Leader's speech, Brighton 1925
Stanley Baldwin (Conservative)
Commentary:This conference was the first since the Conservatives’ general election victory, and Baldwin began his speech by outlining some of his government’s achievements so far. These included the introduction of state benefits for widows, children and people aged over 65, the establishment of a Food Council, whose remit was to monitor food prices, and the success of the house-building scheme in alleviating the post-war shortage. As regards international affairs, Baldwin spoke about the ongoing efforts to bring peace to Europe through the proposed system of mutual protection. He also discussed the forthcoming conference to revise the Chinese Customs tariff, and Britain’s support for Iraq in its dispute with Turkey over the province of Mosul. Other issues at the time were House of Lords reform, the reduction of national expenditure, agriculture, and unemployment.
My lords, ladies and gentlemen. I rejoice to meet this great and representative gathering of colleagues of the greatest political Party in this country (loud cheers), to render some account of the stewardship of my colleagues and myself since you returned us to power nearly twelve months ago. We have, it is true, been in office a short time; but I think I can convince you that the months that have passed have been months of work, not unfruitful. I make no exaggerated claim for the Government.
A Great Tradition
We have never been a Party to make promises. If we cannot base ourselves on truth, advance our cause by its own justice, and persuade the public to reason, we no longer own the great Conservative tradition (applause). There are those in these days who regard the work of the Government as a melodrama or a film production (laughter), but you cannot run the country on capital letters and headlines (hear, hear, and loud applause). One thing I will admit. We are not experts in the art of advertisement. We are handicapped by old-fashioned modesty. We do good but we blush to proclaim it. We work better than we talk (laughter and applause). We are not even first-class window dressers; but we do deliver the goods (applause).
Others Talk: We Do
Many people have talked about pensions for widows. We are giving them (hear, hear). One of the most prominent features in our election campaign was the undertaking to give those pensions, and we redeemed our pledge in our first session: pensions for widows, allowances for children, pensions to orphans, and to the aged at 65, merging them from the restrictions under the existing scheme. In a few months from today more than half a million widows and children will benefit, not from our talk but from the Act on the Statute Book (applause). That one measure of the Unionist Party will drive out more anxiety from the homes of the poor and introduce more security than all the promises and schemes of the other parties in the country.
One of the first administrative acts in accordance with our promise was to set up a Royal Commission on food prices, which resulted, as you know, in the establishment, under the President of the Board of Trade, of a permanent Food Council whose duty it was to watch our prices and supplies of foodstuffs, particularly in the interest of the consumers. A few days ago a Report was issued on bread prices. I am hoping from the publicity given to this, that it has resulted already, in many cities, in a reduction in the price of bread. I am confident that when the full force of public opinion, based upon the facts established by that Council, is brought to bear upon the question, the effect will be seen in further reduction (hear, hear).
A Hint to Consumers
The Food Council is continuing its inquiries into the prices of other articles of food, and I am entitled to claim that the policy we foreshadowed at the General Election is working out with satisfaction. Nobody today seriously suggests that the Government should have control of the prices. It is neither desirable nor practicable; but I do urge that the public should endeavour to restrict, so far as possible, their purchases to those shops whose prices conform to the reasonable standard laid down by the Food Council (hear, hear). We have fulfilled our promises, and it is for the public to back us up (hear, hear).
The Housing Problem
One of the worst legacies of the war was the shortage of houses. We are delivering the houses (hear, hear). Successive Governments have wrestled with this problem, but when the history of the last three or four years comes to be written, the name of one man will stand out above all others as a housing reformer - the name of Neville Chamberlain (loud applause). The Minister of Health has been true to the best Unionist traditions. He has not only sought to meet the urgent and exceptional needs by State help, but he had never lost sight of the importance of encouraging private building and private ownership.
A Great Record
Since the war, under State schemes, 322,000 houses have been built, but during the last two and a half years 160,000 have been built without State assistance. Not only that, but prior to 1923 £800,000 had been advanced to owner-occupiers under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, and since that date the amount sanctioned under that Act has amounted, by subsequent legislation, to over £9,000,000. And that is not all. Two years ago we empowered local authorities to advance money to builders of new houses, whether for their own occupation or otherwise, and already loans to over £6,000,000 have been sanctioned for this purpose. But, great as the relief which these figures suggest, the shortage continues.
