Britain’s First Labour Government


Macmillan asked me if I would like to review their book by John Shepherd and Keith Laybourn on “Britain’s First Labour Government”. I agreed to as I suspected it would prove very topical, and so it proved.

     For 287 days in 1924 the UK experienced a Labour government for the first time. It was a minority government which relied on Liberal votes to keep it in office. The Conservatives under Baldwin called an early General Election in December 1923, wrongly anticipating a win. The result produced 258 Conservative MPs, 191 Labour and 158 Liberals. Baldwin decided to carry on as  Prime Minister despite his clear defeat. Shortly afterwards he lost a vote of No confidence in the Commons and the King rightly called on Labour to see if it could form an administration. Labour was able to govern for almost a year driving through some reforms they wanted, despite the lack of a majority.

          The authors capture the suspicion of the Establishment over asking Labour to form a government, and over its people and attitudes. They point out that many of the Labour Cabinet members had little formal education, and were not used to being part of the UK governing clique. They were, however, schooled in Labour and Trade Union politics and administration, and supported by defectors from the Liberal party, which was in those days much more used to government  office. Some like John Wheatley rose to the challenge of office as Housing Minister and made a lasting impact on UK society.

          They chronicle the twists and turns of the relationship with the Unions.  Then as now, this was to prove pivotal in Labour politics. Labour MPs owed much to the Unions that had sponsored them or supported their party on its way to office. The leading figures, especially the Prime Minister, felt they had to show independence from the Unions to justify their position in government and to woo people to the idea that Labour might govern in the interest of the many, not just of the Unionised workers. The air was full of accusations of treachery as Labour withstood strikes or tried to bargain with their argumentative sometime  supporters.

            I have some sympathy myself for Ramsay Macdonald, the first Labour Prime Minister. Maybe it was inevitable that he ended up disliked by his own party for the compromises he felt government and power forced upon him later in his career. My own sympathy comes from his brave and widely unpopular decision to oppose the Great War in 1914-18. Whilst I do not share the pacifism of part of the Labour movement that was more common in the early twentieth century, I do think we have fought too many wars.

        Sometimes, as with the Falklands or Kuwait, recourse to arms is necessary to restore international order. It is more difficult to  see why most politicians thought fighting the 1914 war could conceivably be in the UK’s interest. They were led to war by a collective outburst of patriotism without proper thought for what the peace might look like or how many deaths might occur before victory.  The gross tragedy of that war, with slaughter on an industrial scale, was made worse by the knowledge we now have that the subsequent victory and peace with Germany did not settle the German question but led to a even greater but necessary war to deal with Nazism. Churchill himself was impatient with the establishment for risking too many lives in attacks by men running across No man’s land, and not turning more to machines to settle the impasse of the trenches. Men who opposed the war risked accusations of cowardice. It was one of those most bitter conflicts, where the higher the casualties the more the impulse to revenge and the desire for victory.

         The main achievement of the Labour government was to establish the idea of Council housing as another means to try to complete the popular promise of homes fit for heroes. Whether you agree with Council housing or not, it was an idea that became an important part of twentieth century UK reality. Less progress was made with pr0moting female equality and with the need for more and better education. That was to come later, and not just from Labour.

          The General election that followed Labour’s period in government was overwhelmed by the Zinoviev Red letter implying Labour’s links with communist Russia made it an unreliable party for government. It fed a prejudice of the day that was not accurate, and left Labour in opposition with more time to try to reconcile the continuing central struggle – how much power over policy should the Unions expect in return for all the support they gave the party?  This timely work reminds us of other periods when no party had a majority, and how they handled that situation in a lively Commons. It is a good read for those who wish to understand more of Labour’s origins and of the role of the Commons when no party is in charge.




This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Interesting, but I am rather more worried by the dreadful prospect of Labour in 2015 and the current Miliband/state sector union power base. The odds you can get on a Tory majority seem to be 4:1 so they have virtually no chance with their current dreadful direction and leadership one assumes Cameron he given up. True labour can be little worse than the current left wing, pro EU, fake grean, tax borrow and waste, economically incompetent, fake equality rabble but that is quite bad enough.

    I see the government/BOE has foolishly forced Barclays to raise Capital do they know what damage they are doing to Lending to sme businesses? When will HSBC and the others start to move all the jobs away from London I wonder?

