Useful Notes: Ramsay Macdonald
aka: Ramsay Mac Donald
"He wishes to do the right thing...Today 23 years ago dear Grandmama died. I wonder what she would have thought of a Labour Government!"James Ramsay MacDonald was a British politician and twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the first Labour Prime Minister in 1924. His first government was a minority government that lasted about 9 months. MacDonald took the post of Foreign Secretary as well as Prime Minister and made it clear that his main priority was to undo the damage which he believed had been caused by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. In order to try and get an overall majority he called an election, and then one of the biggest scandals of the age hit: the Zinoviev letter. This falsified document made it look like MacDonald had been trying to establish a communist government in the UK. Labour actually gained votes in the election, but many Liberal supporters switched to supporting the Conservatives, handing the latter victory. Labour came back to power in 1929 but then got swept away by The Great Depression and MacDonald's insistence that the government did not use deficit spending to stimulate the economy. In 1931 he formed a "National Government" with the Conservatives, but only a handful of Labour politicians followed him; the Labour Party kicked him out and labelled him a traitor. In the 1931 election, the National Government won the biggest landslide in British history and MacDonald was left in the peculiar situation of being a socialist politician steering a Conservative-dominated government. His health deteriorated during the rest of his premiership and most of the actual power got handed to Stanley Baldwin, handing the Premiership over in 1935. MacDonald stayed in government until 1937 and died later that year.
—King George V
Ramsay MacDonald in fiction:
- One Monty Python's Flying Circus episode shows him arriving in Downing Street after his election victory, and promptly removing his clothes to reveal somewhat... specialised underwear.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Despite the fact he led them into power for the first time, MacDonald was reviled in the Labour Party for many years for throwing them under a bus in order to form the National Government with the Tories.
- Landslide Election: The 1931 general election made a complete mockery of the adversarial system, with the parties in MacDonald's National Government taking 67% of the vote and winning 554 of the 615 seats. The Tories alone won more than half of the vote - the only time any party has done so under universal suffrage.
- The Man Behind the Man: By the time he resigned due to ill health, Stanley Baldwin was effectively in charge.
- Shotgun Wedding: Averted. This trope is what his parents had hoped to force by his birth. Unfortunately, mid-19th century Lossiemouth had gotten wise to this trick and his grandmother forbade them from marrying, and so MacDonald was born out of wedlock—the first and so far only PM with that "distinction".