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History 2

By Henry Pelling (auth.)

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The fact that the parliamentary party had established its right to be regarded as the official Opposition in the Commons meant additional prestige and importance for its principal spokesman, who now became the prospective dispenser of government patronage. Similarly, the parliamentary party as a whole considerably increased its standing vis-a-vis the trade unions. MacDonald's elevation by the parliamentary party in place of the incumbent, J. R. Clynes, was a remarkable success, and it could not have happened if the 1922 general election had not completely transformed the character of the parliamentary party.

The British ultimatum to Germany expired late in the evening of 4th August ; and next morning, when the National Executive of the Labour Party met, it was apparent that the party no longer presented a united front of opposition to the war. The resolution that it passed, and which was then endorsed at a joint meeting with the parliamentary party, was clearly a compromise. It deplored the fact that British support had been committed to France 'without the knowledge of our people', but it did not express direct opposition to the war, merely saying that it was the duty of the labour movement to 'secure peace at the earliest possible moment on such conditions as will provide the best opportunities for the re-establishment of amicable feelings between the workers of Europe'.

In Parliament. s took junior office. The influence of the Labour Party upon the actual conduct of government was not very noticeable at first. It seemed rather that the party was a prisoner of the other parties, obliged to take responsibility for various measures that were bound to be unpopular in the labour movement. One highly controversial issue was the dilution of labour in the factories - that is, the admission of unskilled workers into occupations hitherto reserved for craftsmen who had served their apprenticeship.

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