Reviews

‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian
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Thursday, 30 May 2013

'Safety First' fails to win election for Conservatives


Today is the anniversary of the 1929 general election - the first election when women voted on the same terms as men.

The three major parties all seemed to be in contention. Lloyd George was leading the Liberal Party, armed with a library of policies more radical than those of his opponents, including the booklet ‘We can conquer unemployment’ – a far-sighted, but rather impractical, set of policies to reduce unemployment in an unfeasibly short time through road-building and other public works.

The Conservative Party literally took a safety first approach and fought the election under the slogan of ‘Safety First’.

The Labour Party had a manifesto fairly short on detail, but one of its key passages was entitled ‘The Old Bogey’, a rebuttal of Conservative scare stories about the dangers of a Labour government.

In the event the Conservatives had played it too safe, the Liberals too radical and the Labour Party was just reassuring enough.

The Liberals came out of the election with 59 seats – almost the same total as the Liberal Democrats in 2010. The Conservatives won the most votes at 38.2%, compared to Labour’s 37.1%, but the Labour Party won the most seats - 288 - short of an overall majority, but 28 seats ahead of the Conservatives.

It was to be the first of three elections since 1918 where the party with the most votes did not win the most seats, the others being 1951 and February 1974.

The outcome was the second minority Labour government headed by Ramsay MacDonald.

In retrospect, it was actually a good election to have lost. By October of that year the world was sinking into depression as a result of the Wall Street Crash.

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