion tabled by former Labour leader, J.R. Clynes. George V had no choice but to appoint MacDonald as Prime Minister. Labour then formed a minority government with the support of the Liberals on 22 January, 1924. There was no question of Labour’s legitimacy to form a government on that occasion, because everyone knew how the game was played. Today, the Tories and their media chums continue claim that should Labour come second, they will lack legitimacy. The front page of today’s edition of the Murdoch-owned Times has printed a variation on the lie.

However, the role of the Liberals in 1924 should not be read as the facilitation of a Labour government but as part of a plan to secure more power for themselves, should the government fall. Indeed, the Daily Mail begged Asquith to form a coalition with the Tories to keep Labour out. Asquith hoped that the voters would see Labour as incompetent. What the voters actually saw were squabbling, power hungry politicians knifing each other in the back. Even so, MacDonald’s government was weak and unstable and suffered its first defeat in March. By October, it would be voted out of office thanks to the Zioniev Letter.

The Liberals paid for their treachery and they were reduced to 40 seats. Asquith lost his seat, was kicked upstairs and died four years later. Even though Baldwin secured a massive majority, he would again lose out to Labour in the so-called ‘Flapper Election’ of 1929, which resulted in another hung parliament. MacDonald relied on the support of Lloyd George’s 58 Liberal MPs. But this government wouldn’t last long and in 1931 another election was called. Again, this produced a hung parliament and the notorious National Government was eventually formed with Baldwin pulling the strings.

In February 1974, Edward Heath’s Tories came second and Labour came first. Heath remained in Downing Street as the caretaker Prime Minister and attempted to form a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals. But Thorpe rejected the Tories’ coalition proposals on the basis that Proportional Representation wasn’t offered as part of the deal. Harold Wilson was invited to form a minority government with the support of the smaller parties. Again, there was no question of legitimacy. This government lasted until October, when Wilson called another election and won a wafer-thin majority. By 1976, Wilson was gone and replaced by’ Sunny’ Jim Callaghan, whose majority began to evaporate due to by-election losses and defections. Callaghan was forced to enter into a pact with the Liberals (the Lib-Lab pact) in 1977. This lasted until the end of 1978 and the rest, as they say, is history.

What these elections reveal to us are the flaws inherent in the First Past The Post voting system. Whichever party forms the government after tomorrow’s election, we must take to the streets to demand electoral and constitutional reform. There must be no let up.

Stanley Baldwin's Successful Political Gamble: A TL from 1923

Arthur Henderson appointed Stafford Cripps as Solicitor-General. Cripps was 39 years old and reputed to be the richest barrister in Britain. He was the son of Charles Cripps, Lord Parmoor, the Lord President of the Council. He was not a member of the Labour Party or a member of parliament. So he joined the party and was nominated as Labour candidate for Leeds South-East in the by-election caused by the appointment of Sir Henry Slesser as Lord Chancellor. He was also given a knighthood as was customary for Law Officers. The result of the by-election on 26 September 1928 was as follows [October 1925 general election]:
Sir Stafford Cripps [Labour]: 48.4% [64.1%]
William Whiteley [Liberal]: 29.7% [35.9%]
John Spurr [Conservative]: 21.9% [n/a]
Labour majority: 18.7% [28.2%]
There was a swing of 4.75% from Labour to Liberal.

On the same day there was a by-election in Cheltenham caused by the death of James Agg-Gardner on 9 August. The result of that election was as follows:
Sir Walter Preston [Conservative]: 54.8% [50.6%]
Sir John Brunner [Liberal]: 36.8% [49.4%]
Labour candidate: 8.4% [n/a]
Conservative majority: 18.0% [1.2%]
The swing from Liberal to Conservative was 8.4%.

Preston had been MP for Stepney Mile End from 1918 to 1922, and Brunner represented Southport from 1923 to 1925.

In the two by-elections on 7 February 1929, the Conservatives held Battersea South with their majority over Labour increased from 1.2% to 14.6% while James Chuter Ede kept Bishop Auckland for Labour. But his majority over Liberal fell from 37.7% to 24.7%.

