Stanley Baldwin

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The Rt Hon Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin

In office
23 May 1923 –  16 January 1924
Preceded by Andrew Bonar Law
Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald
In office
4 November 1924 –  5 June 1929
Preceded by Ramsay MacDonald
Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald
In office
7 June 1935 –  28 May 1937
Preceded by Ramsay MacDonald
Succeeded by Neville Chamberlain

Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
October 27, 1922 –  August 27, 1923
Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law
Preceded by Robert Stevenson Horne
Succeeded by Neville Chamberlain

Born 3 August 1867
Bewdley, Worcestershire, England
Died 14 December 1947 (age 80)
Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse Lucy Ridsdale
Religion Anglican

Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC ( 3 August 1867 – 14 December 1947) was a British statesman and thrice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Early life

Born at Lower Park House, Lower Park, Bewdley in Worcestershire, England, Baldwin was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, and after receiving a third-class degree in history went into the family business. He married on 12 September 1892.

In the 1906 general election he contested Kidderminster but lost amidst the Conservative landslide defeat after the party split on the issue of free trade. However, in 1908 he succeeded his deceased father, Alfred Baldwin, as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bewdley. During the First World War he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law and in 1917 he was appointed to the junior ministerial post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury where he sought to encourage voluntary donations by the rich in order the repay the United Kingdom's war debt, notably writing to The Times under the pseudonym 'FST'. He personally donated one fifth of his quite small fortune. He served jointly with Sir Hardman Lever, who had been appointed in 1916, but after 1919 Baldwin carried out the duties largely alone. In 1921 he was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade.

In late 1922 dissatisfaction was steadily growing within the Conservative Party over its existing governing coalition with the Liberal David Lloyd George. At a meeting of Conservative MPs at the Carlton Club in October Baldwin announced that he would no longer support the coalition and famously condemned Lloyd George for being a "dynamic force" that was bringing destruction across politics. The meeting chose to leave the coalition—against the wishes of most of the party leadership. As a result the new Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law was forced to search for new ministers for his Cabinet and so promoted Baldwin to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the November 1922 general election the Conservatives were returned with a majority in their own right.

First appointment as Prime Minister

In May 1923 Bonar Law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and retired immediately. With many of the party's senior leading figures standing aloof and outside of the government, there were only two candidates to succeed him: Lord Curzon, the Foreign Secretary, and Stanley Baldwin. The choice formally fell to King George V acting on the advice of senior ministers and officials. It is not entirely clear what factors proved most crucial, but some Conservative politicians felt that Curzon was unsuitable for the role of Prime Minister because he was a member of the House of Lords (though this did not stop other Lords being seriously considered for the premiership on subsequent occasions). Likewise, Curzon's lack of experience in domestic affairs, his personal character (found objectionable), and his aristocratic background at a time when the Conservative Party was seeking to shed its patrician image were all deemed impediments. Much weight at the time was given to the intervention of Arthur Balfour.

The King turned to Baldwin to become Prime Minister. Initially Baldwin also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer whilst he sought to recruit the former Liberal Chancellor Reginald McKenna to join the government. When this failed he instead appointed Neville Chamberlain.

The Conservatives now had a clear majority in the House of Commons and could govern for another five years before being constitutionally required to hold a new general election, but Baldwin felt bound by Bonar Law's old pledge at the previous election that there would be no introduction of tariffs without a further election. With the country facing growing unemployment in the wake of free-trade imports driving down prices and profits, Baldwin decided to call an early general election in December 1923 to seek a mandate to introduce protectionist tariffs and thus drive down unemployment. Although this succeeded in reuniting his divided party, the election outcome was inconclusive: the Conservatives won 258 MPs, Labour 191 and the Liberals 159. Whilst the Conservatives retained a plurality in the House of Commons, they had been clearly defeated on the central election issue of tariffs. Baldwin remained Prime Minister until the opening session of the new Parliament in January 1924, at which time the government was defeated in a motion of confidence vote. He resigned immediately.

Return to office

For the next ten months, an unstable minority Labour government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald held office, but it too fell and another general election was held in October 1924. This election brought a landslide majority of 223 for the Conservative party, primarily at the expense of the now terminally declining Liberals. This period included the General Strike of 1926, a crisis which the government managed to weather, despite the havoc it caused throughout the UK.