Meeting the Demands
All the evidence points to a large, unsatisfied demand. I dealt with this matter at Glasgow, last week. It does seem a paradox that with thousands clamouring for houses and tens of thousands clamouring for work, we should be confronted with a shortage of bricklayers and plasterers. That was the position described to me in Scotland, and it is for that reason that the Ministry of Health have authorised the erection of houses to be built by methods other than the traditional bricks and mortar for administrative purposes and to meet what, I hope and believe, will be a temporary need. We want the public to see and judge for themselves the merits of houses built by those methods and in Scotland, where the need is greatest and progress slowest, I announced our readiness to assist in the provision of thousands of steel houses of different types.
‘Our Greatest Interest’
We have been working, and we are making satisfactorily for the pacification of Europe. This is our greatest interest. Nothing could more demonstrate what our pacific foreign policy has been than that impressive record that Lord Grey has just published, and which I hope will be read throughout the world - the policy of straight dealing between nations. It attempts to eliminate distrust and suspicion. That has always been our policy. It is our policy today, and it has been pursued with success. You will remember that in my first administration we brought the Dawes Committee into being. Mr. McDonald continued with energy and success that work.
Pushing on with Settlement
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken advantage of the arrangement come to under that scheme to push on with the settlement of the French debt; and the clearing away of the Reparations problem has enabled an attempt to be made to deal with the question of security, which had been too long awaiting solution and which has been and is still an effective bar until it is settled to any further hope of success in the matter of disarmament.
Making the World Safe
We all have our view as to which way the world may be made safe for peace. There is the older method of alliance. You have, on the other hand and as an extreme alternative, some schemes aiming at a universal application of worldwide security, like the Protocol, and you have various devices which fall between them. A new conception was introduced by the German memorandum of last February, and the Government lost no time in seizing upon it. It was the idea of agreement. It was an idea of grouping Powers in a particular area not to interfere with others in another group but to keep peace among themselves by a system of mutual protection.
Simple and Straightforward
The idea is simple and straightforward. The difficulty has been to keep it so and to avoid the introduction of complicated factors. We have kept steadily to the main purpose. We make the proposed treaty of mutual guarantee subject, as a whole, to the one condition that Germany must join the League of Nations (hear, hear). As regards the treaty itself, the principles upon which we are working are these. The treaty must be bilateral and mutual, purely defensive in character, and framed in the spirit of the League Covenant and worked in close harmony with the League and under its guidance. Any new obligation undertaken by his Majesty’s Government must be specified and limited to the existing territorial arrangements in that area which is vital to British security; that is, the frontier between Germany and her Western neighbours.
Hope of Material Benefit
We trust the result will be a system which, with the minimum of fresh commitments, will materially benefit this country by diminishing the prospect of war and helping in the restoration of Europe. The negotiations had been prolonged - that is not wholly a disadvantage, because it has given time for thorough ventilation of the subject in all the countries concerned. The first meeting between the Powers concerned is now being held, and there is not a statesman among those gathered at Locarno who is not determined, as far as he can, to bring the matter to a successful issue.
Devotion to a Great Cause
I should like to pay here a tribute to the incessant work which Mr. Austen Chamberlain has devoted (applause) to this great cause, and to express - what you all know - the confidence that I and all my colleagues have in him, that our interests will be safe in his hands at Locarno, and that if success can he achieved it will be achieved by him (applause). I used, in one speech I made earlier in the year, the figure of speech that this Pact would be the filling in of one end of a great morass - that quaking bog of Europe. And so it will; and when we have filled that end in and made it sound and secure, I have every hope that the same principles that have guided us to the point we have reached now in the West may be applied to the permanent pacification of Eastern Europe as it is being applied in the West (applause).
