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


MacDonald was the son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Margaret MacDonald. Like his father he was born in Lossiemouthmarker, Moraymarker. Similarly, he was initially a Labour MP who then joined the National Government and was consequently expelled from the Labour Party.

Political career

MacDonald was first elected to Parliament for Bassetlawmarker in the 1929 general election and proved notable as 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 Éire (formerly 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 Irelandmarker 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. 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 Irelandmarker where two evenly matched communities engaged in bitter ethnic conflict. With anti-semitism rampant in Europe, MacDonald sought to find new settlements, encouraging much emigration to Northern Rhodesiamarker. 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.

In May 1940 Chamberlain fell and Winston Churchill formed an all party coalition, bringing the Labour Party into 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. The following year his career took a different turn when he was appointed High Commissioner to Canadamarker. 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. He served in Canada until 1946 and then served in a number of other Imperial posts, including Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia during the communist insurrection in Malaya. Governor-General of the Malayamarker, for seven years Commissioner General for South East Asia and United Kingdom High Commissioner in Indiamarker from 1955 to 1960 . He was co-Chairman of the Laos Conference. He was Governor-General of Kenyamarker between 1963 and 1964 at which time Kenya became Independent. In later years he served as Chancellor of the University of Durhammarker.

Personal life

MacDonald died in Maidstonemarker aged 79.


  1. Christie, Clive J. (1998) Southeast Asia in the Twentieth Century: A Reader Tauris, London, p. 192 ISBN 1-86064-063-X
  2. And Then By Chance, Reginald Secondé (2002)

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