1960s >> 1964 >> no-716-april-1964

News in Review: The Labour Party and the Queen’s Navee

At Home
The Labour Party and the Queen’s Navee
Well, in the end Mr. Wilson was able to force the Prime Minister to withdraw his allegation that the Labour leader wanted to give the Royal Navy to the United Nations which presumably made somebody, somewhere, happy.


Mr. Wilson, we may assume, loves the Navy, which is natural enough because after all perhaps no part of the British armed forces has done so much to set wider still and wider bounds of the glorious British Empire on which, once, the sun never set.


Nor was it only in the House of Commons that the Labour Party were standing up for Jolly Jack Tar. The Tory government had hatched a wicked plot to abolish the name Admiralty and to substitute the name Navy Board which as everyone knows does not summon up the vision of a blue cocked hat half as well. The government put this plot into a Bill and they pushed it through the Commons but the House of Lords was a different matter.


The Tory peers woke up when they realised what the government was up to because they thought that this was mucking about with tradition (one of them spoke about “a religious intensity”) and that when Jolly Jack Tar’s head is stuffed full of a lot of nonsense about tradition he obeys his officers more readily and is keener to die for what he thinks is his country.


Labour peers were awake too. Lord Alexander said: “Admiralty . . .  is something a little more majestic, something which . . . has left a lasting world impression” and Earl Attlee, waspish as ever, hoisted his own battle signal: “I believe in preserving things with great traditions”.


Thus encouraged, the original Tory objector divided the House and Labour and Tory peers steamed in irresistible convoy into the same lobby to defeat the government by eight votes. The torpedoed government agreed to the amendment and the Commons, chastened by the Upper House’s greater reverence for the traditions of British arms, relented too. We still, therefore, call it the Admiralty.


Any Jolly Jack Tar who in future may be blown up, or drowned, or otherwise killed, in the interests of the British ruling class can take consolation from the fact that he dies under the organisation of something called the Admiralty and not something with a non-traditional name like the Navy Board and that this is all thanks to the united efforts of Tory peers and of Labour peers who, although they call themselves Socialists, were ready to fire a broadside for the glorious, blood-soaked traditions of the Queen’s Navee.




Primaries in the States
Presidential primary elections, which were introduced into the United States about the turn of the century, were designed to prevent the big party machines foisting their own candidates onto the American electorate. The method of the elections varies widely from state to state but in all of them the voters get a chance to say, in one way or another, who they would like to see standing for President.


In fact, the men who eventually fight it out are usually those who would probably have been nominated if the primary elections had never been held. Although the candidates are formally picked at the party conventions, the men who do the picking in the smoke-filled rooms necessarily take the popular will into account, whether or not this has been sampled in the primaries.


Thus although Kennedy won the Democratic nomination in 1960 after fighting some classical political campaigns in primaries, in which he convinced his party that he was a vote winner, Stevenson got the nomination in 1952 without entering a single primary.


The conventions choose the man they think most likely to win the election. This year, it is as certain as anything can be that the Democrats will make a formality of confirming President Johnson as their man. For the Republicans, however, the choice is more complicated.


Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who flexed his political muscles in the last election when he virtually compelled Nixon to modify his platform, is a candidate who has lost some popular support because of his recent divorce—as if that affects his ability to run a great capitalist country. Senator Goldwater, who has expressed ideas so out of tune with the contemporary needs of American capitalism that it is hard to believe that if he gets the nomination he will not modify them, was strongly fancied until the accession of Johnson rallied Democratic support in the South, where Goldwater was once reported to be making inroads.


Neither of these men, at the moment, seems likely to satisfy every Republican yearning for a candidate to take them on a glorious bandwagon to the White House next November. There are others waiting to take advantage of a possible deadlock; Governors Romney and Scranton, and plain Mr. Richard Nixon, who still sourly protests that he has had enough of electoral disappointment.


Whoever the two parties pick, it is sure that their running mates for the post of Vice-President will be a vote-catching compromise, in the same way that Johnson’s Southern origin and mature political skill was designed to offset Kennedy’s youthful, Northern “liberalism.”