In the Far East
As you all know, in the Far East, in China, there have been troubles which have gravely affected our trade and have disturbed - I hope only temporarily - the close and, in the main, happy relations which have subsisted so long between our people and the people of China. I think the clouds are lifting. A conference to revise the Chinese Customs tariff is about to be made, and I trust that there the foundations will be laid for a new era of fraternal co-operation between China and the outside world, and that the tariff conference will be the first step in a comprehensive revision of the treaties which at present regulate the position of foreigners in China.
Now I wish to speak to you for a few minutes on the subject about which there has been a great deal of misapprehension - the subject of Mosul. I shall confine my remarks to explaining the position as it stands today, and shall purposely refrain from entering into any speculative consideration of the future, having regard to the fact that at this moment we are waiting for the decision of the Arbitration by the League of Nations. I have seen it stated in lurid language (laughter) that on this question the Government is pursuing the provocative policy calculated to bring about war with Turkey; that it is claiming, on behalf of Iraq, a territory to which it has no right; and that it is undertaking costly and dangerous commitments for which there is no necessity and no authority.
A True Perspective
Let us try to obtain a true perspective. We have been concerned not with an issue of war or one calculated to lead to war, but with the implementing of a treaty of peace. In the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey and ourselves agreed that if the disputed question of the frontier between Turkey and Iraq could not be settled by direct negotiations within nine months it should be referred to the Council of the League of Nations. It was so referred a year ago, by both parties agreeing in advance to accept the declaration of the Council whatever it might be. The Council sent out a special Commission to investigate and report. It has been engaged in considering that Report, and the case which both sides have laid before it on behalf of the British Government and Iraq, and that case has been stated with cogency and, I might also add, with studied moderation by Mr. Amery (applause).
The Commission’s Report
Is it the suggestion that it is an act of provocation to state a case, as we are entitled to state it under the Treaty, or to base that case, as we have done throughout, upon the Report of the League of Nations’ own Commission? That Commission reported that from the point of view of the interests of the population concerned, and from the point of view of their wishes, it was best that the whole of the territories should remain united as Iraq - for let me make it quite clear that, except for a portion of territory with which we are not concerned, there was no question of claiming territory from the Turks that is not in our control today. The city and defences of Mosul were liberated from Turkish rule by our troops (hear, hear), but they constitute an integral part of Iraq, and they enjoy the same administration. They have participated, through their representatives, in the establishment of the constitution of that country in the Treaty of Alliance with Great Britain, and support the National Government drawn from every part of the country.
Legal Right of Iraq
The legal right of Iraq and the province of Mosul is exactly as good as is the legal right of any other part of British territory (applause). Our relations with Iraq are governed not by an ordinary mandate but by a Treaty of Alliance, which aims at establishing in Iraq a national life, in accordance with our general principle of self-government, wherever such self-government can work effectively, and in order to limit our own financial and military commitments and responsibilities. The present Treaty was originally to have been signed for a period of 20 years, but the period was reduced to four years from the ratification of the peace with Turkey. This was partly on our side, because we wished to make it clear to the new Government of Iraq that they can rely indefinitely upon British financial and military support so long as Iraq keeps its house in order and is in a position to stand on its own feet within a reasonable space of time.
The Contemplated Replacement
The preamble to the present Treaty not only contemplated this replacement by a fresh agreement, but it stipulated a reversal of the negotiations, for that object was continually before the authors of the Treaty. When the Secretary of State for the Colonies visited Iraq, in the spring, he reported that the policy under which we were working had been a success from the point of view of the relations between the Iraq Government and its British advisers, and they were all for economy. The expenditure of that country, which a few years ago amounted to £20,000,000, has come down to £4,000,000; a substantial portion of which is appropriated to the cost of the Army and the Air Service employed there, which, of course, would have to be paid for in whatever part of the world it was quartered. He said there was every reason to give support to a settlement of the frontier question.
He anticipated such a reduction in the near future as would lead, in a few years, to a position in which Iraq can make itself not only responsible for its administration, but for the maintenance of its security and the paying of its own way. But he added that in the opinion of all those whom he had met, what Britain and Iraq alike wanted, for the future development of the country, was an assurance that the Government of this country would carry out the undertaking implied in the protocol of the present Treaty, and replace it by a further treaty given to the Iraq Government to continue all the help they had received from the British advisers during the past years The same point of view obviously impressed itself upon the Commissioners sent out by the League of Nations.
