J. Ramsay MacDonald

James Ramsay MacDonald (1866–1937) was a prominent dissenter and founding member of the Union of Democratic Control. He had resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party after most of his colleagues voted for the Asquith Government’s war budget in August 1914. After regaining the Labour leadership, MacDonald formed two minority administrations (1924 and 1929–31). He was still in office when he was persuaded, by an acute financial crisis, to accept the premiership of a Conservative-dominated National Government — thereby incurring the wrath of his party (from which he was expelled) for reasons quite different than in the First World War. BR respected MacDonald’s wartime politics but came to regard him as excessively timid and deferential. He later complained how, after becoming Prime Minister, MacDonald “went to Windsor in knee-breeches” (Auto. 2: 129).

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MacDonald