At Baldwin's instigation Lord Weir headed a committee to 'review the national problem of electrical energy'. It published its report on May 14, 1925 and with it Weir recommended the setting up of a Central Electricity Board, a state monopoly half-financied by the Government and half by local undertakings. Baldwin accepted Weir's recommendations and they became law by the end of 1926. The Board was a success. By 1929 electrical output was up four-fold and generating costs had fallen. Consumers of electricity rose from three-quarters of a million in 1926 to nine million in 1929.

In 1929 Labour returned to office, but by 1931 Baldwin and the Conservatives had entered into a coalition with Labour PM Ramsay MacDonald. This decision led to MacDonald's expulsion from his own party, and Baldwin, as Lord President of the Council became de facto Prime Minister for the increasingly senile MacDonald, until he once again officially became Prime Minister in 1935. His government then secured with great difficulty the passage of the landmark Government of India Act 1935.

In 1932 Baldwin would tell the Commons: "The bomber will always get through. The only defence is offence". He started a rearmament programme and reorganised and expanded the RAF, in the face of strong opposition from the opposition Labour Party. During his third term of office from 1935 to 1937 the worsening political situation on the Continent brought his own foreign policy under greater criticism, and he also faced the abdication crisis of King Edward VIII. With the abdication successfully weathered he would retire after the coronation of the new King George VI and was created Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.

Later life

Baldwin's years in retirement were quiet. With Neville Chamberlain dead, Baldwin's perceived part in pre-war appeasement made him an unpopular figure during and after World War II. During the war, Winston Churchill consulted him only once, on the advisability of Britain's taking a tougher line toward the continued neutrality of Éamon de Valera's Irish Free State (Baldwin advised against it).

In June 1945 Baldwin's wife died. Baldwin himself by now suffered with arthritis and needed a stick to walk. When he made his final public appearance in London in October 1947 at an unveiling of a statue of King George V. A crowd of people recognized the former Prime Minister and cheered him, but Baldwin by this time was deaf and asked, "Are they booing me?" Having been made Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1930, he continued in this capacity until his death in his sleep at Astley Hall, near Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, on 14 December 1947. He was cremated and his ashes buried in Worcester Cathedral.

His estate was probated at £280,971.

Baldwin was essentially a One Nation Conservative. Upon his retirement in 1937 he had indeed received a great deal of praise; the onset of the Second World War would change his public image for the worse. Rightly or wrongly, Baldwin, along with Chamberlain and MacDonald, was held responsible for the United Kingdom's military unpreparedness on the eve of war in 1939. His defenders counter that the moderate Baldwin felt he could not start a programme of aggressive re-armament without a national consensus on the matter. Certainly, pacifist appeasement was the dominant mainstream political view of the time in Britain, France, and the United States.

For Winston Churchill, however, that was no excuse. He firmly believed that Baldwin's conciliatory stance toward Hitler gave the German dictator the impression that Britain would not fight if attacked. Though known for his magnanimity toward political opponents such as Neville Chamberlain, Churchill had none to spare for Baldwin. "I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill," Churchill said when declining to send 80th birthday greetings to the retired prime minister in 1947, "but it would have been much better had he never lived."

First Government, May 1923 - January 1924

  • Stanley Baldwin - Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Cave - Lord Chancellor
  • Lord Salisbury - Lord President of the Council
  • Lord Cecil of Chelwood - Lord Privy Seal
  • William Clive Bridgeman - Home Secretary
  • Lord Curzon of Kedleston - Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the House of Lords
  • The Duke of Devonshire - Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • Lord Derby - Secretary of State for War
  • Lord Peel - Secretary of State for India
  • Sir Samuel Hoare - Secretary of State for Air
  • Lord Novar - Secretary for Scotland
  • Leo Amery - First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame - President of the Board of Trade
  • Sir Robert Sanders - Minister of Agriculture
  • Edward Frederick Lindley Wood - President of the Board of Education
  • Sir Anderson Montague-Barlow - Minister of Labour
  • Neville Chamberlain - Minister of Health
  • Sir William Joynson-Hicks - Financial Secretary to the Treasury
  • Sir Laming Worthington-Evans - Postmaster-General


  • August 1923 - Neville Chamberlain took over from Baldwin as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir William Joynson-Hicks succeeded Chamberlain as Minister of Health. Joynson-Hicks' successor as Financial Secretary to the Treasury was not in the Cabinet.