  2. Nina Andreeva
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    JR you are selling yourself short here as originally council housing is not a Labour idea. Check out Disraeli’s Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Improvement Act 1875 which enabled local authorities, but not compelled them, to buy up slum areas and then rebuild on them.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      A land grab by the government just like HS2. The only good thing about council houses (which are just unfair competition) was that, as the government they could get permission and land to build them and they were often of a decent size, unlike the new packed it toy houses planning now often forces onto developers, the wrong houses in the wrong places.

      • Bazman
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

        Council housing being unfair competition? Not if you cannot afford a house. Would competition suddenly make housing affordable especially when many of the ex council houses are owned by private landlords? Do tell us how getting rid of council housing and paying private landlords would save the taxpayer money too. You mean the private landlord should be able to charge more. Are you able to understand this argument.
        Your reply or lack of it is telling. You are unable to understand anything outside of your own bigotry it would seem in a large number of points.

        • lifeligic
          Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

          What is needed is more house supply not cheap tax payer subsidised houses for a select few and expensive ones for all the rest. There is a housing benefit systems for those in need anyway.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

            A housing benefit system that costs the taxpayer billions that should be spent on council houses to save money and provide more secure tenancies. Explain how private landlords and competition will provide this? Interesting to see what levels of rent would be without any housing benefits?

  3. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    What has changed? the confusion between seats and MP’s, the perception that a certain type of education is better than another , the division between those who have money and those who don’t, the trade unions who are a seen collective body and the better healed who are an unseen collective body, so on and so forth.

    The lack of formal education was brought about the need for youngsters to bring in money. For example my mother used to be upset in her later years when she recalled how at the age of 14 she was forced to leave school to go to work even though she was top of the class. If she were alive today she would realise , that youngsters with a string of degrees are frequently out of meaningful work.

    Dad walked the walk and talked the tory talk, but was also not well educated ( he had a quick mind) , but was obviously imitating the better off to be respected. .should that be?

    Social housing was a good thing post war . Not many will remember ‘prefabs’ and bunkers at the bottom of the garden ( at least the gardens were a good size).

    The sad thing is that in 2 world wars so many were slaughtered ..for what? for Europe to take over anyway. We at least resisted the slaughter of non- Arians.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      The prefabs are still in use in my home town.

      And much better than the tiny houses being built new.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Of course that is well heeled.. healing is something I write more about. Strange expression though ! was it considered if one had shoes in good repair then that person was well off.?

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Of course, and if you were poor the soles and heels of your shoes could be so worn down that you were “on your uppers”. But if you were even more poor then you had no shoes at all. My mother was part of a large and poor family in London and from time to time she would mention going to school in bare feet, whereupon my father would rejoin that his slightly better off family always had shoes. Although probably only the eldest child ever had new shoes, and by the time the youngest got the “hand-me-downs” they’d be very well-worn. With wooden soles clogs were hard wearing and widely used until the 1920’s, but apparently still beyond the means of my mother’s family as far as the young children were concerned. It really was a different world to the one children in this country now inhabit, in fact very different to the one in which I myself was brought up.

  4. Andyvan
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Overall I’d say Labour has been an unmitigated disaster for Britain. It has built the welfare state and it’s attendant culture of entitlement, created the NHS with it’s appalling costs and poor service, built a gigantic public sector and a huge nanny state. In the creation of this bloated state it has been a pivotal cause of Britain’s decline and financial ruin. Admittedly the Conservative party has helped by joining the EU, starting more wars than Labour and running even more enormous deficits but I’d certainly say that Labour is the worst of a bad lot.
    Can anyone think of any war in the 20th or 21st century that has led to any material benefit to the British people as a whole? Yes I know we’ve been forced into a couple and they have been great for arms manufacturers and sociopathic politicians seeking to massage their egos and slaughter innocents but actually improve the lot of the common man here or in the countries we invade? Not really.
    So we can thank politicians for ruining our finances, our moral fibre, slaughtering millions, giving away any semblance of democracy and building a parasitic state. Thanks Labour and Tory alike.

    • Jerry
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      @Andyvan: Actually it was a Tory (Mr Churchill as he was at the time, and our PM) who invited the invention of the NHS, and a far better post war welfare state provision, Labour merely implemented it after the end of WW2.

      Oh and it has been the Tory party who has presided over the welfare state far more than Labour ever has, thus any failings are far more that of Tory governments than Labour; Since 1945 there has been 35 (plus 3 years coalition = 38) years of Tory government compared to a mere 24 years of well spaced Labour governments.

