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100 years ago: Macdonald’s moment

19 January 2024

January 18th, 1924.

THERE is without question a certain unreality in the debates on the King’s Speech since it is certain that, after an unnecessarily large number of Liberals have explained for the benefit of their constituents why they intend to disregard the Rothermere Press and vote against the Government, Mr Baldwin will be defeated and Mr Ramsay Macdonald will reign in his place. The change must have momentous consequences. The advent of the first Labour Government in Great Britain is indeed far too important an event to be discussed in a paragraph. It is, however, worth while to emphasize the fact that Labour will have attained power by strictly constitutional means. It is true that it represents a minority of the electorate, but with the Liberal support on which, under certain definite conditions, it can for some months count, it is supported by a majority of the elected representatives of the people. It is of vast significance and promise that the Labour Party, after little more than twenty years’ existence, reaches the Treasury Bench without revolution and without the smallest departure from constitutional practice. Authority will, we believe, bring with it a greater sense of responsibility. The leaders of the party are admirably earnest, but we deplore such regrettable outbursts as Mr Jack Jones’s assertion of his belief in the doctrine that the spoils are for the victors. That is the teaching of the soulless materialism against which the Labour Party is to some extent a protest. We do not desire to exaggerate the importance of Mr Jack Jones’s remark. We know that he is, indeed, a typically good-humoured, kindly Londoner who often says what he does not mean. But Labour politicians should not say what they do not mean at a crisis like this.

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