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First National Government 1931

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First National Government 1931

The First National ministry was formed by Ramsay MacDonald in 1931, and existed from 24 August 1931 until the reconstruction of the government, following the general election in October 1931. This ministry was the first "national government" coalition, of which there would be four. It was composed of members from National Labour, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, and the Liberal National Party.


The outgoing Labour cabinet, which was a minority government, was unable to agree upon proposals to cut public expenditure. The Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald submitted his resignation to King George V on 24 August 1931.

The King persuaded MacDonald that it was his duty to form a new government to address the financial crisis. The original idea was that the National government would be free to draw upon the talents of members of all parties, so that it would represent the nation as a whole rather than being a coalition of parties like those which had existed between 1915 and 1922. However as the main body of the Labour Party refused to co-operate, the government comprised members from MacDonald's small group of National Labour supporters, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party was split into three factions. The mainstream party led by Sir Herbert Samuel, who had been the Deputy Leader of the party before the formation of the National Government, continued to support free trade. The Liberal National group led by Sir John Simon had accepted the Conservative policy of protectionism. These two Liberal factions were supporters of the National Ministry. The third group of Lloyd George or Independent Liberals were opposed to the ministry (David Lloyd George had led the party until 1931, but during the crisis he was ill and he took no part in the discussions which led to Liberal participation in government).

The new Ministry was formed on 24 August 1931 when MacDonald was re-appointed Prime Minister. A smaller than usual cabinet was appointed the following day.

General election

The First National Ministry had not originally been intended to fight a general election, but under Conservative pressure one was soon called. The Samuelite Liberal Party was opposed to a general election but found it could not prevent one. Parliament was dissolved on 8 October 1931.

The United Kingdom general election, 1931 took place on 27 October 1931 leading to a landslide victory for candidates supporting the National government. MacDonald reconstructed his government on 5 November 1931, creating the Second National Ministry.


August 1931 - November 1931


Members of the Ministry

The First National Government was composed of members of the following parties:

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.

Office Name Party Dates
Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald National Labour
Lord Chancellor Lord Sankey National Labour
Lord President of the Council Stanley Baldwin Conservative
Lord Privy Seal Earl Peel Conservative
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Snowden National Labour
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Sir Bolton Eyres-Monsell Conservative
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Walter Elliot Conservative
Lords of the Treasury David Margesson Conservative
Sir Frederick Penny Conservative 3 September 1931-12 November 1931
Alec Glassey Liberal 14 September 1931-12 November 1931
Marquess of Titchfield Conservative 3 September 1931-12 November 1931
Euan Wallace Conservative 3 September 1931-12 November 1931
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Marquess of Reading Liberal
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden Conservative
Secretary of State for the Home Department Sir Herbert Samuel Liberal
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Oliver Stanley Conservative
First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Austen Chamberlain Conservative
Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty Earl Stanhope Conservative
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Sir John Gilmour Conservative
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries vacant  
Secretary of State for Air Lord Amulree National Labour
Under-Secretary of State for Air Sir Philip Sassoon Conservative
Secretary of State for the Colonies James Henry Thomas National Labour
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies Sir Robert William Hamilton Liberal
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs James Henry Thomas National Labour
Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Malcolm MacDonald National Labour
President of the Board of Education Sir Donald Maclean Liberal
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education Sir Kingsley Wood Conservative
Minister of Health Neville Chamberlain Conservative
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health Ernest Simon Liberal
Secretary of State for India Sir Samuel Hoare Conservative
Under-Secretary of State for India vacant  
Minister of Labour Sir Henry Betterton Conservative
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour Milner Gray Liberal
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Marquess of Lothian Liberal
Paymaster General Sir Tudor Walters Liberal
Minister for Pensions George Tryon Conservative
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Pensions vacant  
Postmaster-General William Ormsby-Gore Conservative
Assistant Postmaster-General Graham White Liberal
Secretary of State for Scotland Sir Archibald Sinclair Liberal
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland Noel Skelton Conservative
President of the Board of Trade Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister Conservative
Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade Gwilym Lloyd George Liberal
Secretary for Overseas Trade Sir Edward Young Conservative
Secretary for Mines Isaac Foot Liberal
Minister of Transport James Pybus Liberal National
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport George Gillett National Labour
Secretary of State for War Marquess of Crewe Liberal
Under-Secretary of State for War office vacant  
Financial Secretary to the War Office Alfred Duff Cooper Conservative
First Commissioner of Works Marquess of Londonderry Conservative
Attorney General Sir William Jowitt National Labour
Solicitor General Sir Thomas Inskip Conservative
Lord Advocate Craigie Mason Aitchison National Labour
Solicitor General for Scotland John Charles Watson National Labour
Treasurer of the Household Sir George Hennessy, Bt Conservative
Comptroller of the Household Goronwy Owen Liberal
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household Sir Frederick Charles Thomson Conservative


  • Bassett, Reginald. 1931 Political Crisis (2nd ed., Aldershot: Macmillan 1986) ISBN 0-566-05138-9
  • Howell, David. MacDonald's Party: Labour Identities and Crisis, 1922-1931 (Oxford U.P. 2002). ISBN 0-19-820304-7
  • Hyde, H. Montgomery. Baldwin: The Unexpected Prime Minister (1973)
  • Jenkins, Roy. Baldwin (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Mowat, Charles Loch. Britain between the Wars: 1918-1945 (1955) PP 413–79
  • Raymond, John, ed. The Baldwin Age (1960), essays by scholars 252 pages; online
  • Smart, Nick. The National Government. 1931-40 (Macmillan 1999) ISBN 0-333-69131-8
  • Taylor, A.J.P. English History 1914-1945 (1965) pp 321–88
  • Thorpe, Andrew. Britain in the 1930s. The Deceptive Decade, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992). ISBN 0-631-17411-7
  • Williamson, Philip. National Crisis and National Government. British Politics, the Economy and the Empire, 1926-1932, (Cambridge UP, 1992). ISBN 0-521-36137-0

See also

Preceded by
Second MacDonald Ministry
Government of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Second National Ministry
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