      But when criticising the NHS or welfare state one should always remember the adage – For the grace of god goes I – you are only ever one accident or illness away from relying on that you so dislike at the moment…

      • A different Simon
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Quite so Jerry .

        The NHS is being dismantled bit by bit . Blood plasma services got sold off to Bain Capital the other week . Suppose we should be happy that it wasn’t G4S .

        The best way of sorting out abuse of the welfare state is to make full employment for all who want it a policy objective . Even paying someone to do a make-work job has got to be better than paying them to do nothing .

        As with health , every contributor on this blog could have a son , daughter or grandchild who is unable to compete in the 21st century .
        One would have thought they would have wanted to create a better society for them and people like them than a selfish society .

        Society has to offer better prospects to the less able than it does .

        Implement land value tax and rent controls to make accommodation affordable and ensure the natural rent from the land benefits the whole community , not just the landowner , landlord class .

        All democratisation of home ownership by credit has achieved is to direct the natural rent from the land from the landowners to the banks . No wonder they did everything they could to puff land prices .

        Given the state is going to have to support most people for the final 20-30 years of their life then it may as well own the social housing rather than pay rent to private landlords . Perhaps N.I. contributions can be hypothecated to building of social housing for the elderly ?

        Instead of tackling tax-havens and secrecy jurisdictions the City of London has decided to out do them by aggressively marketing itself as the global capital of money laundering and tax evasion .

        Just a bit of tax they ensure never gets paid would cover the shortfall in public finances .

        This idea that we will become richer by cutting back on care for the poor and sick seems to be popular with those who are neither poor nor sick in the conventional sense .

        • margaret brandreth-j
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

          The latest division is in insurance cover for us Nurse practitioners and Practice nurses who take on huge amounts of responsibility , diagnosing and prescribing for a sixth of the pay of doctors and are now being encouraged to take on there own insurance due to employers refusal to take on employers liability and yet however much we try we can only get independent cover as self employed . Yet another fix for those with huge salaries . GP’s won’t employ us as self employed if they can get carers more cheaply. A new parliamentary act which comes into force later on this year states that we can be struck off without cover, and yet employers are not abiding by their vicarious liability responsibility.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

          A Diff Simon
          Your manifesto places your views just a little to the left of the Socialist Workers Party
          The only thing you missed out was what the colour of our compulsory citizens State issued boiler suits would be.
          Cuba without the sunshine

          • A different Simon
            Posted August 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

            I’m sorry my previous post went over your head . I’ll try and dumb this down so you can understand it .

            What are your solutions Edward2 ?

            Oh yes you don’t have any do you .

            Just let the poor and weak wither away .

            Nothing to do with you . Someone else’s problem .

          • Jerry
            Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

            @Ed2: Only if the reader can read the words but not understand the sentences…

          • Edward2
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

            Your ideas of total state control over land rent industry and employment has already been tried in Russia and it failed
            Cuba is a current example of your ideas in action. A bankrupt nation propped up by Venezuela
            Your failure to respond properly but just to abuse the person is typical.

          • Jerry
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

            @Ed2: Cuba is not bankrupt, although the USA is in effect blockading it and has been for the last 50 plus years… Funny though how Cuba has one of the most advanced, and free, health care systems in the world!

            Take you dogmatic shaped blinkers off…

            Reply Not many would swap UK living standards and freedoms for Cuban ones – are you a volunteer to go and live in your eutopia?

          • libertarian
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink


            Ever tried to use the Cuban health system? No thought not. Tell you why, just like everything else the best bits are reserved for the ruling elite and to show case to gullible foreigners. Meanwhile ordinary Cubans don’t get any level of treatment even on a par with our 3rd world NHS let alone a good publicly provided service like France or Italy

          • Jerry
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

            @JR reply: There are a lot worse places to live than Cuba, oh and I never described it as eutopia!

          • A different Simon
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            John ,

            I don’t think anyone is holding Cuba up as an ideal .

            We have people in the UK who enjoy no better standard of living than Cubans .

            The problem I have and which I think Jerry might have too is that a lot of posters on this blog seem to refuse to take any responsibility for the weak , poor and less able .

            They seam to consider them someone else’s problem – nothing to do with them .

