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William Adamson

William Adamson

William Adamson was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on 2nd April 1863. After being educated at a local dame school he worked as a miner in Fife. He joined the National Union of Mineworkers and became Assistant Secretary of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan Miners' Association (1902-1908).

A member of the Labour Party, Adamson was elected to the House of Commons in December 1910. Adamson became leader of the party in October 1917 and held the post until February 1921 when he was replaced by Joseph Clynes.

In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had 258, Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. MacDonald appointed Adamson as Secretary of State for Scotland. However, he only held the post for eleven months as the Labour Party lost power in November 1924.

In the 1929 General Election the Labour Party won 288 seats, making it the largest party in the House of Commons. MacDonald became Prime Minister again, but as before, he still had to rely on the support of the Liberals to hold onto power. Once again MacDonald appointed Adamson as Secretary of State for Scotland.

The election of the Labour Government in 1929 coincided with an economic depression and Ramsay MacDonald was faced with the problem of growing unemployment. MacDonald asked Sir George May, to form a committee to look into Britain's economic problem. When the May Committee produced its report in July, 1931, it suggested that the government should reduce its expenditure by £97,000,000, including a £67,000,000 cut in unemployment benefits. MacDonald, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Snowden, accepted the report but when the matter was discussed by the Cabinet, the majority voted against the measures suggested by Sir George May.

Ramsay MacDonald was angry that his Cabinet had voted against him and decided to resign. When he saw George V that night, he was persuaded to head a new coalition government that would include Conservative and Liberal leaders as well as Labour ministers. Most of the Labour Cabinet totally rejected the idea and only three, Philip Snowden, Jimmy Thomas and John Sankey agreed to join the new government.

MacDonald was determined to continue and his National Government introduced the measures that had been rejected by the previous Labour Cabinet. Labour MPs were furious with what had happened and MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party.

In October, MacDonald called an election. The 1931 General Election was a disaster for the Labour Party with only 46 members winning their seats. Adamson also lost his seat in West Fife. William Adamson died on 23rd February 1936.

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