Cook’s assistant Daisy may be new to her study of politics, but in the episode of Downton Abbey that aired Feb. 15 in the U.S., she made it clear that her interest in the subject is strong. In fact, her disappointment in England’s first-ever Labor government was so strong that it nearly drove her to abandon all ambition. If the Labor party is doing so badly, her thinking went, then there’s no hope at all for the ordinary worker.
But what exactly did the Prime Minister and his party do?
As TIME explained in the July 28, 1924, issue, that’s a very good question:
The government, led by James Ramsay MacDonald, had been brought into office on a promise of fixing unemployment and building a slew of new housing options for citizens (another of the country’s needs that Downton fans may recognize). But, they quickly admitted, both were easier said than done. Furthermore, Marcosson’s original piece observed, many of the fervently socialist politicians who had been brought to power in that election found that power was pretty fun, and so was moving in the society circles that such power bought access to. Despite all their Branson-style talk of standing for the average Briton, the first Labor government proved to be not so different from governments of the past.
And, spoiler alert, Daisy was right about what that disappointment would mean.
That fall, the Labor government was voted out. The trampling by the Conservatives was, as TIME phrased it then, “the most crushing of any that the [Conservative] party has ever won.” Though there was no real chance that any socialism would be put into action in England, fear of that ideology played a large part in the result — but another factor was that, after having lost to Labor once, the Conservative Party modernized itself and its stances.
And that’s not the only thing that might comfort Daisy to know: in the years that would follow, Labor would prove to be one of England’s enduring political forces.
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