            This attitude has become more prevalent over the past 3 months or so which has lead to a decline of this blog – perhaps recent topics have brought out the worst in people .

            They are clearly not One-Nation Conservatives . Is this what the New-Right has become ?

            Reply I do not agree that most Conservatives wish to avoid responsibility for the ill and the poor. On the contrary, there is a proud tradition of Conservative welfare and public support. There is now a very important debate about how to control the growth in total welfare spending which has gone on increasing under this Coaliton government, so that those in most and true need are looked after, whilst others are helped to provide more for themselves.

          • Jerry
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

            libertarian: “Ever tried to use the Cuban health system? No thought not.

            …and you have, libertarian?… Yeah, sure, and that’s a flock of pink elephants flying over head too.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Andyvan was talking about much much more than just the NHS Jerry.
        You always reply to such pots by saying “you are only one……..from relying on it.
        Its as if you are telling us all other modern nations have no care at all and people who are ill or have an accident just lie dying in the street so we should just shut up and be grateful.

        Its about the size of the Welfare State, the huge and rising costs involved, versus the results and standards we are getting for the money spent.

        • uanime5
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

          The cost of the welfare state is mainly rising because of an increasing number of pensioners (ageing population) and the increased cost of housing raising housing benefit costs. Any solutions regarding how to reduce this without throwing people onto the streets.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

            Do you have any solutions Uni other than tax borrow and spend until you run out of other people’s money?

        • Edward2
          Posted August 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          ADS “We have people in the UK who enjoy no better standard of living than Cubans” .
          Average wage of a Cuban is 15 to 25 dollars a month.
          I’ve been there several time and seen it.
          They are really poor and not allowed by law to leave their socialist heaven.

      • waramess
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Jerry “you are only ever one accident or illness away from relying on that you so dislike at the moment…”

        Notwithstanding there are no options for emergencies and forgetting the average cost of more than £8,000pa to a four member family or more than £4,000 to every working person in the country, just make sure that on admission for an accident you have no open wounds.

        What a terrifying thought that you may indeed come to rely on them, one day

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Andy mate I do not know why I am bothering to reply to this comment as it is of the same quality that comes regularly from U5. Do you really think it was to the UKs material advantage not to have become involved in WW2? Forgetting about the material world, you are not even bothering to think of the poor souls who died in a Nazi occupied Europe. No doubt your view was thats their hard luck they lived in the wrong place. Lets hope that you are a full blooded aryan and would have survived the rigours of a Nazi occupation and remember you would need to keep your trap shut too because forums such as this would not exist.

      It was of very much to the the UKs advantage to stop Hitler. As at best, if we had not been invaded, we would have effectively become “Finlandised”, in that our relationship with Germany would be similar to that of Finland’s post war relationship with the USSR. Or at worst we would have just become a vassal state with all sorts of unequal treaties and obligations forced upon us.

      In effect the Summer of 1940, when we were by ourselves and being screwed mercilessly by the Americans for aid, showed that there is something special about us and the material costs were well worth it.

      • Jerry
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Nina Andreeva: For once I have to agree whole heartedly with you. I have long regarded “AndyVan” as the typical 1980s Child of Thatcher (policies), the only thing that matters is the here and now, the my and my own, the why should I bother about society when I don’t need nor want it. That is not, by the way, a criticism of the Lady herself, I’m sure that had she realised just what a selfish country her policies would create she would have had second thoughts.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          I’ve not ever read Andyvan in that way Jerry
          Andyvan is prepared to criticise the current size of the Welfare State and will ask if we need the State to provide all that it currently does.
          You react to any criticism of the current order and that is not a good position to hold as time rapidly moves on and change is needed.

          • Jerry
            Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

            @Edward2: Well of course you won’t as you are not that far behind the bloke yourself!

            What do you (and “AndyVan”) not understand, the welfare state is the size it is because the UK had a baby-boom, the fact that medical science is keeping ever more people alive, and that industry is no longer labour intensive – a larger (than before) welfare state is the natural result, trying to scapegoat will never actually solve these base issue.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

            No solutions then Jerry from you , just presumably tax more and spend more for evermore.
            Is our welfare system (and by welfare I mean more than just the NHS you keep referring to) so perfect any change is taboo?

          • Bazman
            Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

            Never seem to have a problem with corporate welfare do we edward too? You think this sort of welfare is going to help everyone don’t you?

