1920s >> 1924 >> no-236-april-1924

The Westminster By-Election

From the National point of view the by-election for the Westminster Abbey Division presents no particular point beyond the spectacle of four supporters of capitalism competing for one seat.

From the local point of view it afforded some amusement, while certain features are worth noting.

The outstanding feature was the large poll given to the Labour candidate, Mr. Fenner Brockway. The Labour Party are jubilant at their second attack upon what has always been looked upon as a Tory stronghold since. John Stuart Mill sat for the division.

Mr. Scott Duckers, the Liberal candidate, claims to have kept Mr. Churchill out, because those who voted for Mr. Scott Duckers would otherwise have voted for Mr. Churchill. There is very little evidence, however, for this statement, and it is far more likely that had Mr. Scott Duckers not run the bulk of the votes he received would have gone to the Labour candidate, who, like Mr. Scott Duckers, was a conscientious objector during the war.

It was interesting to see one objector opposing the “Five Cruisers” scheme, while the other one supported the scheme. It shows how poor a base sentiment is for a political policy.

The Tory Party split over the candidates put forward and the official machine realised it had a formidable task in front of it. Not only was there the great wealth of Mr. Churchill’s family behind him, but the yellow gutter press and the Observer were using all their influence to support Mr. Churchill. Added to this was Mr. Churchill’s record and the fact that he is a master of platform clap-trap. In fact, the only thing he appeared to lack was a sense of decency.

Mr. Churchill conducted his campaign as a “Show” or piece of buffoonery. Fighting men, jockeys, comedians, etc., were his principal speakers. Processions of highly decorated motor-cars toured the streets, and the candidate joined in the procession at times. This gutter method of conducting a campaign shows the shallow mind of the individual responsible for such method.

But a later incident looks rather curious. During the closing days of the campaign, the newspapers reported that a motor-car, carrying the Labour Party placard, persistently followed Mr. Churchill’s car, and whenever he attempted to speak drowned his voice with motor horns, rattles and shouting.

This incident must have swung some hundreds of votes to Mr. Churchill, as the “waverers” in both Liberal and Tory camps would vote for him under these conditions, because “he was not getting fair play.” The Labour Party stated that the car was not officially connected with them, despite its labels, and among so many blatant “stunts” in operation, the suspicion arises that the hooligan car was run by Mr. Churchill or his supporters on purpose to gain the sympathy of those mentioned above.

Now hooliganism, long a favourite method with the Tories, whether indulged, in from a motor-car or the kerbstone, is both reactionary and cowardly. It is an admission that the hooligan cannot meet the arguments of his opponents And so indulges in methods to prevent him being heard. Such tactics are to be condemned, no matter who indulges in them. .

One other fact emerged from this by-election. Practically all the capitalist press united in talking of ‘‘Mr. Churchill’s brilliance,” “his great gifts,” ‘‘his remarkable abilities,” etc., but when one reads the carefully prepared speeches he gave, they turned out to contain nothing but stale and worn-out platitudes.

Any members of the working class, who were led away by this praise of the press, will now be able to realise that Churchill is only a shallow-pated chameleon.

Jack Fitzgerald