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The Right Honourable
 Viscount Snowden 

In office
7 June 1929 – 5 November 1931
Preceded by Winston Churchill
Succeeded by Neville Chamberlain
In office
22 January 1924 – 3 November 1924
Preceded by Neville Chamberlain
Succeeded by Winston Churchill

Born 16 July 1864
Cowling, Yorkshire, England
Died 15 May 1937 (aged 72)
Tilford, Surrey, England
Political party Labour

Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden PC (18 July 1864 – 15 May 1937) was a British politician and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Early life

Snowden was born in Cowling in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His father had been a weaver and a Chartist, and Snowden joined the Liberal Party and followed his parents in becoming a Methodist and a teetotaller. While researching a speech on the dangers of socialism, Snowden instead became convinced by the ideology, and joined the Independent Labour Party. He became a prominent speaker for the party and wrote a popular Christian socialist pamphlet with Keir Hardie entitled The Christ that is to Be in 1903.

In 1905, Snowden married Ethel Annakin, a campaigner for women's suffrage. Snowden supported his wife's ideals and he became a noted speaker at suffragette meetings and other public meetings. In 1906, he became the Labour Party MP for Blackburn. He also wrote extensively on economics and advised David Lloyd George on the 1909 budget.

During the First World War, Snowden stuck to his pacifist principles offering his support to conscientious objectors. As a consequence of his anti-war sentiments he lost his seat in the 1918 general election. In 1922 he was elected to represent Colne Valley.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Upon Ramsay MacDonald's appointment as Prime Minister in January 1924 he was appointed as the Labour Party's first ever Chancellor of the Exchequer. He reduced some flat-rate taxes, as well as abolishing some tariffs, but did not implement the socialist measures he had previously proposed. He lost his position in November of the same year when the Conservatives were re-elected to government.

Snowden returned to government with Ramsay MacDonald's victory in May 1929 and was again appointed Chancellor. His economic philosophy was one of strict Gladstonian Liberalism rather than socialism. His official biographer wrote that "He was raised in an atmosphere which regarded borrowing as an evil and free trade as an essential ingredient of prosperity".

He was considered by many at the time and since as being the principal opposition to the government following any radical economic policy to tackle the Great Depression as well as blocking proposals to introduce protectionist tariffs. The government eventually collapsed over arguments about a budget deficit amidst refusals by a significant minority of ministers to enact cuts in unemployment benefit.

Snowden retained the position of Chancellor during the National Government of 1931. As a consequence he was expelled from the party, along with MacDonald and Jimmy Thomas. In a BBC radio broadcast on 16 October 1931 he called Labour's policies "Bolshevism run mad" and contrasted them unfavourably with his own "sane and evolutionary Socialism". Snowden decided not to stand for parliament in the election of November 1931.

Later life

He was created Viscount Snowden, of Ickornshaw in the West Riding of the County of York, and served as Lord Privy Seal from 1931 to 1932 when he resigned in protest at the enactment of a full scheme of Imperial Preference and protectionist tariffs. He subsequently wrote his Autobiography in which he strongly opposed MacDonald. In the 1935 General Election, Snowden supported a radical economic programme proposed by Lloyd George, despite it being a complete repudiation of Snowden's own record. He died on 15 May 1937.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Coddington
Sir William Henry Hornby
Member of Parliament for Blackburn
With: Sir William Henry Hornby, 1906–1910
Sir Thomas Barclay, 1910
Sir Henry Norman, from 1910
Succeeded by
Percy Thompson Dean
Sir Henry Norman
Preceded by
Frederick William Mallalieu
Member of Parliament for Colne Valley
Succeeded by
Edward Lancelot Mallalieu
Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce Glasier
Chairman of the Independent Labour Party
Succeeded by
Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by
Frederick William Jowett
Chairman of the Independent Labour Party
Succeeded by
Richard Collingham Wallhead
Preceded by
Neville Chamberlain
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Winston Churchill
Preceded by
Winston Churchill
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Neville Chamberlain
Preceded by
The Earl Peel
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
Stanley Baldwin
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Viscount Snowden Succeeded by


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount Snowden (July 18, 1864 – May 15, 1937) was a British politician, and the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer.


  • The object of Socialism is not to render the individual capable of living on his personal resources. That is the theory of radical individualism. Its object is to create in him a greater and greater sense of his dependence upon the state, and, at the same time, to inculcate in him the conviction that he is a part of it and that he has a duty and responsibility toward the state; and that only in so far as he fulfils this duty can he benefit by the advantages of a complete personal and social life.
    • On the Insurance Bill (Labour Leader, 14 July, 1911).
  • It is no part of my job as Chancellor of the Exchequer to put before the House of Commons proposals for the expenditure of public money. The function of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I understand it, is to resist all demands for expenditure made by his colleagues and, when he can no longer resist, to limit the concession to the barest point of acceptance.
    • To the House of Commons (30 July 1924, H.C. Deb. Vol. 176, Cols 2091-2.)
  • I would like to see the word 'nationalization' banned from the socialist vocabulary.
    • The Daily Herald (15 October, 1928).
  • I hope you have read the election programme of the Labour Party...this is not socialism. It is Bolshevism run mad.
    • BBC radio broadcast (17 October, 1931).

About Snowden

  • To every outworn shibboleth of 19th-century economics he clung with fanatic tenacity. Economy, Free Trade, Gold - these were the keynotes of his political philosophy, and deflation the path he trod with almost ghoulish enthusiasm.
    • Robert Boothby on Snowden (Robert Rhodes James, Bob Boothby (1991), p. 102)

External links


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