1970s >> 1974 >> no-837-may-1974

So They Say: A Moral Stand, Not Taken

“Disillusionment” sweeps among Labour supporters like influenza after, usually, a year or two of the government they put in. This time a month or two has set the virus on its feet. One Labour journalist whose readers may already feel the symptoms is Matthew Coady of the Sunday People. In his “Week in Politics” on 31st March he wrote:


  Britain’s helping hand to Chile is to be withdrawn — and rightly. Mrs. Judith Hart. Minister for Overseas Aid, has made the only possible decision.
. . . This Generals’ bloodbath, which overthrew a Left Wing regime, is reckoned to have cost 10,000 lives, many of them executed after secret trials.
Is this the kind of set-up that Britain should help to under-pin ? Of course it isn’t.
. . . There is always a price for a moral stand. In this case it is the price of copper.


Brave words, but mistaken ones. Contrast them with the front-page story in The Guardian only two weeks later, headed Heffer may go after defying Wilson:


  Mr. Eric Heffer, Minister of State for Industry, last night faced imminent disciplinary action over his speech on Saturday in which he threw overboard the traditions of collective Cabinet responsibility and sharply criticized the Government’s decision to complete an arms contract with Chile.

(Guardian, 15th April)


Perhaps before writing “there is always a price” Coady should have seen what was in the News of the World on the day he said it: Wilson warns of price spiral.


Grow Old Along With Me . . .
A second strange story from a Labour figure was that of Mrs. Marcia Williams, Wilson’s private secretary. On 11th April she made a statement to the press about the “land deals affair” in which her brother bought property with a highly profitable future. Saying “My conscience is dear”, Mrs. Williams explained:


  Employed as I have been, personally, there has been no pension attached to my job . . . I became involved in this venture, nominally, because it was felt that my 25 per cent interest (later reduced to 20 per cent) would provide income over the period of working which could be invested in a pension fund for my retirement.

(Daily Mirror, 11th April)


The fact that there is no pension attached to her job means that Mrs. Williams would have to depend on the State retirement pension. She finds the prospect unacceptable. That is understandable; and it leaves us with the thought that what the Labour government doles out with such self-praise to the working class, its members see as unsufficient to live on


Yes, Sir, That’s Whose Baby?
Strange story no. 3. Newspapers on 5th April reported that consultation papers on the road and town accompaniments to the intended Maplin Airport were being rescinded, and the project was therefore now as good as killed off. The Guardian described it as “the Conservative Government’s multi-million pound plan”, and said:


  Mr. Crosland [Secretary for the Environment! has long been opposed to Maplin. On January 16, six weeks before the election, he assured the Commons that a Labour Government would cancel the project within “a matter of weeks”.


The fact is that a Labour government originated it all. In 1966 Labour said that a third London airport was needed and should be at Stansted — motorway, town development and all. After protests other sites were named, and in turn protested over, until Maplin was settled upon.


Claiming credit for squashing one’s own idea is quite novel. Perhaps that is the idea behind trading arms to Chile — to take “a moral stand” and stop it, later.


A Fertile Suggestion
Socialists always welcome old friends, and a venerable one has turned up this month. In a letter to The Observer on 7th April A. Rees of Bradford asserted that the poor make themselves poor by having too many children:


  I cannot help thinking that the people in the poverty trap have reproduced themselves into it. The problem is surely the folly of trying to raise children on low wages, breeding poverty as they breed children.


There is scope for some fascinating calculation here. Lord Longford has a large family but is well breeched; how many children would he have had to have to make himself poor? What about Lord Sainsbury? To get into the “poverty trap” by this method he’d have to put out the work to contract.


On the other hand, Mrs. Marcia Williams did not think of avoiding poverty by going to a birth-control clinic. She had a slice of a property deal instead — showing she knows the facts of life better than A. Rees of Bradford.


Unions and Politics
The General Secretary of the TUC made a speech on 28th March which contained valuable information for left-wing militants. First:


  Mr. Murray . . . said yesterday that no Government would do things for the trade union movement without expecting something from the unions in return. Mr. Murray, who was speaking to a parliamentary press gallery luncheon, said the union movement could not expect unquestioning co-operation.


This should dispose of the idea that “political strikes” can bring compliance from governments, or even that a change of government will give militants what they have been shouting for. And to make the point clear, he later referred to the high-spot of the 1972 agitation against the Industrial Relations Act:


  Mr. Murray accepted that the actions of the Pentonville five — the dockers who were saved from gaol only on the intervention of the Official Solicitor — had been regarded as stupid by some. But the incident had shown how important it was not to make martyrs.

(Guardian, 29th March)


At the time, the five dockers were claimed to have been released by the threat of a strike — a great victory for militant solidarity etc. Len Murray now confirms that it was not so. He might have added that six other pickets went to gaol last year without any suggestion that they were martyrs, and the only protest was a mild one at the severity of their sentences.


A Continuing Mess
What would be thought of a newspaper which, through failure of organization, had two blank pages in every issue? or a tobacconist whose packets of twenty cigarettes had only eighteen in? Presumably, that if they could not put their businesses in order they would soon be out of business.


Yet capitalism tries to educate children and fails in an equally elementary respect. A group in the Manchester College of Education wrote in the Education Guardian on 9th April:


  In research carried out recently by the Cadmean Trust it was revealed that 15 in every 100 children leave school virtually illiterate.


The writers call it “a national disgrace”. But after more than a century of educational expansion, continual reorganization, extension of the school-leaving age and so on the basic problem of education is unsolved. Is it not time capitalism was thrown out for inefficiency in this and every other direction?


Robert Barltrop