          • Jerry
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

            @Ed2: What solution would you like, euthanasia?…

            I would not go as far as ADS but his comment deserves more consideration than a rather silly rebuff that attempted to draw an ill-informed comparison with the Socialist Workers Party and the colour of boiler suits in Cuba.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

            So Jerry and ADS, your form of friendly State welfare includes the nationalisation of all private housing and the State allocating a compulsory job for any unemployed citizen.
            And a tax on the financial industry equal to the current annual deficit of £120 billion
            A sum that would ruin it and put a million out of work
            This what ADS calls for you have the nerve to call me childish when I ridicule the folly of this deluded fantasy !

          • Jerry
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            @Ed2: ADS said no9thing of the sort, the above is just how your right wing dogmatic thought is interpreting his comment. 🙁

        • nina Andreeva
          Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          Jerry looking at some of the other comments here it does not matter what their political views are, but what is more frightening is their complete lack of understanding of WW2 e.g the UK being able to blockade Germany in May 1940. Sometimes I think the liberal elite have it right in that we do not live in a representative democracy. You need not imagine what the UK would be like if some of the people who post here actually got power in their hands

      • waramess
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Maybe a declaration of Neutrality would have done the trick.

      • MickC
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        No, we (i.e. the British Empire and its vast resources) would have been far better off if we had not fought WW2.

        We would not have been bankrupted, nor would we have been invaded. We could simply have blockaded Germany and wait for it to collapse

        Morally, of course, you are right-but that wasn’t the point being made.

        And JR is wrong about WW1- that one we had to fight. We could not allow the Imperial German navy to have a base on the Channel.

        • Jerry
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          @Mike C: Oh right. so the UK did not need to fight WW2 [1] but we did have to fight WW1 because we could not allow the Imperial German navy to have a base on the Channel. Surely a Paradox, an oxymoron of an argument?…

          [1] that did create Nazi German Navel bases in the Channel

          • MickC
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            No, not an oxymoron at all.

            The Imperial German Navy was a major threat to the Royal navy because of its size and modernity.

            Nazi Germany did not have much of a Navy at all. The Royal Navy at that time was the largest navy in the world. And we could sink U boats and their crews faster than they could be built/trained.

            Germany could be starved and bombed into submission.

            A suitable reference is David Edgerton’s Britains War Machine.

          • Jerry
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

            @MikeC: Of course it’s an oxymoron, the German navy could not be allowed to have a navel base on the channel in 1914 but it was in 1939, what -prey- is the difference, I hope you are not going to suggest the politics…

            Oh and the UK had a more modern Navy in 1914 than we had in 1939!…

            Germany could be starved and bombed into submission.

            Revisionist nonsense, ask anyone who lived the period, go ask your grandmother/father (perhaps ask your great grandfather what he did during the war too), it was the UK who was nearly starved and bombed into submission in 1940… As “Bazman” would say, Ram it! 🙁

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply:
        The question is, what has the Tory Party done to reverse the atrocious laws imposed on us by the Blair/Brown regime which have done so much damage to freedom of speech here and to our former reputation worldwide as a fair and democratic country?

    • Excalibur
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      An accurate assessment, Andyvan. But you have neglected to mention the single most egregious act i.e. the changing irreversibly of the demographics of England by two ideologically motivated Scots.

  5. Jerry
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    John, the political class do not have to keep beating themselves up over the first world war, yes diplomacy failed but then events happen, what made the WW1 so awful was the army generals (supposedly part of the “educated class” [1]) who thought that they were still wars as the Duke of Wellington had! I suspect that it was the realisation of this in the years after the Armistice that contributed to the Labour parties success, if the “educated class” can act so disastrously why not give others a chance.

    • Jerry
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Sorry, forgot to add the footnote: [1] one had to have the ‘correct’ education to even be considered for a commission, how ever brilliant the person might otherwise have been in their military career or how ever well one could mix with such a socail class.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        The Duke of Marlborough could not spell either.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Initially, when the public schools and some grammar schools with OTC supplied the junior officers who died by their hundreds, in fact thousands. Later it became necessary to commission men from the ranks, reluctantly and grudgingly at first. A fascinating and moving book was published a year or two ago, “Six Weeks – The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War”, which I can recommend.

    • A different Simon
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Jerry ,

      Surely the diplomacy was meant to fail ?

      I do think we owe it to future generations to teach them the real reasons for wars .