Stephen Ince, the Secretary of State for War and MP for Ince, died on 16 March 1929. Henderson appointed Josiah Wedgwood, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his place. He promoted Lord Arnold, the Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office to the Duchy of Lancaster, and appointed George Hall as Colonial Under-Secretary.



Labour won the Mansfield by-election on 25 April 1929 caused by the death of Frank Varley on 17 March. But their majority over Conservative was 14.7% in a four cornered contest with Liberal and Communist candidates, compared to 32.0% in the 1925 general election in a straight fight with the Tories. In the Aylesbury by-election on 30 May, caused by the death of Alan Hughes Burgoyne on 26 April, the Conservative majority over Liberal increased 1.8% to 12.5%. The Tories easily won the Thirsk and Malton by-election on 18 June 1929 caused by the death of Edmund Turton on 8 May 1929. Their majority over Liberal in a straight fight was 20.8%, up from 13.0% in the 1925 general election.

Unemployment in Britain still remained high. In June 1929 it was 1,070,000, the lowest for that year. Arthur Henderson had appointed the Lord Privy Seal, Thomas Johnston, to be responsible for government policy on reducing unemployment. In this TL the Wall Street Crash still happened on 24 and 29 October 1929 as in OTL.


The Prime Minister, Arthur Henderson, appointed the Indian Statutory Commission in January 1930 to investigate the working of the India Act 1919, and to consider the desirability of extending or restricting responsible government in India. Henderson named the Liberal Peer, Lord Islington [John Dickson-Poynder]. [1] Including Lord Islington the Commission had seven members. Two Conservative MPs and one Conservative Peer, three Labour MPs, one Liberal MP and one Liberal Peer.

[1] John Dickson-Poynder was born in 1866. He was Liberal MP for Chippenham from 1892 to 1910, when he was created Lord Islington, Governor of New Zealand from June 1910 to December 1912, Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies August 1914 to May 1915, Under-Secretary of State for India May 1915 to January 1919.


Great TL, but I have to ask about one thing: How would the Representation of The People Act affect by-elections, especially in STV constituencies? I ask because the logistics of, for instance a one seat election for the whole of Leicester would surely pose a slight challenge (i.e. be prohibitively expensive) to even the three major parties, let alone the minor parties that will surely come to exist over the next 100 years. Indeed, in NI the outgoing MLA has to make a list of potential successors and in Australia they just recount the ballots of the general election to simulate a hypothetical n+1th seat winner who will replace them. Also, it would seem like a bit of a scandal waiting to happen if one less-populated part of the country gets to express its opinion mid-term while the rest has to wait for up to five years.

On the topic of NI/ROI, how's that coming along (outside of fire, that is)?


Great TL, but I have to ask about one thing: How would the Representation of The People Act affect by-elections, especially in STV constituencies? I ask because the logistics of, for instance a one seat election for the whole of Leicester would surely pose a slight challenge (i.e. be prohibitively expensive) to even the three major parties, let alone the minor parties that will surely come to exist over the next 100 years. Indeed, in NI the outgoing MLA has to make a list of potential successors and in Australia they just recount the ballots of the general election to simulate a hypothetical n+1th seat winner who will replace them. Also, it would seem like a bit of a scandal waiting to happen if one less-populated part of the country gets to express its opinion mid-term while the rest has to wait for up to five years.

On the topic of NI/ROI, how's that coming along (outside of fire, that is)?

I'm glad you like this TL. In single member constituencies by-elections would be by the alternative vote, as for general elections. In STV constituencies by-elections would be also be by the alternative vote. I don't think they would be prohibitively expensive, at least for the three major parties, and they are not concerned about minor parties. In by-elections the parties can concentrate their resources on one election and be helped financially by other constituencies. Also I think by-elections are less expensive than general elections. In the Republic of Ireland by-elections to Dail Eireann are by STV.

I have not got anything in mind for Northern Ireland. The Government of Northern Ireland Act abolished the Northern Ireland parliament and executive and increased the number of Northern Ireland MPs at Westminster from 12 to 16. I will be posting updates on events in the Irish Free State.