A Direct Question
The Report of the Commission, in fact, involved the direct question as to whether the British Government were prepared to carry out the preamble of the existing Treaty and replace it by a new one. There can only be one possible answer to that, namely, that we do intend to replace the preamble and to continue to co-operate with the Government of Iraq to ensure the stability and progress of the country until such time as our help is no longer necessary, because to have given any other answer would have been a breach of principle towards those whose cause we were fighting, and would have been inconsistent with the policy which has been the policy in Iraq by all Governments since the mandate was conceded to us (hear, hear).
Obligations of Honour
And last, but not least, it would have been an act of folly, from the point of view of those who urge economy. The sacrifice of the richest part of the territory of Iraq, and the substitution of an indefensible for a defensible frontier, would have undone all the good work of recent years, and left us either with the alternative of complete chaos in that part of Asia, with consequences resulting therefrom which no one could foresee, and a reversal of the process of the reduction of expenditure in order to make up for the lessened resources, the increased burdens and the impaired stability of Iraq. In this matter we are not dealing alone with our own practical interests but with the obligations of honour (loud applause). We are under obligations to Iraq which we have brought into being.
The Christian Population
We are under obligations less formal, but no less real, towards the Christian population in North Iraq, who have achieved, under the present constitution, a condition of freedom and prosperity to which they have been strangers for centuries. Their case was eloquently urged by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the letter which he sent to me a few days ago. Is it conceivable we should abandon these people without even endeavouring to urge their case as fully and strongly as we are entitled to do before the League of Nations? The action of the Secretary of State, throughout this business, has the Government’s full approval (hear, hear). And that is the strongest possible proof of the willingness of his Majesty’s Government to submit to arbitration questions of the highest importance to them, and to abide by the arbitrators’ sentence (hear, hear). And now I ask you for patience to await the result of that arbitration, and believe with me that we have no reason to think that Turkey will not, equally with ourselves, fulfil her obligation of honour (hear, hear, and applause).
House of Lords
There is one matter, in which the Party are obliged to take action, which is at present engaging the serious and exhaustive consideration of a Cabinet Committee. I refer to the reform of the House of Lords (applause). During the last ten years there have been many schemes and many suggestions. The difficulty has been, and is, to produce a scheme which will satisfy, let me say, many sections of opinion. I will say no more just now than that we are carefully comparing the merits of all the schemes which have hitherto been produced, and that we hope, before the close of the present Parliament, to introduce a scheme and give effect to it (applause).
In regard to the agricultural proposals of the Government, I hope that we shall be in a position, before long, to lay them before the House of Commons. I would merely say, at this meeting here, that we are as alive to the urgency of these problems as any other Party in the State (hear, hear). But we are practical men (hear, hear), and we recognise the economic difficulties which are real and considerable whenever you wish to make any serious effort; and we do realise - perhaps more than other parties in the State - that you cannot work in agriculture, any more than in any other branch of human activity, a miracle by Government assistance or by Government compulsion (applause).
Now I think, at a meeting of our Party, it will be well to devote a few minutes to the subject of economy (hear, hear, and applause). And in speaking of economy, on that subject more than any other it is necessary to preserve your perspective. There is no subject that lends itself more easily to the pen of the writer of fiction (laughter). Let us consider, in the first place, what the problem is. I will weary you with as few figures as possible. I must give you some. I don’t propose to make any comparison between the expenditure today and the expenditure in the first year after the war. That was an abnormal year, and the accounts were complicated by various expenses connected with demobilisation.
A Five-Years’ Record
But I think it is essential to remember, before we begin to speak of economy, that in the last five years this country, through the efforts of the different Governments that have been in power during that time, has reduced the national expenditure, and consequently taxation, by no less than one-third. Now, that is a stupendous accomplishment (applause), and the nation which, in spite of all the difficulties which have confronted it, has accomplished that, has done something of which it may well be proud. In 1920-21 the tax revenue was £1,031,000,000, or £22 per head of the population. This year the tax revenue is £686,000,000, or £15 4s. (applause).
