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Ramsay MacDonald

Born 12th October 1866 in Lossiemouth, Scotland
Died 9th November 1937 aboard an ocean liner in the Atlantic.

James Ramsay MacDonald, was a British statesman who was the first Labour Party Prime Minister, leading Labour governments in 1924, 1929-1931 and, having been expelled from the party he had helped to found, a National Government from 1931 to 1935.

As Leader of the Labour Party, he entered Parliament in 1906 and was the Chairman of the Labour MPs from 1911 to 1914. He was widely denounced for his opposition to the First World War, and he lost his seat in 1918. The antiwar mood of the 1920s led to his rehabilitation in the 1920s and he returned to Parliament in 1922, as his party replaced the Liberal Party as the second-largest party.

The first Labour government--formed with Liberal support--in 1924 lasted only nine months but demonstrated that the Labour Party was sufficiently competent to run a government. MacDonald was widely applauded for his moderation and his support of the League of Nations, but Labour was defeated at the 1924 General Election.

Labour returned to power--this time as the largest party--in 1929 but was soon overwhelmed by the crisis of the Great Depression. MacDonald formed a National Government in which only two of his Labour colleagues agreed to serve. His majority came from the Conservatives. He abandoned the gold standard and called a general election in 1931 seeking a "doctor's mandate" to do whatever was necessary to fix the economy. MacDonald's National coalition won an overwhelming landslide and the Labour Party was reduced to a rump of around 50 seats in the House of Commons.

Expelled from the Labour Party, MacDonald remained Prime Minister of the National Government from 1931 to 1935; by this time he felt that the internal cohesion of the British Empire, a protective tariff, and an independent British defence programme would be the wisest policy. Nevertheless budget pressures, and a strong popular pacifist sentiment, forced a reduction in the military and naval budgets. His health rapidly deteriorated and he stood down as Prime Minister in 1935.

In youth one believes in democracy, later on, one has to accept it.

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