By John Shepherd
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Additional resources for Britain’s First Labour Government
2 Inexorably, it seemed, the Labour Party had gathered strength on all fronts. Growth in parliamentary and municipal representation was testament to the party’s steady increase in membership to around four million affiliated members, sound organisation with local parties established in nearly 600 constituencies, and comprehensive political programmes in domestic and foreign policy. As seen earlier, Webb forecast precisely the future arrival of the first Labour government. ’3 In June 1923 Webb also refuted Churchill’s charge that Labour was not fit to govern like its Conservative and Liberal predecessors.
There was also Labour’s fear of the control that Moscow exerted over the CPGB and the evidence of events in Russia, such as the Soviet invasion of Georgia in 1921, the execution of Social Revolutionary leaders in 1921 – as happened later in the show trials in 1936–38. 40 In 1924 the CPGB initially had welcomed the advent of the minority Labour government that had taken power, but expected it would come forward with a socialist programme to improve the position of the working classes. However, as we shall see, when Labour seemed to be militating against working-class interests – the outcome of the rail strike in January 1924, the strike of the dockers, the London traffic strike, and the builders’ strike, all revealing that the Labour government wanted the trade unions to settle on poor terms – attitudes changed.
2 The outcome of the December 1923 general election – Conservatives 258 MPs, Labour 191, and Liberals 158 – left an uncertain political situation at Westminster with no party holding an absolute majority. In these circumstances, George V played a significant role in deciding who should govern the country. Though he had lost his overall majority of 75, Baldwin did not resign immediately, but remained in office on the King’s advice that he should await the verdict of the new Parliament in January 1924.