In this TL the Irish general election in September 1927 did not take place because there is not a vote of no confidence in the Cumann na nGaedhael government. The next general election was in 1931 or 1932.

In the UK, the result of the Kilmarnock by-election on 27 November 1929, caused by the death of Robert Climie [Labour] on 3 October 1928, was as follows [October 1925 general election]:
Craigie Aitchison [Labour]: 38.9% [48.7%]
Conservative candidate: 32.7% [24.2%]
Liberal candidate: 23.9% [27.1%]
Labour majority: 6.2% [21.6%]
The swing from Labour to Conservative was 9.15%. In OTL Aitchison was elected in the Kilmarnock by-election. [1]

Barnet Kenyon the Liberal MP for Chesterfield died on 2 February 1930. The result of the subsequent by-election on 27 March 1930 was as follows:
George Benson [Labour]: 39,2% [31.4%]
Roger Conant [Conservative]: 34.5% [22.7%]
George Elliott Dodds [Liberal]: 26.3% [45.9%]
Labour majority: 4.7% [Liberal majority: 14.5%]
Labour gain from Liberal. In OTL Benson was elected in the general election of 1929. [2]



Unemployment was a major issue in the general election. By April 1930 it was 1,732,000. In the last week of April the political parties published their manifestos in which they put forward proposals for reducing unemployment. The Conservative policy was tariffs to safeguard industry and imperial preference whereby there would be a tariff wall around the British Empire. The Tories promised that they would impose tariffs on food.

The Labour manifesto defended the government's record and promised a programme of public works to reduce unemployment. The Liberal manifesto advocated public works financed by government. John Maynard Keynes was an adviser to the Liberal Party and his ideas were in their manifesto.

Sir Oswald Mosley was a Labour candidate in the new four seat Birmingham Central constituency. On 28 April he published his manifesto. This proposed high tariffs to protect British industry, nationalisation of key industries and public works. [1] Austen Chamberlain was a Conservative candidate in Birmingham Central.

[1] As he proposed in his Memorandum in OTL.


There were 188 MPs elected by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies which were previously single member seats, except of the City of London which was a two member seat. Cabinet ministers standing for re-election in the new constituencies were:
John Clynes, Chancellor of the Exchequer: Manchester North
John Wheatley, Home Secretary: Glasgow North-East
William Graham, Minister of Health: Edinburgh.

Prominent Conservative MP standing in the new constituencies were:
Austen Chamberlain: Birmingham Central
Neville Chamberlain and Leo Amery: Birmingham South
Sir Samuel Hoare: Kensington and Chelsea
Sir Douglas Hogg: Marylebone and Paddington.

For the Liberals the party leader, Sir Donald Maclean, was contesting Cardiff.




When nominations closed on 4 May 1930 for the UK general election there were 565 Conservative candidates, 547 Labour and Liberal candidates. Jennie Lee was selected as the Labour candidate for Ayrshire North and Bute. [1] In the October 1925 general election the Conservatives had a majority of 12.4% over Labour in a straight fight. In the May 1930 general election there would again be a two party contest between Conservative and Labour.

[1] In OTL she was elected as Labour MP for Lanarkshire North in a by-election on 29 March 1929 caused by the death of the sitting Conservative MP. In this TL Labour won the constituency in the 1925 general election, so the by-election was butterflied away,


In the morning of Saturday 10 May 1930, the Home Secretary, John Wheatley, collapsed at his home in Glasgow with a cerebral haemorrage. That afternoon he lost consciousness. He died two days later in the morning of Monday 12 May. His body lay in an upstairs room in his house where hundreds of people paid a final tribute. As his funeral cortege made its way to Dalbeth cemetery, thoudands of men and women lined the streets. The parish priest of St. Joseph's Catholic Church conducted a simple graveside internment ceremony. Wheatley's friends, David Kirkwood, James Maxton and Rev. Campbell Stephen were at his funeral, together with the Right Reverend Dr. John White, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. [1]

Wheatley died two days before polling day, but because it was too late for a Labour candidate to be nominated in his place in the three-member constituency of Glasgow North-East.