A Further Reminder
And I may remind you that if you took at the taxes themselves which have been reduced, you will find that the income tax has been lowered from 6s. to 4s.; the excess profits duty, corporation profits tax, and the inhabited house duty have all disappeared; the tea duty has been reduced from 1s. to 4d.; the sugar duty from 2¾ d. to 1½ d.; the beer duty has been lowered by one penny a pint (laughter); and substantial reductions have been made in the postal and telephone charges. But it is obvious that the very success of these efforts does not make it easier to continue the process of amelioration.
I should like very much to trace some of the other figures with you, but I am only going to give you one more. I want you to analyse our national expenditure with me. Of the total budget of about £800,000,000, £305,000,000 represents contractual payments to the shareholders of Government securities, and £50,000,000 represents the statutory sinking fund. A large proportion of that last sum is attached definitely, under contract, to specific issues or Government stock. Of the remaining £445,000.000 of expenditure, no less than £217,000,000 is either statutory or covered by contractual applications and definite pledges of public payment; and thus, in the region of contractual and statutory expenditure, we get 72 per cent of the whole of our expenditure.
A Vital Necessity
There still remains £828,000,000. Of this, £121,000,000 is accounted for by the needs of national defence, and though I am hopeful of effecting economies in detail in this block of expenditure, yet I regard it as vital that we should retain our defences (applause) at the level necessary for national and Imperial defence. A further 52½ millions represents the cost of the Post Office service, which more than pays for itself; £12,000,000 is spent on the Revenue Department, and that this figure is not excessive I deduce from the fact that we collect today tax revenue four times that of 1914 at less than double the cost. We have, in the course of this analysis, which I beg you to study for yourself, accounted for 95 per cent of our national expenditure.
The Conclusion to be Drawn
And what conclusion do we draw from that? That although we have every intention of effecting economies in detail in the region of expenditure that is not covered by contract, by statute, by the minimum requirements of our national defence and the efficiency of the revenue collection, it is clear that really big economies can only be achieved if we plunge into that field of statutory and contractual expenditure. And let it be clearly understood that spectacular economies of that kind can only be achieved by real sacrifices which would have to be spread widely over all classes of the community (hear, hear). But let me repeat that I do not at all mean that we are not rigorously pursuing the smaller and less spectacular economies which are open to us.
Substantial Reductions in Store
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is determined to make substantial reductions in the estimates for next year (applause). The Cabinet Committee, which has been set up, and over which I propose to preside myself, will labour incessantly for that end in the months which are left before the presentation of next year’s estimates. When our labours in this field are ended we shall be in a position to consider if any and, if so what economies are required, and then will be the time to weigh against each other sacrifices on the one hand and the benefits on the other which are involved. But let me remind you that any Government which practices economy will be to that extent unpopular, and the moment you lay your finger on a vested interest of expenditure half the country will rise up and call for your blood (applause).
Our Own Country
And now I want to talk to you for the short time that remains on what is really the most important subject we have to consider, and that is the condition of our own country (applause). And it is a very difficult thing to talk about in a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes; but I do think it is of the first importance that our Party should have here, more than in any other subject we have been discussing, a true perspective. We have to consider, in discussing the condition of the country, unemployment. Now bear this in mind: nearly ninety per cent of the workers of this country today are employed, but two consequences flow from that small percentage of the whole which is unemployed today. I will touch rather on the human aspect last.
The Economic Aspect
Let me say first one word on the economic aspect. The result of this unemployment is that we are faced, today, with a growing excess of imports which, if continued, will be a real danger to the economic stability of the country, which relies on foreign counties and on overseas for the bulk of its food (hear, hear). That renders it all the more important that, as we were denied the remedy for which we asked two years ago (applause), our people should make a point - every member of the Party - of buying British goods (prolonged applause). The mere fact of the millions who belong to our Party insisting, in business and in their private purchases, in ordering British goods would he felt from one end of the country to the other (hear, hear), and if they would second that by ordering whenever they cannot get British goods, Empire goods (applause), the reflex action would then go round the world. I need say no more to an audience like this to urge them to do what is the obvious duty of every patriotic Briton today (applause).
