31st January 1936
The new reign began to slip into routine with a small Privy Council meeting at 11am. The two politicians who attended, Ramsay MacDonald and Sir John Simon, each had separate audiences with the King as well. MacDonald was present in his capacity as Lord President of the Council, an antique office which still today ranks as the fourth highest of the great offices of state. It serves as a bridge between the sixteenth century government and today's.  The holder sits in Cabinet as a minister without portfolio.

MacDonald's presence was a tribute to the political skills of King George V. MacDonald had been Britain's first Labour Prime Minister in 1924. It was a delicate moment in the change in British politics from its aristocratic past to a broad democracy. But for the King's easy and open espousal of the right of the Labour ministers to their posts and his willingness to treat them no differently to their more conventional predecessors, the process would have been far harder on both sides. King George's happy relationship with MacDonald delivered its greatest achievement when he persuaded him to lead a National Government to deal with Britain's economic crisis in 1931. He had only stepped down as Prime Minister the previous year, swapping places with Stanley Baldwin. He was no longer a significant force in politics. The National Labour party had shrunk to near invisibility and he himself was suffering cruelly from his age, but MacDonald still had the aura of an elder statesman.

Also present at the Council was the Archbishop of Canterbury and the inevitable Sir Maurice Hankey took the minutes. At one level it was a comforting throwback to the age-old practices of the monarchy but there was a yawning gap between the King's generation and the others' present at the Council. It would open wider.


Popular posts from this blog

Eighty years ago a newspaper cartoon touches a raw nerve

Eighty years ago Colonel Lindbergh's mask slips

Eighty years ago Polish fliers and airborne radar blunt the Luftwaffe assault on Exeter