Second Cabinet, November 1924 - June 1929

  • Stanley Baldwin - Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Cave - Lord Chancellor
  • Lord Curzon of Kedleston - Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords
  • Lord Salisbury - Lord Privy Seal
  • Winston Churchill - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Sir William Joynson-Hicks - Home Secretary
  • Sir Austen Chamberlain - Foreign Secretary and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
  • Leo Amery - Colonial Secretary
  • Sir Laming Worthington-Evans - Secretary of State for War
  • Lord Birkenhead - Secretary of State for India
  • Sir Samuel Hoare - Secretary for Air
  • Sir John Gilmour - Secretary for Scotland
  • William Clive Bridgeman - First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Lord Cecil of Chelwood - Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister - President of the Board of Trade
  • Edward Frederick Lindley Wood - Minister of Agriculture
  • Lord Eustace Percy - President of the Board of Education
  • Lord Peel - First Commissioner of Works
  • Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland - Minister of Labour
  • Neville Chamberlain - Minister of Health
  • Sir Douglas Hogg - Attorney-General


  • April 1925 - On Lord Curzon of Kedleston's death, Lord Balfour succeeded him as Lord President. Lord Salisbury becomes the new Leader of the House of Lords, remaining also Lord Privy Seal.
  • June 1925 - The post of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is created and held by Leo Amery in tandem with Secretary of State for the Colonies.
  • November 1925 - Walter Guinness succeeds E.F.L. Wood as Minister of Agriculture.
  • July 1926 - The post of Secretary of Scotland is upgraded to Secretary of State for Scotland.
  • October 1927 - Lord Cushendun succeeded Lord Cecil of Chelwood as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • March 1928 - Lord Hailsham (former Sir D. Hogg) succeeded Lord Cave as Lord Chancellor. Lord Hailsham's successor as Attorney-General was not in the Cabinet.
  • October 1928 - Lord Peel succeeded Lord Birkenhead as Secretary of State for India. Lord Londonderry succeeded Lord Peel as First Commissioner of Public Works

Third Cabinet, June 1935 - May 1937

  • Stanley Baldwin - Prime Minister and Leader of the House of Commons
  • Lord Hailsham - Lord Chancellor
  • Ramsay MacDonald - Lord President of the Council
  • Lord Londonderry - Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords
  • Neville Chamberlain - Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Sir John Simon - Home Secretary and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
  • Sir Samuel Hoare - Foreign Secretary
  • Malcolm MacDonald - Colonial Secretary
  • J.H. Thomas - Dominions Secretary
  • Lord Halifax - Secretary for War
  • Lord Zetland - Secretary of State for India
  • Lord Swinton - Secretary of State for Air
  • Sir Godfrey Collins - Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Bolton Eyres-Monsell - First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Walter Runciman - President of the Board of Trade
  • Walter Elliot - Minister of Agriculture
  • Joe Budden - President of the Board of Education
  • Ernest Brown - Minister of Labour
  • Sir Kingsley Wood - Minister of Health
  • William Ormsby-Gore - First Commissioner of Works
  • Anthony Eden - Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for League of Nations Affairs
  • Lord Eustace Percy - Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for government policy


  • November 1935 - Malcolm MacDonald succeeds J.H. Thomas as Dominions Secretary. Thomas succeeds MacDonald as Colonial Secretary. Lord Halifax succeeds Lord Londonderry as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. Duff Cooper succeeds Lord Halifax as Secretary for War. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister becomes Viscount Swinton and Bolton Eyres-Monsell becomes Viscount Monsell, both remaining in the Cabinet.
  • December 1935 Anthony Eden succeeds Sir Samuel Hoare as Foreign Secretary and is not replaced as Minister without Portfolio.
  • March 1936 - Sir Thomas Inskip enters the cabinet as Minister for the Coordination of Defense. Lord Eustace Percy leaves the cabinet.
  • May 1936 - William Ormsby-Gore succeeds J.H. Thomas as Colonial Secretary. Lord Stanhope succeeds Ormsby-Gore as First Commissioner of Works.
  • June 1936 - Sir Samuel Hoare succeeds Lord Monsell as First Lord of the Admiralty.
  • October 1936 - Walter Elliot succeeds Collins as Secretary for Scotland. William Shepherd Morrison succeeds Elliot as Minister of Agriculture. Leslie Hore-Belisha enters the Cabinet as Minister of Transport.
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