The Gravest Feature
But what is the gravest feature of this unemployment? The grave unemployment today is very largely localised in certain definite industries of importance, and in addition to being localised, in most of the cases where it exists it has gone on now, not week after week or month after month, but year after year, and it has killed all hope in thousands of breasts. That is the damage it has done. This problem of unemployment has been with me night and day for three years past, as it must be with every man who thinks of the future of his country, who can visualise what it means to those who directly suffer from it (hear, hear).
When Men Lose Hope
When men lose hope they are ready to grasp at anything, and they become receptive to the wildest teaching. There are those among them who, in their hopelessness, feel then that the destruction of the existing system would be better than that it should continue. That is the great evil wrought by unemployment, and to men suffering come those who would use them for their own ends (hear, hear, and applause). Communism, a foreign production, is begotten of ignorance out of misery (applause), and there must always be danger until the worker has learned - as he will learn - to distinguish those who are striving to better his lot and those who are exploiting his misery for their own political ends (applause).
There has never been more favourable ground for the dissemination of extremist propaganda than exists today in certain districts of the country, and I knew beforehand that my own efforts towards peace and co-operation would cause the efforts of the extremists to he redoubled (hear, hear). I knew that there would be a response to what I have preached in this country in the hearts of thousands of the workers of this country (applause), and I knew that to try and check that response there would be a concentration on our country by all the alien Communists of the world. They have failed in the United States of America; they have failed in Germany; they are beginning - I think I see signs that they are beginning - to concentrate in France. They will fail in France, and they will fail here (applause).
The Cause of Anxiety
It is this extremist movement that is causing so much anxiety today to the Parliamentary Labour Party, because they know that so long as their Party is associated in the public mind with the extremists they will never succeed in obtaining a Parliamentary majority in this country (applause). Hence the importance of our Party (hear, hear). We have always stood, as we stand today, for the supreme authority of Parliament as representing the will of the majority; for orderly progress; for democratic freedom, and for the utmost liberty consistent with the safety of the State. Today it is we who hold aloft the torch of democracy, while the Labour Party is engaged in snuffing the wick of the lamp that is burning too dimly.
The Gospel of Brute Force
But we are challenged, as any Government today would be challenged, by a small minority, very vociferous, who have made no secret of their desire to undermine the constitution by revolutionary threats, by industrial war, by the suppression of free speech, and by intimidation. That is the gospel of brute force, and those who preach it are the enemies of democracy, and the real reactionaries (applause). The one thing they dread is prosperity (hear, hear). But no minority, however they are organised, can he allowed to tyrannise over a majority (applause). The country, a little less than a year ago, gave its verdict with no uncertain voice, and until the country reverses that verdict in the usual constitutional manner we stay where we are (loud applause).
Freedom of Speech
In this country we claim, with pride, that there is a greater latitude of free expression than obtains in any other country in the world (applause). Our great tradition of freedom of speech was dearly won by our forefathers, and it is one of the most highly prized of the privileges and liberties of the Constitution. But every kind of freedom is liable to abuse - and freedom of speech is abused if advantage is taken of that freedom to exceed the defined limits of legitimate public utterances (hear, hear). The law has never recognised the right to publish anything which has a seditious intention (hear, hear).
The Government’s Determination
By seditions the law means intention to bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against the King and the Constitution as by law established, or to incite people to attempt, by violence or unlawful means, the constitution of the constituted order of things. The Government will employ all the powers which the law gives them to deal with attempts to seduce the loyalty of the troops (applause), or to persuade the troops to break their oath and to neglect their duty (applause). The Government will use to the full the powers the law gives them to deal with speech or action which they deem, after due consideration, to be of a seditious nature (applause). I endorse emphatically the words spoken by the Attorney General, and I can assure this audience and the country that the Government is fully alive to the danger which may result from the preaching of such doctrines as I have indicated, and you may rely on them to do all in their power to protect the best interests of the country (applause).
