With his Cabinet divided over these proposed cuts, MacDonald offered to resign as Prime Minister – only for George V, in a masterstroke of royal statesmanship, to persuade him to stay on as head of a National Government formed with members of the Tory and Liberal parties.
It was an extremely effective solution and, even as MacDonald\’s former Labour colleagues jeered from the sidelines, the new government slashed £70million
(£13 billion today) in spending at a stroke.
Everyone on the public payroll – from Cabinet ministers and judges down to naval ratings and dole recipients – had to accept immediate cuts of 10 per cent.
The police got off lightly, though, with a cut of just five per cent: the ostensible reason was that Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary, had accidentally mentioned that figure in the Commons, and said he felt obliged to \’honour my mistake\’.
Many people, however, thought he simply wanted to guarantee police loyalty at a time of crisis.
Extraordinarily, most people accepted their pay cuts with good grace. Indeed, only the judges, who were among the best paid people in the land, made a fuss – the Lord Chancellor, Lord Sankey wrote to the Prime Minister to complain that the profession was in \’mutinous mood\’.
The result of the cuts, however, was that the government had taken a major step towards trimming the deficit.
Thanks to our garbled modern history curriculum, few people remember the MacDonald government today.
Tsk, the education system of today, eh?