      History has a credibility problem when it teaches people that the pretenses used for wars were the actual causes :-
      – the assassination of Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand supposedly causing WW1
      – a moral crusade to rid The South of slavery caused the tragedy which was the American Civil War * .

      * At best this was just claiming credit for mechanisation of agriculture undercutting slaves .

      Both wars were engineered by the banking community weren’t they ?

      What war will they start next and what compromise will they broker/foist on the participants ?

      My 15 year old Nephew doesn’t really understand when I tell him that some of the stuff he gets taught in history is just a revisionist fabrication .

      Look at the Iraq wars . Kurdistan and Iraq will within a decade be providing 10% of the World’s crude oil just in time to compensate for the decline from Saudi Arabia and it’s ability to temporarily increase production at a moments notice .

      • StevenL
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        The landowning upper classes did well out of WW1, which effectively stopped the implementation of the land taxes proposed in Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1909.

        • A different Simon
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

          Good point .

          We’ve reached the end of the line of the current model .

          The brown stuff is starting to hit the fan , kicking the can down the road is ceasing to be an option . People are retiring with nothing and have no option except to liquidate their assets which won’t go very far .

          The former middle classes aren’t going to tolerate the riches tax dodging much longer .

          Eventually they are going to work out that the money they pay to assist people at the bottom pretty quickly finds it’s way to people at the top .

          A new Lloyd George will eventually come along and offer the UK a more equitable society and they will clean up . I used to think that was Ukip but unfortunately it isn’t .

          • Edward2
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

            Yeah ads, a good dose of socialism will cure all our problems just like it has all over the world where its been tried

          • Jerry
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

            @Ed2: Well 30 plus years of “monitory” capitalism has dumped us (the world) back to all but the 1920s depression, a dose of 1945-79 socialism might not be so bad, unless the only thing that matters is the value of the place you call home and being able to park a new BMW outside on the drive of course – only the dogmatic automatically dismiss any alternative, Ed2 you are as bad as any on the hard left with your dogma…

          • Edward2
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            Dogma being something you Jerry do not have with your always perfect opinions.
            Only other people’s views which you disagree with contain dogma.
            Odd that

          • Jerry
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            @Ed2: I do not and have never claimed to have perfect opinions, I do claim not to have any preconceived ideas though…

          • Edward2
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

            Best laugh I’ve had for ages.
            Thanks Jerry

          • Jerry
            Posted August 5, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

            @Ed2: All you are doing is showing just how closed your mind is, the “Joke” is very much on you Ed2.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 5, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

            I’m very much looking forward to your next relevant, open minded,dogma free, non political post Jerry
            I will try to match the very high standards you set for all on here to follow

      • Jerry
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        @ADS: Nearly all history is a revision, even your own, probably best summed up by Winston Churchill when he said that History would be kind to him because “I intend to write it”

        • A different Simon
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          Yes Churchill makes the point perfectly .

          I wonder if the amount of revisionism is increasing . Look at the slant the media put on a story that broke earlier the same day .

  6. Martin
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Any analysis of the the twentieth century always gets back to the what was the First Work war about?

    You have gone down the route of calling it the “German question”.

    It could be argued that it was the Royal Question – a feud between Queen Victoria’s large offspring. The Tsar ended up dead, the Kaiser in exile and the Saxe-Coburgs reigned on albeit being re-branded as Windsor. The Hapsburgs ended up in the dustbin of history.

  7. David
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    “It is more difficult to see why most politicians thought fighting the 1914 war could conceivably be in the UK’s interest.

    I thought that we had treaty obligations with Belgium or am I wrong?

    The main achievement of the Labour government was to establish the idea of Council housing as another means to try to complete the popular promise of homes fit for heroes.

    My gran lost 2 brothers in the first world war and my chance of getting a council house is zero, single mums from countries with no connection to British troops such as Colombia or Spain (I know people personally) do get it, it seems to have gone rather wrong somewhere.

    • Gareth Humphreys
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      You are right, we did have treaty obligations with Belgium and it is pretty disturbing that one of our long-standing politicians doesn’t seem to think Britain should have to uphold her treaty obligations…

      I recommend the (unfortunately out of print) book ‘Forgotten Victory’ by Gary Sheffield as to the origins of the FWW.

      Reply I think the Uk should be mroe careful about entering some Treaty obligations, and from time to time we need to review and if necessary come out of Treaty obligations.

