Macdonald’s ‘election triumph’

The contents of these diaries were in Ramsay MacDonald’s words: “meant as notes to guide and revive memory as regards happenings” and should not be read as policy. The publication of the diaries in extenso is prohibited, however these extracts may prove useful for consideration of interpretation and intention.  (Catalogue ref: PRO/30/69/1753/1)


1923 The Cabinet Crisis

8 Dec: Returned to London. Crowd at station. Evening papers state Baldwin will resign on Monday & advise King to send for me—Election wonderful triumph. Malcolm* returning to Oxford made me break down. Ma!** were she here to help me. Why are they both dead, my mother and she…

* Malcolm, Ramsay MacDonald’s son

**Margaret, his late wife

1924 10 January

Spent Christmas & New Year immersed in politics & loads of letters at Lossiemouth*.

Times of sad reflections and gloomy thoughts. The people of my heart are dead; their faces on my walls, they do not share with me. Had much difficulty in returning. How vain is honour now. My dearest living friends cannot change my heart from a grave & myself from being a solitary. My past years were much with me & the old folks. The living were kind & homely & seem proud of Lossie. But I have to work out my destiny. So I returned to the world of politics & premierships, & a press that wonders why I take so little delight in publicity.- On the 8th had fine meeting in Albert Hall & my speech seems to been useful.

13 (Sunday)

Busy, busy, Cabinet making. Looks as if it is to be the most horrible job in my life. Still beginning to suspect human nature…


*Lossiemouth, location of Macdonald’s family home in Scotland

3rd Feb 1924

…The Liberals have already shown an unhappiness which will be their own undoing after giving us trouble. Their leaders are men of poor spirit. I hoped we might draw together, but the opposite is likely to happen. They grow mean & petty, rent with personal rivalry & hating us in their hearts. I think we shall live a Session though it will be a worrying job & partisan fighting will increase. My task will be to keep up the Government out of ruts & confused squabbling- big things & policies to dominate on the field of Parliamentary fighting, steady effort which even if not quite successful will gain respect & confidence in the country…

2nd March 1924

… I sometimes wonder if I can stand it, I’m convinced that practically continuous sessions of Parliament will break down the machine, but the backbenchers think that nothing’s being done unless the H. of L.* This is to the testing problem of representative democracy. I now see that we are to last. I have adopted the policy of establishing contacts with the living spirit of the country like art. I hear of grumbling that I give up time to this. The fools. They have neither sense nor vision. Sometimes I think a new party will arise. The liberals get meaner& meaner 7 we respect the Conservatives more & more. They have a calmer sense & a bigger vision in their Parliamentary work. The difference in dealing with the Liberals & Tories is great…

House of Lords

Return to Twenties Britain (part one)