Draft letter from Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald to his ministers, 25th August 1931 (PRO 30/69/38310)
Downing Street, Whitehall
25th August, 1931
I need not say how deeply I regret the necessity for the resignation of the Government, but I wish to thank you most sincerely for the assistance you have given and the pleasure I have had in working with you. It is a very painful decision that has had to be taken, and I wish you to have no doubt at all about what it was. We were on the verge of a financial crisis which, if not dealt with within the space of a few days, would have meant not cuts of ten per cent., or anything of that kind, in unemployment pay, but would have disorganised the whole of our financial system, with the most dire results to the mass of the working classes. It may take a little time for people to understand what are the issues and the alternatives to what I have done [with some colleagues], but the events of today have shown that, but for the step which has been taken, before this week had well begun, we should have been in the midst of a crushing calamity. The Government that has been formed is not a Coalition but a co-operation between individuals who are banded together to avoid the disaster. No parties are involved in it, and as soon as the country gets on an even keel again, the Government will cease to exist.
Whilst the trouble lasted, no other question could overshadow it, and no action which did not directly meet it and which, took time in coming into operation, was of the least use. We should have been fiddling beautiful music whilst Rome was burning. I [We] had to follow what I [we] considered to be a line necessary for the maintenance – even if in a temporarily limited form – of everything we stand for. I know it is hard to understand this, but I am certain that its truth will be seen as the days go on when the Party will have to stand impotently by whilst its work is being undone by others. Having failed to meet the immediate situation we should have been swept away in ignominy before the end of this week by popular clamour, so that it can be proved later on, whatever offence [we] have caused you at this moment I [we] have created the conditions under which you can continue as an opposition and allow the public, saved from panic, to consider a return to our general policy when things have become more normal.
I am yours very sincerely