[1] This was as in OTL [except that Wheatley was not a government minister] and is taken from The Life of John Wheatley by John Hannan, Nottingham: Spokesman, 1988.


The number of MPs for each party, and independents, elected in the general election on 14 May 1930 was as follows [October 1925 general election]:
Conservative: 314 [262]
Labour: 169 [245]
Liberal: 130 [105]
Independents: 4 [1]
Socialist Prohibition Party: 1 [1]
[Irish Nationalist:3]
Total: 618 [615]
The total number of seats was increased by three because there were four new seats in Northern Ireland, but the City of London lost one of its two seats and was merged with the Westminster Abbey and Westminster St. Georges constituency to form the three-member Cities of London and Westminster constituency.

The above figures include the result for the three-member Glasgow North-East constituency where polling was delayed for two weeks to 28 May because of the death of John Wheatley on 12 May. Two Labour MPs and one Conservative were elected. John McGovern was the Labour replacement for Wheatley.

The percentage votes for each party and for independents were as follows:
Conservative: 41.6 [37.5]
Labour: 30.7 [36.2]
Liberal: 27.3 [25.4]
Independents and others: 1.4 [0.9]
Total: 100.0 [100.0]


Well, if either Labour or Liberal manages to field a strong and talented leader by 1935, they would make the Tories suffer dearly by attacking their austerity policies during the Depression.


Well, if either Labour or Liberal manages to field a strong and talented leader by 1935, they would make the Tories suffer dearly by attacking their austerity policies during the Depression.


The only cabinet minister defeated was the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Noel Buxton, in Norfolk North. Susan Lawrence, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, was defeated in East Ham North.

The Liberal Party benefited from STV in the cities. They won 24 seats as follows: one in Bradford, two in Bristol, one in Cardiff, one in Edinburgh, one in Hull, one in Leicester, one in Liverpool, eight in London, three in Manchester, one in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, one in Nottingham, one in Plymouth, one in Stoke-on-Trent and one in Wolverhampton. They also gained from the alternative vote, by getting second preference votes from Conservative and Labour voters. All their leading MPs were re-elected, except for Walter Layton who was defeated in London University by a Conservative supported Independent.


In the general election Winston Churchill was elected Conservative MP for Oldham East. He had been MP for the two-member Oldham constituency. That was split into East and West and he was the candidate for the more Conservative East division. As in the OTL 1929 general election Aneurin Bevan, Richard Austen Butler and Megan Lloyd George all entered parliament for the first time, being elected Labour MP for Ebbw Vale, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden and Liberal MP for Anglesey. But Jennie Lee was defeated in Ayrshire North and Bute, where Aylmer Hunter-Weston, the sitting Conservative MP was re-elected. John McGovern was elected as one of the Labour members for Glasgow North-East, together with another Labour and a Conservative, in the election which was postponed because if the death of John Wheatley.

Here is the cabinet which Stanley Baldwin appointed on 19 and 20 May 1930:
Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury: Stanley Baldwin
Lord Chancellor: Quintin Hogg, who elevated to the peerage as Viscount Hailsham
Lord President of the Council: Marquess of Salisbury
Lord Privy Seal: Viscount Peel
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Neville Chamberlain
Foreign Secretary: Austen Chamberlain
Home Secretary: Winston Churchill
First Lord of the Admiralty: Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries: Walter Guiness
Secretary of State for Air: Marquess of Londonderry
Colonial and Dominions Secretary: Leopold Amery
President of the Board of Education: Lord Edward Percy [1]
Minister of Health: Walter Elliot
Secretary of State for India: Sir Samuel Hoare
Minister of Labour: Sir Henry Betterton
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Viscount Cecil
Secretary of State for Scotland: Sir John Gilmour
President of the Board of Trade: Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister
Secretary of State for War: William Ormsby-Gore
First Commissioner of Works: Earl Winterton [1].

Among the ministers outside the cabinet were:
Attorney-General: Sir Thomas Inskip
Solicitor-General: Sir Frank Merriman
Postmaster-General: Sir William Mitchell-Thomson
Minister of Transport: John Moore-Brabazon
Financial Secretary to the Treasury: Godfrey Locker-Lampson.

