Ramsay McDonald
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From a similar background to Keir Hardie - an illegitimate boy from a poverty-stricken Scottish household. Until the 1890s, MacDonald was involved in Lib-Labbism, and then became briefly entangled in the Social Democratic Federation. Joined the ILP in 1894 after being rejected as Liberal candidate for the then solidly Tory seat of Dover. However, he retained links with the Liberals whilst rapidly progressing in the fledgling labour movement. He became secretary of the LRC in 1900 and an MP for Leicester in 1906.

MacDonald was Labour's senior strategist, and the Progressive Alliance of 1906-1914 was chiefly his brainchild. In the pre-war years, he wrote a number of slightly tedious books, contributing a statist view of the evolutionary road to socialism, backing it with both Darwinism and Utopianism; stressing the continuity with 'the best of Liberalism.'

The death of his wife in 1911 and opposition to the Great War made life difficult for him, and he lost his seat in 1918 largely as a result of his pacifism. He was thought to be involved with a number of high society women, also engaging himself with some pathetic upper class fantasies - such as naming himself 'Hamish the Hart!'

"I do not accuse him of treachery, for he never was a socialist"
Beatrice Webb
1918-1926 After the war, to the public he began to symbolise peace, internationalism, decency and social change - a worthy idealist. MacDonald took advantage of the dissatisfaction with Lloyd George to provide a voice of conscience to those who felt betrayed by post-war conditions. He was re-elected to Parliament in 1922 and was regarded by then as the natural leader of the Labour Party.

Whilst Prime Minister there was a deep distrust between Henderson, Snowden and MacDonald, and criticism from the left intensified after scuppering a transport strike by using Lloyd George's emergency plans. He was respected for his part in foreign affairs, playing a role in the Dawes Plan for German reperations. He also established a trade treaty with Russia. Much of his Prime Ministerial style consisted of placating the fearful upper- classes.

What was regarded by many as a solid performance during the General Strike consolidated his position. By 1928 MacDonald had a stable grip upon the entire party.
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