Leeds nostalgia: November 1947: Ministerial resignation over Budget leak

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Times change but sometimes it feels as though we’re been here before, as illustrated by the front page on this day in 1947.

While today’s Prime Minister Theresa May might be feeling a little hot under the collar thanks to two cabinet ministers having to resign in under a week, turn the clock back 70 years and ministerial resignations were also taking place, although you will have to judge for yourselves whether you deem the transgression would be severe enough to warrant resignation today.

The issue in question was a leak of the Budget measures before they were officially announced. Interestingly, these were published in the London Star a few minutes before they were announced, an act the Star later apologised for, even going so far as to say it regretted the act as it led to the sacking/resignation (take your pick) of Hugh Dalton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time. Dalton, who served under Winston Churchill’s coalition government during the war, was already on shaky ground, having mishandled the Sterling Crisis of 1947, which saw Britain lost over £800m in one month after a run on the pound. This, coupled with the fact the country was struggling to make its payments on the war loan from the US and the fact the country was, effectively, still bankrupt, having lost something like £7bn over the war years, precipitated a crisis.

Dalton, therefore, was seen as inept when he casually mentioned some of the budget proposals to a reporter moments before he made his speech. The measures included a penny on beer, a new tax on the Pools and betting on dog racing, a doubling of profits tax, a freeze on tobacco duty, all of which turned out to be accurate.

Dalton fell on his sword, while Winstson Churchill, in opposition, called for an Select Committee inquiry.

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