Foreign and Imperial Policy

  • John Shepherd
  • Keith Laybourn


When Ramsay MacDonald became Foreign Secretary as well as Prime Minister — the only modern politician except for Lord Salisbury to combine both posts — George V worried in 1924 that the heavy weight of responsibilities and official duties that had taxed Salisbury would also overburden the Labour leader.1 But MacDonald told the House of Commons that ‘the position of this country in Europe had become so unsatisfactory that I believed that it would be a great advantage if, whoever was Prime Minister was also Foreign Secretary, in order to give the weight of office to any sort of policy that one might devise.’2 However, anyone of either Arthur Henderson — who was to hold the post in the Second Labour Cabinet in 1929–31 — or E. D. Morel,]. H. Thomas or possibly Arthur Ponsonby, might have become a creditable Labour Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Free from burdensome Foreign Office duties, MacDonald as Prime Minister could still have brought the full gravitas of his office to bear on European affairs. Only a few years before, Lloyd George dominated the world stage — dynamic coalition Premier, triumphant war leader and British member of the ‘Big Four’ who negotiated the Versailles Treaty at the Paris Peace conference.


Prime Minister Foreign Policy Foreign Affair Labour Government Labour Party 
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© John Shepherd and Keith Laybourn 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Shepherd
  • Keith Laybourn

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