This is how the great American political parties, just like their counterparts over here, defer to the political ignorance of the working class voters—which is what they must do of they are to have a hope of winning. And what, in the end, comes out of it all?


On November 3rd, the American working class will go to the polls to decide who will run capitalism in their country over the next four years. The result will not appreciably alter the conditions of the millions who cast their vote. Like Peter Simple’s Marshal Bolster, we can confidently say that whoever gets the most votes will win. But, unlike Bolster, we can also confidently say that whoever this is, it will not matter a damn.




Translation of Sir Alec
Like Bottom, Sir Alec Douglas-Home is translated—and sometimes he could almost be wearing an ass’s head, to boot.


Before he became Prime Minister, Home’s image was that of an amiable, unfussy, courteous aristocrat who took to politics only because of a desire to serve us of the lower orders by being one of our political, as well as one of our economic, masters.


For somebody who owns as much as Home does that must have been a pleasant pretension. But his promotion has changed all that. The courteous aristocrat is now trying to be the tricky, funny politician.


Home has grown famous for the facetious cracks with which he evades Opposition questions in the House of Commons. (The Daily Telegraph reports these cracks as priceless gems of humour but surely even the Tories will grow tired of them?) And he has recently earned more infamy by his remarkably ill-judged attack on Harold Wilson over the latter’s alleged desire to give away the Royal Navy and by his statement that when he was ready to debate Wilson on television he would “send for” the Labour leader.


This last crack, with its implication that politicians tell the TV men what to put on, and when, upset some sections of the press and within a couple of days of each other both The Guardian and the Observer had a go at Home, warning him that in his present vein he is more likely to lose votes than to win them.


Poor Sir Alec is only doing his best and perhaps he is pleasing the Tory faithful. Doubtless, if he thought for a moment that he was losing votes he would change his line overnight.


For like all capitalist politicians the Prime Minister must know that truth and consistency are not particularly important in the great vote hunt. It may be ironical that the leader of the Gentleman’s Party, and the recent holder of an ancient title of chivalry, should descend to such methods but that, after all, is all part of the dirty game of politics.


And anyway it usually goes over with the voters. Bottom in his ass’s head was irresistible to Titania after she had been dealt a drug. At times it seems that the working class, infatuated as they are with their leaders, must themselves be under the influence of a love potion.




Threat from Japan
Part of the official propaganda campaign during the last war was aimed at convincing us that the Japanese were a lot of little yellow monkeys who committed some fearful atrocities.


There was, of course, a lot of truth in the atrocity stories. But what the Allied propaganda did not publicise was the fact that the war was not being fought to stop the Japanese maltreating their prisoners.


Japan is one of the world’s great trading nations, with an economy which must export to live. In this, she is similar to Great Britain; both countries in the past were driven by their economic needs into an imperialist policy. Both, too, in their adventures to find and to hold on to foreign markets, built up powerful armed forces.


When the last war started, Japan was a monster competitor in the Far East, such as Commodore Perry could not have dreamt he was unleashing when in 1853 he first tried to open the country as a market for American exports. It was to tame the monster which Perry had all unknowingly awoken that the last war in the Far East was fought.


Since 1945 the Japanese capitalists have been progressively recovering from their defeat; although in this nuclear age they are no longer a great military power, their trade offensives are as forceful as ever. Japan is the world’s greatest shipbuilding nation. Its cheap cameras, transistor radios, motor cycles and so on flood into the markets of the world. It has beaten its rivals out of one market after another in the Far East. It dominates the economy of South East Asia, exports heavily to North America ($1,750 million worth in 1963) and Europe ($880 million), and is busily expanding into Africa ($460 million).


Japan is an important trading partner to South Africa, with which she is currently running a trade deficit (1963 exports $80 million, imports $110 million). This has had an amusing political side- effect; rather than offend the Japanese trade representatives by subjecting them to the humiliations of racial discrimination, the South African government has decided that the Japanese are actually Europeans—which shows how flexible racial theories can become under the pressure of economic interests.


What all this adds up to is that Japan, despite her military defeat, is still a powerful competitor in world capitalism. At the moment the situation seems to be under control. But who, remembering Manchuria, and China, and Pearl Harbour and finally Hiroshima, would dare to say that it will remain so?