The First Labour Government

The First Labour Government was formed when the Conservative Government lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons on the 21st of January 1924. This paved the way for the formation of the first Labour government as Ramsay MacDonald was appointed Prime Minister of a Labour government on the advice of Baldwin.

Under the Labour government, subsidies for the construction of council housing were increased through the Housing Provisions Act of 1924, while Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Snowden, introduced spending cuts and changed tax policies by way of balancing the budget.

The downfall of the First Labour government was linked with its recognition of the Soviet Union of February 1st 1924, and two treaties they signed on August 8th, one of which granted it ‘most favoured nation status’, and the other which agreed to settle debts and negotiate loans at a later date.

The Conservatives and Liberals had already criticised the Labour Party’s relationship with the Soviet Union– and their distaste was exacerbated when the Labour Government dropped the prosecution of J R Campbell, who had written a seditious article in the official newspaper for the Communist Party of Great Britain, Workers’ Weekly, and was arrested for Incitement to Mutiny. 

The Liberal Party called for a committee to investigate the government’s decision as to whether it was an act of political interference. This was supported by the Conservative Party, and the overwhelming majority of votes meant Parliament was dissolved and a general election was called. 

Four days before the voting began, the Daily Mail published a letter from the head of the Comintern, Grigory Zinoviev, which is now regarded as a forgery, calling for the British Communist Party to support the Russian treaties. This set in the fear of Communism, linking Labour’s support of the Russian treaties with that of the Communist Party.

After just nine months in office, MacDonald lost his place as Prime Minister, and after winning a large parliamentary majority, Baldwin resumed his role as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.