Birth of Irish Republican Tom Maguire

Tom Maguire, Irish republican who serves as commandant-general in the Western Command of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and leads the South Mayo flying column, is born on March 28, 1892.

On September 18, 1920, the Mayo Brigade of the IRA is reorganized and spilt up into four separate brigades. Tom Maguire is appointed commander of the South Mayo brigade.

Maguire leads an ambush on a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) patrol in Toormakeady, County Mayo, on May 3, 1921, killing four. Maguire’s flying column then heads for the Partry Mountains. According to one account, the column is surrounded by many soldiers and policemen guided by aeroplanes. Maguire is wounded and his adjutant is killed, but the column manages to escape with no further casualties. Maguire is involved in numerous other engagements including the Kilfall ambush.

At the 1921 election to Dáil Éireann, Maguire is returned unopposed as Teachta Dála (TD) for Mayo South–Roscommon South as a Sinn Féin candidate. He opposes the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and apart from voting against the treaty when the vote is called, does not participate in any substantial way in the Dáil treaty debates. He is returned unopposed at the 1922 general election. At the 1923 general election, Maguire faces a contest and succeeds in securing the second of five seats in the Mayo South constituency.

Maguire is a member of the anti-Treaty IRA executive which commands rebel troops during the Irish Civil War. Maguire is captured by the National Army while in bed and is told that he would be executed, but his life is spared. While in prison his brother, Sean Maguire, aged 17, is executed by the government.

Maguire remains a TD until 1927. He initially indicates a willingness to contest the June 1927 general election as a Sinn Féin candidate but withdraws after the IRA threatens to court-martial any member under IRA General Army Order 28, which forbids its members from standing in elections.

Maguire subsequently drifts out of the IRA. In 1932, a Mayo IRA officer reports that Maguire, now firmly aligned with Sinn Féin, refuses to call on men to join the IRA when speaking at republican commemorations. When challenged on this, Maguire claims that, as the IRA “were no longer the same as they used to be,” he disagrees with the organisation.

In December 1938, Maguire is one of a group of seven people, who had been elected to the Second Dáil in 1921, who meet with the IRA Army Council under Seán Russell. At this meeting, the seven sign over what they contend is the authority of the Government of Dáil Éireann to the Army Council. Henceforth, the IRA Army Council perceives itself to be the legitimate government of the Irish Republic and, on this basis, the IRA and Sinn Féin justify their rejection of the states of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and political abstentionism from their parliamentary institutions.

When the majority of IRA and Sinn Féin decide to abandon abstentionism in the 1969–1970 split, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill seek and secure Maguire’s recognition of the Provisional IRA as the legitimate successor to the 1938 Army Council. Of the seven 1938 signatories, Maguire is the only one still alive at the time.

Likewise, in the aftermath of the 1986 split in the Republican Movement, both the Provisional IRA and the Continuity IRA seek Maguire’s support. Maguire signs a statement which is issued posthumously in 1996. In it, he confers legitimacy on the Army Council of the Continuity IRA. In The Irish Troubles, J. Bowyer Bell describes Maguire’s opinion in 1986, “abstentionism was a basic tenet of republicanism, a moral issue of principle. Abstentionism gave the movement legitimacy, the right to wage war, to speak for a Republic all but established in the hearts of the people.”

Tom Maguire dies on July 5, 1993, and is buried in Cross, County Mayo. Republican Sinn Fein have held multiple commemorations by his graveside.

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The 1923 General Election

So, as we look forward to the results of this week’s ‘snap’ general election it might be interesting to look back to a previous ‘snap’ election, specifically the general election called by Stanley Baldwin in 1923.

The 1923 general election no doubt also came as a surprise to many both inside and outside Westminster. The previous year had seen the end to Liberal-Conservative coalition government with a return to power by the Conservative Party with a large majority. Thus, when the Conservative leader, Bonar Law, resigned in May 1923 due to poor health and Baldwin inherited his premiership, the Party might have enjoyed four more uninterrupted years in power. Baldwin decided to call a general election that same year on the divisive issue of tariff reform (which had failed to win popular support in 1906 [PUB 212/3/1]) as the solution to increasing unemployment and worsening economic conditions. This policy contradicted assurances given by his predecessor that such a fiscal change would not be made by the government. Perhaps it was because Baldwin had concluded (wholly or in part) that protectionism as opposed to free trade was the way forward for the nation that he sought a direct mandate from the electorate.

