Ramsay MacDonald (12 October 1866 – 9 November 1937) was a British statesman who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, leading a Labour Government in 1924, a Labour Government from 1929 to 1931, and a National Government from 1931 to 1935.
- In youth one believes in democracy, later on, one has to accept it.
- Diary entry (20 March 1919), quoted in David Marquand, ‘MacDonald, (James) Ramsay (1866–1937)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009.
- [I]f we lose our chance now...that chance will not return either to us or to our children. The memories of the last War will grow dim. The world will get back into the old rut, familiar professions and piety about peace will again soothe us to sleep, and the various countries will once more base their security upon military preparation. So they will all, in the end, find themselves drifting hopelessly upon those currents that make for war...And remember what the next war will be like. The old lines which divide combatants from non-combatants, the weak and the diseased from the strong and the robust, men from women and children, will all be obliterated and civilization itself assailed, and from sea and sky will be brought to a heap of ruins.
- Speech at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester (24 May 1929), quoted in David Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald (Metro, 1997), p. 487.
- If we yield now to the TUC we shall never be able to call our bodies or souls or intelligences our own.
- Diary entry (22 Augusut 1931) after the TUC rejected cuts in public spending, quoted in David Marquand, ‘MacDonald, (James) Ramsay (1866–1937)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009.
- Yes, to-morrow every Duchess in London will be wanting to kiss me!
- MacDonald to Philip Snowden the day after the formation of the National government (25 August 1931), quoted in Snowden, An Autobiography. Volume Two: 1919-1934 (London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1934), p. 987.
- The desolation of loneliness is terrible. Was I wise? Perhaps not, but it seemed as though anything else was impossible.
- Notebook entry (27 December 1932) on his estrangement from the Labour Party, quoted in David Marquand, ‘MacDonald, (James) Ramsay (1866–1937)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009.
- What is the Prime Minister going to do? I spoke the other day, after he had been defeated in an important division about his wonderful skill in falling without hurting himself. He falls, but up he comes again, smiling, a little dishevelled but still smiling. But this is a juncture, a situation, which will try to the fullest the peculiar arts in which he excites. I remember when I was a child, being taken to the celebrated Barnum's Circus which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the exhibit on the programme which I most admired to see was the one described as "The Boneless Wonder". My parents judged that that spectacle would be too revolting and demoralizing for my youthful eyes, and I have waited fifty years to see the boneless wonder sitting on the Treasury Bench.
- Winston Churchill in the House of Commons (28 January 1931).
- Martin Gilbert, Prophet of Truth. Winston S. Churchill. 1922-1939 (Minerva, 1990), p. 389, n. 1.
- Ramsay was a simpler character than Baldwin, though he did not look it. He too was complicated, but not by S. B.'s desire to seem plain. A 'blend of cosmopolitan distinction and Scottish sense', Harold Nicolson called him, and no greater contrast with his predecessor could have been penned...the key to him was the commonest in human nature—illusion, our stick and carrot. He had an overdose of incentive and I wished him joy of it, though joy he never got...Ramsay really was persuaded with H. G. Wells that 'our true nationality is mankind'...He really did believe that men were naturally good, that they could be brought into line though they looked like horses at a starting-gate for ever facing opposite ways and savaging each other. He had faith in every panacea...He really did hope that politics were a glittering but not endless adventure, especially in foreign affairs where he trusted to magic solutions round green baize...He really did believe that the grumpy wurrld found felicity by its firesides—he overdid firesides—and that he could make it happier still by catching it there. He really did persuade himself, especially on his feet, that we have some appointment with a star, and would rise to it by better ways than class-war, which he called 'pre-socialist and pre-scientific'...In short and in his own words he held that we were eternally moving in a surge toward righteousness...[he was] nearer to the Liberals than of his extremists. He was less absorbed in Socialism than in international events.
- Lord Vansittart, The Mist Procession (London: Hutchinson, 1938), pp. 373-375.