British Prime Minister: 1923-1924; 1924-1929; 1935-1937

"A platitude is simply a truth repeated until people get tired of hearing it."

Stanley Baldwin was born in Bewdley on the 3rd of August, 1867. He got his education at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge and followed in his father's footsteps by going into the iron and steel industry, working at Baldwins Ltd. He was the matrilateral cousin of Rudyard Kipling.

Baldwin was elected as the (Conservative) MP for Bewdley in 1908 (the constituency his father had represented) and in 1916 he was appointed Private Parliamentary Secretary to Andrew Bonar Law, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Under the leadership of David Lloyd George's coalition government, Baldwin was Junior Lord of the Treasury, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and President of the Board of Trade. He donated £150,000 of his own money to help with the war debt, a significant amount considering it was a fifth of everything he owned, roughly equal to £8million today. Baldwin hoped this donation would encourage others to do likewise, but only £500,000 of debt was paid off through donations.

It was Baldwin's plotting that had David Lloyd George ousted, to be replaced with Andrew Bonar Law. In return, Bonar Law appointed him as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1922). He negotiated with the Americans to reduce British war debt by a third. Bonar Law resigned the following year due to health concerns, and Baldwin succeeded him as Prime Minister.

"The English language is the richest in the world in monosyllables. Four words of one syllable each...contain salvation for this country and the whole world, and they are Faith, Hope, Love and Work. No Government in this country today which has not faith in the people, hope in the future, love of its fellow men and which will not work and work and work will ever bring this country through into better days and better times, or will ever bring Europe through or the world through."

The Conservatives lost the 1923 General Election to Labour after high unemployment, industrial stagnation and the threat of increased import duties. A scandal in 1924 assured the Conservatives regaining power in the 1924 General Election.

Baldwin's next test came in 1925, when the owners of the coal mines declared they were going to reduce miner's wages. The Trades Union Congress announced its support of the miners in the dispute. Baldwin would make up the difference in pay so that the miner's wage remained unchanged. However, he warned that this subsidy was only for 9 months; in the meantime he set up a Royal Commission to investigate the mining industry.

The commission's report recommended the end of the subsidy, and the reduction in wages should proceed. The TUC's response was a General Strike. Although negotiations continued, Baldwin eventually called them off. The TUC called upon the key workers of Britain...and a fifth of the entire male work force (3 million men) was now part of the dispute.

Baldwin suspended the miners' Seven Hours Act for five years. This allowed miners to work eight hour days, which the mine-owners accepted. The price for this was high: in 1927 Baldwin's government passed the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act which basically made General Strikes illegal.

"I would rather trust a woman's instinct than a man's reason."

It was under Baldwin that women finally got the vote in Britain. He passed the legislation in 1928, it received little opposition (after the Sex Disqualification Removal Act, there were now female MPs).

Baldwin lost the 1929 election; he returned to government in 1931, where he was President of the Council in Ramsay MacDonald's National Coalition. In this role he promoted the protectionist Ottawa agreements of 1932 (under which Canada received exemption from British tariff increases and agreed to reduce the Canadian tariff on imports from Britain). Following the resignation of Ramsay MacDonald in 1935 George V appointed Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister.

"War would end if the dead could return."

Whilst the Spanish Civil War was raging, Baldwin maintained his policy of non-intervention. This, coupled with his reluctance to deal with a rearming Adolf Hitler, served as a crippling blow to his popularity. Baldwin made his non-intervention policy official with the Non-Intervention Agreement which was signed by 27 countries (including Italy and Germany).

It won't come as a surprise to learn that Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler didn't honour this agreement and began to send military aid to Francisco Franco. The once sympathetic Labour party soon began to change its mind regarding non-intervention because of this. They asked that aid be sent to the Popular Front.

Thousands of Britons enlisted themselves into the International Brigades, so they could fight for the Republican Army. To try and enforce their non-intervention policy Baldwin's government tried to invoke The Foreign Enlistment Act.

When Edward VIII expressed his wish to marry a two-times divorcee, Baldwin opposed it. Edward insisted on his right to marry, but the cabinet refused to move on the subject. Since the issue could have caused an upset to the constitution, Edward abdicated. Baldwin resigned shortly afterwards in 1937. He was made a knight of the order of the garter and was awarded the title Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. He died on the 14th of December, 1947, aged 80.

Baldwin's charisma, and his patriotic speeches won him the confidence of the nation. He believed that both socialism and laissez faire were two economic extremes that could never exist in reality. His first hand knowledge of industry ensured he could maintain some sort of peace between bosses and trade unions. Stanley Baldwin had a genuine love for the English, and the House of Commons. His fair-minded policies and radio broadcasts ensured him a place in many's hearts.

"The General Strike provided a testing time of quite unprecendented severity for a statesman whose qualities have been only faintly appreciated by the majority of the people. The result may be stated in a sentence. Not a vestige remains of the question mark which friend and opponent alike used to place against the name of Stanley Baldwin".
-Adam Gowans Whyte

"Facts About the British Prime Ministers", By Dermot Englefield, Janet Seaton, and Isobel White

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