The holdings of the Conservative Party Archive include many Party campaign leaflets produced in the run up to the general election with such slogans as ‘British labour in danger’ [PUB 39/1:1923/13], ‘Protect the Home Market’ [PUB 39/1:1923/126, ‘Protection means a Full Purse’ [PUB 39/1: 1923/152], ‘Protection Means a Chance for the Boys’ [PUB 39/1:1923/154], and ‘Protection means the Big Market Basket’ [PUB 39/1:1923/156].

In essence, the campaign argued that protection would prevent unfair competition and offer British manufactured goods a fair playing field, affording a greater degree of economic stability, leading to increased rates of employment and improvements for working men and their employers:

[England] allows foreign goods to come into the country free of all tax, so that we find work for the foreigner instead of giving our own labour preference.

Mr. Stanley Baldwin […] wants to give British labour PROTECTION, in the way others protect their own workmen. [PUB 39/1:1923/148]

Lewis Baston: The general election of 1923 – and lessons it holds for today

Britain went to the polls on 6 December 1923 in one of the strangest and most fascinating general elections in history. From its calling, to its result, to the government that was formed after it, to the huge long term consequences, the December 1923 election is a bit special despite it being the middle one of a sequence of three elections in three years. It also has some echoes of modern politics, as the relationship between Conservatism and Liberalism, the electoral system, and Britain’s trading arrangements were all up in the air.

The first odd thing about the 1923 election was that it was entirely unnecessary. The 1922 election seemed to settle the political future for a while, with the Conservatives winning an overall majority sufficient to last a full term, and neither Liberal nor Labour seeming plausible as alternative governments. Further, it had been 42 years since the last exclusively Tory government with a Commons majority had lost office in the 1880 election. But the Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, was dying and stepped down in May 1923 to be replaced by Stanley Baldwin.

Baldwin was an unlikely radical – an industrialist who cultivated the image of a pig-farming midlands country gentleman – but he made the surprising decision to call for Tariff Reform, a policy that had proved unpopular in pre-war elections and had been ruled out by Bonar Law at the 1922 hustings. The tariff debate led quickly to a General Election called on the issue of free trade or tariffs. Some Conservatives suggested a referendum on Tariff Reform, which – as with Europe in the 1970s and now – might have been an elegant way out of the dilemma. In any case, there was no urgency and the Baldwin government could have tried to build the case for tariffs with public opinion before going for an election.

In 1923, the press had not been squared, and the middle class was quite unprepared, for Baldwin’s lurch toward Tariff Reform and the election into which he tumbled. Even the pro-tariff press refused to endorse the Conservatives in the election, because he did not promise their favoured model of tariffs that included an Empire free trade zone. Significant numbers of Conservatives, particularly in Lancashire, supported free trade. The most plausible explanation of events is the simplest – that Baldwin had indeed been convinced that tariffs were necessary and that he believed that the Conservatives could win an election and introduce them.

The Liberal Party had been torn asunder in the previous seven years by bitter personal rivalry between Asquith and Lloyd George and an overlapping division between right and left. But they could all agree on the old rallying-call of Free Trade, and rapidly pulled themselves together and fought a vigorous but almost entirely negative and defensive campaign. Baldwin had, ironically, forced the Liberals together. Meanwhile Labour, the official opposition, was steadily building strength in industrial Britain.

The Liberal upsurge created a strange election result. In some ways it was a Conservative victory. The Tories were the largest single party in terms of seats (258 seats, compared to 191 for Labour and 159 Liberals) and also in votes, with 38 per cent of the votes cast compared to about 30 per cent each for Labour and the Liberals.

