James Ramsay Macdonald was one of the three principal founders of the Labour party; he was a leader of the party and the first Labour Prime Minister.    

He was the illegitimate son of a farm labourer and a housemaid.  Together with Kier Hardy and Arthur Henderson he founded the Labour Party in 1900. He was leader of the party from 1922 and the first Labour Prime Minister in 1924 and then again from 1931-1935, a period dominated by the Great Depression.

He headed a national government dominated by the Conservative Party and supported by only a few Labour members. He formed a national Government to carry out spending cuts and defend the gold standard, but it had to be abandoned after the Invergordon Mutiny in September 1931 when 1,000 soldiers in the British Atlantic fleet launched an industrial action  and, for two days, ships of the Royal Navy at Invergordon were in open mutiny, in one of the few military strikes in British history.

The mutiny caused a panic on the London Stock Exchange and a run on the pound, bringing Britain’s economic troubles to a head and forcing it off the Gold Standard on 21 September 1931.

In 1935 his health deteriorated, and he stood down as Prime Minister. He died in 1937 on a sea voyage that was prescribed to restore his health.

King George V was said to have regarded him as his favourite Prime Minister.


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