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Last updated:12 June 2015

First Labour government

1924 saw Britain's first ever Labour government under the leadership of James Ramsay MacDonald. In the General Election of 1922 the Labour Party won 142 seats making it the second largest political group in the House of Commons after the Conservative Party. In the 1923 General Election Labour won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had a majority with 258 seats, a variety of factors led to MacDonald heading up a minority government.

The most important achievement of the first Labour government was the Wheatley Housing Act. This Act provided government subsidies to be paid to local authorities in order for low rent housing to be built for low paid workers.

While the MacDonald administration was short-lived, Britain's first Labour government was an important indicator of how much Labour had progressed from its formation in 1900 as the Labour Representation Committee. MacDonald's administration was a useful milestone by which the Party could assess its progress and policies and develop its organisational skills and strategies for the future. Perhaps most importantly, Labour was able to prove itself ‘fit to govern'.