      • forthurst
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        “Reply I think the Uk should be mroe careful about entering some Treaty obligations, and from time to time we need to review and if necessary come out of Treaty obligations.”

        Perhaps we could start with NATO unless we want to be dragged into WWIII which some seem most anxious to inititate in the ME.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          We can find ourselves being dragged into wars alongside our allies with or without the NATO treaty. Our involvement in the first Gulf War to get Saddam out of Kuwait was not the result of our NATO treaty commitment, and nor was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact Afghanistan has been the only case so far where the NATO treaty has been invoked, and even then it had to be agreed that 9/11 satisfied the criteria for the US to call upon its NATO allies for assistance. There is also a bit of leeway because under Article 5 each of the parties only pledges to take “such action as it deems necessary”, which some of the NATO allies deemed to be very little. Having said that, I agree that we need to be just as careful about what we promise to other countries under the NATO treaty as under any other treaty. I note that in 1986 the Spanish government actually held a referendum on whether Spain should remain part of NATO, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t do the same if there was sufficient demand for a referendum.

  8. Max Dunbar
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    A fascinating period of history to study and one which still resonates. It is also just within living memory and this gives it a vitality and relevance without being too close to our own time.

    May I add a couple of things.
    Fascism in Britain (produced a leader out of? ed) the Labour Party in the shape of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union (initially called The New Party – New Labour?). Sir Oswald had been a junior minister in the Labour government under Macdonald. The BNP (have similarly ed)drawn (some ? ed) of their members from that party.
    You mention council housing but it is also worth remembering that rent controls were introduced on privately owned property around this time and they set the pattern of socialist interference and disenfranchisement to the present day.

    Reply Labour very clearly opposes fascism and the BNP.No party can take responsibility for what former members get up to.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply:
      Can a nation take responsibility for what former politicians get up to? The aftermath of the First and Second World Wars proves that this is the case, so why should the Labour Party not take responsibility as an institution for the crimes of its members and ex-members?

  9. Neil craig
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    The real losers from the Zinoviev letter were the Liberals because it polarised politics into those who thought the letter genuine and you should vote anti-Labour and those who thought, correctly, that it was fake and a conspiracy against Labour. There are many other reasons for the failure of the Libs over those decades but this was important.

  10. Robert Taggart
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Guessing JRMD should be a hero of ours – if only because he became an antihero to his own side !
    Methinks he was too much of a gentleman – to be the Liebore leader – bearing in mind all those roughians behind him !!

  11. Antisthenes
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    In an ideal world no vested interest should be in a position to dictate government policy including unions, political parties and corporations that should be entirely the preserve of all of the people. A true democracy would have a parliament that is populated by constituency representatives who only express opinions and vote in a way that their constituents require. Government should be run by an apolitical executive. Vested interests should only seek to influence public opinion never to impose their opinions/ideologies on them. The current parliamentary system of whips and political parties is no longer fit for purpose as it has moved from being about representative democracy to a dictatorship of the few over the many. Power has corrupted and only by returning power to the people will that be reversed. It is a natural progression parliament wrestled power away from the kings now it is time for the people to wrestle away the power from the governments.

    Reply Voting as your constituents require on every vote would not be easy to achieve. Most constituents, most of the time, are happy to let their MP and chosen political party get on and do the detail of government withouth them having to decide each issue. They wish to lobby when something matters a lot or goes wrong, with some hope of change, and have the right to get rid of MPs and parties that let them down. I consult widely on contentious and important matters, but do not see how I could accurately follow the majority view on every vote I have to make in the Commons, when on most of the detail most people do not need to have a view and do n ot express one.

    • Mark B
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      People are sheep – well most seem to be. They will vote for a particular colour no matter who is wearing it. Whether or not the person is from the constituency. Is our kind host a born and raised member of his constituency ? I think not.

      And whilst I no doubt he serves those he represents, what if he was to become PM or a member of the Government and were to embark on policies that his constituency is against. What then ? Being a member of the Government means that you have to take collective responsibility. Those self same voters that put him in office have become disenfranchised. There is therefore a clear conflict of interest.

      Also, manifesto’s are no longer worth the paper they are written on. Look at the present Administration ! We the people voted for a particular party in the hope that they would get elected and their policies enacted upon. What we got was a political fudge and policies and laws no one voted upon. That is NOT democracy in any shape or form, that is tyranny.