One of the paths not chosen in 1923 was that of Conservative-Liberal coalition, even though Beatrice Webb, looking at the situation before the election, felt that a hung parliament would mean ‘a coalition between the free trade Conservatives and Liberals: an anti-Labour government with Labour and disgruntled Liberals as His Majesty’s Opposition’.

There was some political logic to this. The Conservatives and Liberals had been co-operating against Labour in municipal elections since 1919, and the Tories had been in coalition with at least part of the Liberal Party from 1915 to 1922. The 1923 election could easily be read not as a radical moment, but a profoundly conservative one, with the Liberal surge caused by fear of change and the Labour advance simply a matter of increasing organisation and class-consciousness. A free trade, safety first Tory-Liberal government would have fit the national mood quite well.

It may have appeared logical simply to dump Tariff Reform and probably Baldwin too, and form a minority government with Liberal toleration. But the party was weary of long years of coalition and distrusted its main supporters like Austen Chamberlain and Lord Birkenhead. Getting rid of Baldwin might have meant a split – it was a period in which all the parties had acute problems with disunity and there was no guarantee that many Tories would accept a replacement’s authority and fall into line with a Con-Lib coalition. Neither were most Liberals very keen to keep the Conservatives in power.

Several desperate options were considered in the period between the election and the convening of parliament in January 1924 to shut Labour out. But Baldwin and Asquith both accepted the legitimacy of Labour’s claim to govern, and felt that the circumstances of 1924 offered the safest conditions possible for a mild dose of ‘socialism’, and would with any luck acculturate Labour into the ways of Whitehall.

On 18 December Asquith announced that the Liberals would support a Labour amendment to the King’s Speech, effectively guaranteeing that Labour would form a government. Because Labour would not discuss coalition, it would be a minority government. Asquith and the Liberals at that point hoped that the 1923 parliament would last several years, notch up several useful reforming achievements, build good working relations between Liberal and Labour and perhaps cement it with electoral reform such as the Alternative Vote. He was to be brutally disappointed.

Asquith underestimated the extent to which the Labour and Conservative Parties were united in despising the Liberals as devious, sanctimonious and ineffective, and increasingly realised that they shared an interest in destroying the Liberal Party and dividing its political territory between themselves. Leo Amery advised Baldwin that ‘the real healthy and natural division of parties in this country is between constructive Conservatism on the one side and on the other Labour-Socialism. Make it clear we’ll never support the Liberals.’

Although the Liberal success in 1923 produced the most three-party parliament we have ever had, it was ironically dependent on the incompleteness of three party politics in the country. Liberal gains from the Conservatives across the South West and the southern Midlands depended on an absence of Labour competition, while their continued footholds in the industrial areas were often on the basis of pacts with the local Conservatives. Labour’s aspirations to become a national party, standing candidates in the suburbs and rural areas, meant that there was a Sword of Damocles hanging over many Liberal winners in 1923. Some Liberals now started to recognise the importance of electoral reform to the future of their party, but neither the Conservatives nor Labour was willing to play along. Hugh Dalton hoped as early as 19 January 1924 that ‘we shall be able to avoid giving the Liberals either Proportional Representation or the Alternative Vote in this Parliament. Then they mayn’t live to ask for either in the next.’

The 1923-24 Parliament was a miserable experience for Liberal MPs, who on the face of it had enjoyed an electoral triumph and held the balance of power. They trooped through the division lobbies in favour of measures they had no part in drawing up, in the interests of a party that was openly contemptuous of them and was increasingly organising against them in their constituencies. The 2010-15 Parliament is a jolly romp in comparison.

The end of the Labour government of 1924 was, like its predecessor, essentially suicide rather than murder. The purpose of the 1924 government was to show that Labour could govern, and the purpose of the October 1924 election was to destroy the Liberal Party, and in this it was a success. The Liberals tumbled to 40 seats and were relegated to their position as third party. Baldwin returned in triumph, his blunder of December 1923 redeemed by a victory in 1924 that bears comparison in its scale with Tony Blair’s of 1997. But Labour’s electoral support also increased and Labour became the largest party in Parliament at the next election, May 1929.

