Malcolm MacDonald, the son of former Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, was first elected to Parliament as a Labour M.P. in 1929. He had a lengthy and successful career in politics, as Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, Secretary of State for the Colonies and in 1940, he became the Minister of Health. He was later appointed as the High Commissioner to Canada, the Governor-General to Malaysia, Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia, High Commissioner in India and finally the Governor-General of Kenya.
MacDonald was good friends with John Rothenstein, Director of the Tate Gallery, and his wife Elizabeth Whittington, and it was through them that he was introduced to Stanley Spencer. Malcolm wrote of the artist, ‘I was very fond of his charming, temperamental and stimulating character, and of course admired tremendously many of his paintings’ (M. MacDonald, quoted in C. Sanger, Malcolm MacDonald: Bringing an End to Empire, London, 1995, p. 184). MacDonald became good friends with Spencer and rented a room for the artist in Adelaide Road. Clyde Sanger recalls, ‘Malcolm often invited Stanley to lunch at the most fashionable restaurants. This set a problem for the commissionaires because Stanley was absolutely filthy in his attire and was usually wearing an old crumpled jacket and trousers over his pajamas, which, he boasted to friends, he had not changed for weeks’ (C. Sanger, ibid., pp. 184-185).