      We need to understand and accept, that the current system is no longer fit for purpose. It may have had a useful role when we were a largely christian, god-fearing, moral and loyal society. Today, indeed for sometime, it can be argued that this is no longer true. Perhaps it is time that we looked at other forms of democracy and considered its benefits over the current system which leaves many, including myself, disenfranchised and disgusted.

    • Antisthenes
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Mr Redwood I have a great deal of respect for you and know you do put the interests of the people before self and you strive to keep democracy alive and even enhance it. However you are in my opinion in a very small minority as most politicians and vested interests knowingly or otherwise are striving for the opposite and mostly succeeding. Your reply to me is perfectly true and in the past would have been adequate and anything other would have been totally impracticable but no longer mass communication and advances in technology has seen to that. I used the words ” In an ideal world” we far and away from that so what I propose cannot be done overnight but should be the ultimate goal in the next step in the democratic process.

  12. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “….. I do think we have fought too many wars.” I agree. Let’s review the 20th century.

    The Boer war lasted from 1899 to 1902. The conservative (small ‘c’) governments of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal wanted a slow pace of gold mining extraction, so that the wealth generated could support their people. The English, in contrast, wanted to expand their Empire and supported the mining companies in wanting the fastest possible extraction of gold. England won the conventional war in the first year. The second and third years were occupied overcoming the guerilla army of General Christian de Wet. Lord Kitchener thought of a novel way of defeating the guerillas. He imprisoned their women and children in concentration camps and 25% of them died because he couldn’t be bothered feeding them. Don’t imagine that the Germans invented concentration camps.

    The First World War ………………… what were we fighting for?

    The Second World War had to be fought. The tragedy is that by late 1943 it was clear to nearly everybody that the Germans were losing. Even Goebbels and Himmler had lost hope. A negotiated peace would have been possible had anybody been in charge except for Hitler and Churchill. Had there been peace in 1943, most of the holocaust would have been avoided.

    Contrary to popular historical opinion, Suez was a good war. Nasser had stolen an Anglo-French asset and had to be dealt with. Eisenhower and Dulles hardly fostered a special relationship with the UK.

    Serbia had exercised sovereignty over Kosovo, alone or in partnership, for 800 years. The Albanian population infiltrated Kosovo heavily during the years of the Yugoslav Federation. Serbia was the big loser when that Federation broke up. We had absolutely no business interfering in the Balkans, but that messianic maniac Tony Blair not only participated in but led the war. Serbia is a long time ally of Russia; (etc ed)

    Now it is America that is fighting too many wars. They always have to have a ‘bad guy’, don’t they?

    Reply I do not recall the USA or other leading participants calling for a negotiated peace in 1943

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      In late 1943, it was Stalin’s view that mattered, not America’s. The Russian people had suffered terribly. He would have insisted on a German surrender but not necessarily unconditional surrender. After all, he accepted the surrender of Paulus and the entombed German 6th Army after Stalingrad.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Given that Serbia was part of the Ottoman Empire from the mid 15th century until the 19th century it’s unlikely that they controlled Kosovo for 800 years. Especially since Kosovo remained part of the Ottoman empire after Serbia achieved independence. Since the first time Kosovo became part of modern Serbia was in 1913, after the first Balkan War, they’ve barely controlled it for 100 years.

      Also don’t forget about all the migrations of Bosnians, Serbs, and Vlachs which lead to the Balkans becoming so balkanised.

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    On balance I don’t agree that it was a mistake to fight the First World War, which from our point of view was primarily a war to prevent a somewhat deranged German emperor imposing his authoritarian and militaristic regime on the whole of Europe and then no doubt seeking to extend that elsewhere in the world. Of course it was very costly in blood and treasure, far more costly than anyone really expected and far too costly, but then you have to ask what would have happened to the continent without our involvement.

  14. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I have just written a querie about a parliamentary act coming into force later on this year for practicing Nurses. I completed the comment and had the correct ‘e’ mail address on etc and when I pressed post comment a spam shot asked me to prove I was human by putting in 2 characters . My request is as thus . did the comment get through or do I need to rewrite it?

  15. rose
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    The most urgent problem facing our democracy is that the next election has already been rigged – and the last time anyone kicked up about it was here (unlike the worldwide fuss being made about a recent African election):

    • rose
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, this is meant to be under the article on democracy.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page