While Baldwin had united the Liberals in December 1923, Macdonald and Asquith united the Conservatives during 1924. The ex-coalitionists who had remained aloof from the post-1922 Tory government came back into the fold, and the Tories also drew in several right wing Liberals such as Winston Churchill who stood as ‘Constitutionalist’ in October 1924 as a half-way house between Liberal and Conservative. The history of the Conservative Party shows that it has often sailed into power accompanied by a flotilla of MPs elected under various flags of convenience. Between 1874 and 1979 all Conservative majorities came with at least one or two MPs, often a lot more, who were not technically Tories. Even in the 1950s, as well as the National Liberals who were fully integrated with the Conservatives some of the remaining Liberal MPs owed their survival to local electoral pacts, as in Bolton and Huddersfield.

The 2010-15 Parliament, unless some sort of National Liberal grouping of the sort favoured by Nick Boles is created, would be unique in Conservative-Liberal coalition history in not producing some sort of realignment of politicians and voting blocs of lasting benefit to the Conservatives. Long periods of Conservative ascendancy have often been achieved at least in part thanks to the infusion of support and ideas from the right wing of the Liberal Party, as in 1886-1905 and 1918-45. The Liberal Unionists, the Liberal recruits of the 1920s and the post-1931 Liberal Nationals have all added strength to the Tories, initially as non-Tories but with a constant tendency to draw closer to the Conservatives until the parties become indistinguishable. Conservative strength in the working class Midlands, Nonconformist Yorkshire and the South West would not be there without some cross-fertilisation from the Liberals.

In many ways, December 1923 was an election from a distant age, but it has some modern resonances. The Conservatives’ enthusiasm for Tariff Reform can be compared with modern Euroscepticism, and the Liberals’ for electoral reform needs no updating the 38-30 score-line between Conservative and Labour is rather like the 2010 election. Baldwin’s ability to fashion the silk purse of making the Conservatives the natural party of government out of the sow’s ear of the election blunder should be an example for any party leader in a hung parliament. But perhaps more than anything, 1923-24 reminds one of the intricate relationship between conservatism, liberalism and the Conservative Party, a story that is far from over.

Chris Cook The Age of Alignment: Electoral Politics in Britain 1922-29 (Macmillan, 1975)

G.R. Searle Country Before Party: Coalition and the Idea of National Government in Modern Britain 1885-1987 (Longman, 1995)

Stuart Ball Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain 1918-45 (OUP, 2013)

Rosewood massacre of 1923

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Rosewood massacre of 1923, also called Rosewood race riot of 1923, an incident of racial violence that lasted several days in January 1923 in the predominantly African American community of Rosewood, Florida. In the years since, some have estimated that as many as 200 people were killed, but an official study in 1993 placed the death toll at eight: six African Americans and two whites. In addition, virtually every building was burned to the ground by white mobs.

On January 4, 1923, sparked by the claim that an African American man had attacked a white woman, dozens of armed whites descended on Rosewood, terrorizing the community, shooting several residents, and burning buildings. Fearing for their lives, some Rosewood residents hid in the nearby swamps while others sought refuge in the home of John Wright, a local white businessman. Most Rosewood residents refused to fight the vigilantes, fearing the repercussions that were sure to follow, but Sylvester Carrier took up arms against the mob.

Carrier was killed in a shootout, but not before killing two whites, and word of that act quickly spread to surrounding communities. Hundreds of whites joined the mob already in Rosewood, and acts of systematic violence against African Americans continued until January 7. By the time the mob had dispersed, the town had been almost totally destroyed, with businesses, churches, and homes in ruins or burned to the ground. Surviving residents fled, with many settling in nearby Gainesville or moving to cities in the North. Although a grand jury was convened in February 1923, it found insufficient evidence to prosecute, and no one was charged with the crimes committed against the residents of Rosewood.

Although the incident received national attention at the time, it was largely forgotten until 1982, when Gary Moore, an investigative reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, persuaded survivors to tell their stories. The focus on the long-ago massacre led to a bill passed by the Florida legislature in 1994, which provided $150,000 in compensation to the handful of surviving Rosewood victims for their property losses. The incident was dramatized in the film Rosewood (1997) by director John Singleton.

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