Echo of a great fight
Take a ringside seat as two contestants enter the political arena. On the right “Battling” Lady Tweedsmuir, Conservative M.P. On the left “Champ” Alice Bacon, M.P., and Chairman of the Labour Party. (Party Political Broadcasts, and repeated in “The Listener,” 28th June and 5th July.) The winner of the contest hopes that her party will qualify for the support of the electorate in the next General Election.
Up in the centre of the ring Lady Tweedsmuir struck the first blows at “the Government’s hesitation and drift in foreign policy. It is not their fault if other nations covet all we have ” (italics ours), “but it is our Government’s fault if we appear so weak in foreign eyes that we tempt them to threaten. us.” The Government’s record of rearmament has been “too little, too late. . . . The Russian armies outnumbered the Allies in Europe by nine to one . . . There is so much to do, so little time while a powerful and ruthless nation strives to conquer the world.” (These words have a familiar ring; we heard them in 1914 and 1939.)
Alice Bacon counter-attacked with lavish praise for the morale of present-day Britain and the Labour Government’s achievements in social services and care of school children. She poured scorn on Lady Tweedsmuir’s “weird picture of a Britain dismembered and upside down,” and questioned whether she gets “quite the same angle on life from the windows of her Highland castle at Braemar as she (Alice Bacon) gets from the windows of a miner’s cottage in Yorkshire.”
Lady Tweedsmuir returned to the attack and reminded us that most of the “good measures in the field of social services” were drawn up during the war by the Coalition Government with its large Conservative majority, but the Labour Government had “completely undermined the whole idea with their bad management anti wild extravagancies in all directions.” This was followed by a short jab that we already have the “highest taxation in the free world.”
Alice Bacon temporarily floored her opponent with the fact that the heavy taxes fall on people with more than £40 a week. She denied the Government’s “wild extravagance” and said “The money is spent on you and your family.” (That’s us, Chums!)
Lady T. then weighed in with a flurry of tried and trusty body blows, “devaluation, meat muddle, fuel crisis, eggs in Gambia (do you know that at one time there were more officials than chickens?), sale of jet aircraft to Russia, serious muddle over raw materials, and the fearful failure on housing.”
Alice Bacon, now on the defensive, said that planning was necessary although Tories always “shudder” when the word is mentioned. “The Tory policy of unrestricted free enterprise, everybody for himself, leads merely to scramble and chaos.” She further “explained” the rising prices as due to high costs of raw materials from abroad, rising world population, 200,000,000 more mouths to feed and clothe than before file war, Korea, and hoarding of stocks. She firmly upheld the Government’s policy of bulk buying and subsidies; also their attitude to India and the Gold Coast, saying, “This is a Labour century, the century of the ordinary folk, not the century of Tory imperialists.”
Lady T. came back with a plea for free enterprise and burst forth with a literary gem that should go down to posterity. “The Conservative party has always maintained that the first need in domestic affairs is to have honest money. After all, money is only worth what it will buy.” We also heard that the Tories have “plainly stated their resolve to strive their utmost” to build 100,000 more houses per year than the Labour Government’s target. They don’t claim to “ know all the answers,” and given power their “task won’t be ‘easy,” but they have “done it before, after 1931, when the last Labour Government left a trail of financial ruin and 2,750,000 unemployed.” Lady Tweedsmuir’s parting words were rather high-flown. “Life can still be a high adventure if only we are given the chance. I ask you then, when the moment comes, to adventure on with us in faith and resolution to match the spirit of our times.” (The “high adventure” is somewhat ambiguous and the word “high” a singularly unfortunate choice—it smells.)
Alice Bacon’s closing round stressed the opposition by Tories to increased profits tax. She said that rearmament is bound to affect our standard of living, but “it is our contribution to help to maintain the peace of the world. You won’t find us bullying or blustering ourselves into a war in the old imperialist way; but patience must not be mistaken for weakness. . . . In these critical times when it is very easy for a small spark to start the atom war, it is very important to continue to have statesmen at the helm who are patient and calm, sensible and responsible, and who bring to the conference table proved qualities of democratic leadership. With Clement Attlee and his team you can be sure of that.”
These party political broadcasts always follow the same depressing monotonous lines, the worn-out so- called “arguments” hashed and re-hashed, a wordy distracting smoke screen for the workers.
In an emergency—at home or abroad—these two parties will sink their differences, such as they are, and smoothly co-operate to keep the palsied and tottering system of Capitalism on its feet.
Do you desire to “high adventure” with the Tories or to be “led” by Mr. Attlee? Wake up, workers! Don’t be “led” anywhere, get going under your own steam and work for the obvious and only way— Socialism.
F. M. R.