National Government (1931)
|1st National Government of the United Kingdom|
|Date formed||24 August 1931|
|Date dissolved||27 October 1931|
|People and organisations|
|Prime Minister||Ramsay MacDonald|
|Prime Minister's history||1929–1935|
|Deputy Prime Minister||Stanley Baldwin[note 1]|
|Total no. of members||59 appointments|
|Status in legislature||Majority (coalition)|
|Opposition party||Labour Party|
|Outgoing election||1931 general election|
|Legislature term(s)||35th UK Parliament|
|Predecessor||Second MacDonald ministry|
|Successor||Second National Government|
The National Government of August–October 1931, also known as the First National Government was the first of a series of national governments formed during the Great Depression in the United Kingdom. It was formed by Ramsay MacDonald as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following the collapse of the previous minority government, led by the Labour Party, known as the Second MacDonald ministry.
As a National Government, it contained members of the Conservative Party, Liberals and National Labour, as well as a number of individuals who belonged to no political party. The breakaway Liberal Nationals supported the National Government after their formation in September 1931 but none received posts in the new administration. Subsequently two Liberal ministers, Alec Glassey and John Pybus, defected to the Liberal Nationals. It did not contain members of the Labour Party as MacDonald had been expelled from it. The Labour Party led the opposition.
Viewed by many Labourites as a traitor, Macdonald was expelled from the Labour Party, and remained a hated figure within the Labour Party for many years thereafter, despite his great services to his party earlier in his life.
The outgoing Labour cabinet, which was a minority government, was unable to agree upon proposals to cut public expenditure. Prime Minister MacDonald submitted his resignation to King George V on 24 August 1931.
The new Ministry was formed on 24 August 1931, when MacDonald was re-appointed Prime Minister. A smaller-than-usual cabinet was appointed the following day. The king persuaded MacDonald that it was his duty to form a new government to address the financial crisis. The original idea was that the National Government would be free to draw upon the talents of members of all parties, so that it would represent the nation as a whole rather than being a coalition of parties like those which had existed between 1915 and 1922. However, as the main body of the Labour Party refused to co-operate, the government comprised members from MacDonald's small group of National Labour supporters, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.
The Liberal Party was split into three factions. The mainstream party led by Sir Herbert Samuel, who had been the Deputy Leader of the party before the formation of the National Government, continued to support free trade. The Liberal National group led by Sir John Simon had accepted the Conservative policy of protectionism. These two Liberal factions were supporters of the National Ministry. The third group led by David Lloyd George (later to be called the Independent Liberals) had initially supported the creation of the National Government with two of them (Gwilym Lloyd George and Goronwy Owen) taking office. David Lloyd George had been expected to join the government after recovering from surgery following an operation on his prostate as he was still the official leader of the Liberal party. However, he refused to support the calling of a general election, and persuaded his supporters to leave the government and go into opposition.
MacDonald's National Government had not originally been intended to fight a general election, but under Conservative pressure one was soon called. The Samuelite Liberal Party was opposed to a general election but found it could not prevent one. Parliament was dissolved on 8 October 1931.
The 1931 general election took place on 27 October 1931 and led to a landslide victory for candidates supporting the National Government. MacDonald reconstructed his government on 5 November 1931, establishing the 1931-35 National Government.
August 1931 – November 1931
- Ramsay MacDonald – Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
- Lord Sankey – Lord Chancellor
- Stanley Baldwin – Lord President
- Philip Snowden – Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Sir Herbert Samuel – Home Secretary
- Lord Reading – Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Lords
- Sir Samuel Hoare – Secretary for India
- J.H. Thomas – Dominions Secretary and Colonial Secretary
- Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister – President of the Board of Trade
- Neville Chamberlain – Minister of Health
Members of the Ministry
The First National Government was composed of members of the following parties:
Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.
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Second MacDonald ministry
| Government of the United Kingdom
Second National Government