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Malcolm MacDonald

Malcolm MacDonald British politician

British politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British politician
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Politician Diplomat Educator
Type Academia Politics
Gender male
Birth 17 August 1901, Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death 11 January 1981, Maidstone, Maidstone, Kent, Kent (aged 79 years)
Star sign LeoLeo
Politics Labour Party
Father: Ramsay MacDonald
The details

Malcolm John MacDonald OM PC (17 August 1901 – 11 January 1981) was a British politician and diplomat.


MacDonald was the son of former Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Margaret MacDonald. Like his father, he was born in Lossiemouth, Moray. He was initially a Labour Member of Parliament (MP), but in 1931 he joined his father to break with the party and join the National Government and was consequently expelled from the Labour Party.

He was educated at Bedales School and Queen's College, Oxford.

Political career

MacDonald was first elected to Parliament for Bassetlaw in the 1929 general election and proved to be a "loyal" son, in contrast to Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin's son Oliver who was also elected a Labour MP. In 1931, the Labour government broke up and MacDonald's father formed the National Government with representatives drawn from all political parties. Very few Labour members would support it, however, and so Malcolm was appointed to a junior ministerial post as Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. When the Labour MPs met to discuss the formation of the government, Malcolm was the only one present who spoke in favour of his father's actions and voted against a condemnatory resolution. MacDonald held his seat in the 1931 general election as a National Labour candidate, and continued to build up a reputation as a highly competent minister. When his father retired in 1935, the new Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, appointed Malcolm to the Cabinet for the first time as Secretary of State for the Colonies. His father had become Lord President of the Council and they became only the third father and son to sit together in the same Cabinet.

In the 1935 general election held that autumn MacDonald narrowly lost his seat but after some discussion Baldwin decided to retain him in government, albeit moving him to the post of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in a direct swap with James Henry Thomas who had created problems with some Dominion governments. The following February MacDonald stood for Parliament in a by-election at Ross and Cromarty. This election proved chaotic as the local Conservative & Unionist Association declined to support him (though the local National Liberals did) and instead adopted as their candidate Randolph Churchill, son of Winston Churchill who had emerged as a prominent Conservative critic of the government. Despite this MacDonald won the by-election and returned to Parliament. MacDonald retained his position after Baldwin and MacDonald's final retirements in 1937, when together with the new Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain he set about negotiating a new set of agreements with the Irish Free State to resolve disputes over trade, compensation and the Treaty Ports that the United Kingdom still retained. Although the issue of Northern Ireland could not be agreed, all other matters were settled and MacDonald won many plaudits.

In May 1938, Chamberlain moved him back to the Colonial Office – a move now seen as a promotion due to the increased prominence of the position given the situation in the British Mandate of Palestine. In October, the new Dominions Secretary, Lord Stanley, died and MacDonald was appointed to succeed him in addition to the Colonies, as the post was in a sensitive period and needed an experienced pair of hands. The following January, he relinquished the Dominions Office.

In 1939, MacDonald oversaw and introduced the so-called MacDonald White Paper which aimed at the creation of a unified state, with controls on Jewish immigration. The White Paper argued that with over 450,000 Jews having now settled in the mandate, the Balfour Declaration had now been met and the paper opposed an independent Jewish state. The League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission held that the White Paper was in conflict with the terms of the Mandate as put forth in the past. The outbreak of the Second World War suspended any further deliberations. It has been suggested that MacDonald and Chamberlain took this course of action in order to ensure that the situation in Palestine did not develop into a situation similar to that of Ireland where two evenly matched communities engaged in bitter ethnic conflict. With antisemitism rampant in Europe, MacDonald sought to find new settlements, in vain. The White Paper was bitterly opposed by the Jews in Palestine, as well as by many supporting the National Government in Britain. When it was voted on in Parliament many Government supporters abstained or voted against the proposals, including some Cabinet Ministers as well as Winston Churchill. The objections to the 'white paper' were especially raised following the plight of European Jews under Nazi regimes in Germany and Austria, who suffered greatly under the Nazi oppression, but did not have other available goals of immigration, as most states at this point (including the US and Canada), did not accept Jewish refugees. In a UK Parliamentary debate, Lloyd George called the White Paper an act of perfidy while Winston Churchill voted against the government. In a leader the Manchester Guardian called it "a death sentence on tens of thousands of Central European Jews" The Liberal MP James Rothschild stated during the parliamentary debate that "for the majority of the Jews who go to Palestine it is a question of migration or of physical extinction".

In May 1940, Chamberlain fell and Winston Churchill formed an all party coalition, bringing the Labour Party into the National Government for the first time. There was some speculation that their hostility might result in MacDonald being amongst the ministers dropped to make way for them (as happened to Earl de la Warr, the other National Labour minister) but instead MacDonald was retained and became Minister of Health. In June 1940, he was sent to Dublin for a series of meetings with Eamon De Valera: he was authorised to offer the end of the Partition of Ireland if the Free State would enter the war on the Allied side. De Valera declined the offer. The following year his career took a different turn when he was appointed High Commissioner to Canada. Initially special legislation was passed to allow him to retain his seat in Parliament, but in 1945 the National Labour Party dissolved itself and MacDonald decided to retire from British politics.

After his term in Canada ended in 1946, MacDonald moved on to serve in other Imperial posts: as Governor-General of Malaya to 1948 and then Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia during the communist insurrection; as High Commissioner in India from 1955 to 1960; as co-chairman of the Laos Conference; and finally as Governor-General of Kenya between 1963 and 1964.

MacDonald received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1973.

In later years (1971–1980) he served as Chancellor of the University of Durham.

Personal life

In December 1946, he married Audrey Marjorie Rowley (a Canadian war widow with two children from her first marriage), with whom he had a daughter, Fiona (married to Bob McElwain).

MacDonald spent the last eleven years of his life at Raspit Hill, near Ightham in Kent, where he died in 1981, aged 79. He was a keen ornithologist and, in 1934, published the book Bird Watching At Lossiemouth privately. It was, as he noted, in a brief foreword, an expanded version of a paper he read to the London Morayshire Club one evening in the autumn of 1933.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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