A Kindred Subject
I would like to say just one word with regard to a kindred subject, because I think it is desirable to state clearly the position of the Government in relation to industrial disputes (hear, hear). In the first place I hold it to be the duty of the Government to do all in its power to promote conditions for industrial peace, and the policy of the Conservative Party has been, and will be, directed to that end. We must ensure that there exists conciliatory machinery through which the parties in large industries can settle their own affairs. This means that workers, employers, and trades unions should be encouraged to set up and use promptly and effectively, appropriate machinery of their own for settling their disputes, and that the Government should assist the working of the machinery by insisting upon its full use before intervention, and by seeing that where the public interest is involved the use of machinery or courts of inquiry should be considered so that means could be taken, up to the 59th minute of the eleventh hour, in their efforts to secure industrial peace.
Educating the Public
In the process public opinion would be educated as to the merits of the dispute. If the public is once educated no Government need fear the result; but if there is failure to effect a settlement and a stoppage of essential services occur, the Government ought to face the fact that it must maintain law and order (applause). This is its first duty. Its other duty - and it is one which other parties have attempted to upset - is to ensure the maintenance of the public services (hear, hear). Whatever may be the political complexion of the Government of the day, it will be called upon to ensure that life and wealth are not endangered. It must he remembered that there is a latent intention in every community to protect itself against aggression, whether that aggression comes from outside in the form of war, or from inside in the form of the attempted deprivation of food or other essentials (hear, hear). It is the duty of Government, first and foremost, to strive for industrial peace. It is equally the duty of the Government to respond to the demand of the community for protection if and when, in the opinion of the community, circumstances have arisen which make such protection necessary (applause).
‘Our Own Party’
Now I wish, in closing, to say a few words about our own Party. There are at the present moment a good many disgruntled people knocking about the country (laughter). I want to tell them that there is no originality in that (laughter). They have got them in the Liberal Party. You can see that by the reception of the land policy (laughter), which has fallen as flat as a cold linseed poultice (laughter and applause). They have them in the Labour Party, where I think a very interesting struggle is in course of development. And to those in our Party who may think that other parties manage better, let me commend a few words of a Labour intellectual on the programme of his own Party: ‘There are no guiding lines in it, no inspiring ideas,’ writes the editor of the ‘New Leader.’ ‘We are borne along from one proposal to another, assenting to most of them but never getting a glimpse of the real purpose in view. And so one goes on from the new branch of Imperialism, from the old Fabian policy for unemployment and the old Radical policy of land taxation until the programme fades away in proposals to Socialise the supply of artificial teeth’ (laughter).
‘Don’t be Downhearted!’
After that, don’t be downhearted whatever is said to you (laughter). I don’t mind criticism myself, although nearly all the criticism I get is just like that of the weary mother who says to the nurse ‘Just go upstairs and see what Tommy’s doing and tell him not to’ (laughter). Criticism from our own Party I welcome when it is criticism directed to the improvement of the Party (hear, hear), and of our prospects. I don’t much care for criticism that comes from people with hot heads and cold feet (laughter). They had better get a cold compress to the head and a hot water bottle to the feet. Remember that whenever a Party does anything, it always evokes criticism, and we have done a great deal this year - some people think too much. After all this provokes criticism.
The Coal Subsidy
And we have been criticised, too, by a great many people, as I knew we should be, for our attitude over the coal crisis. Now I dislike a subsidy as much as anybody in this room, but if I may sum up in two or three words what made the Government take the line they did, it was not cowardice, it was not want of preparation, it was because they knew that an industrial struggle on a large scale, leaving out every other issue, would cause the country what the country today could but ill afford, and would set back the trade of the country, bad as it is in many places, by months, and perhaps years. And they took the risk of doing an unpopular thing for which many wrong motives would be assigned, in the hope and in the belief that in time the country would learn, would think, would understand, that wiser counsels might prevail, and that, contrary to every expectation this year, next year we might yet be able to ride through what looks as if it might be a stormy sea.
Other criticisms I have had. I have been told this country wants a Mussolini (laughter). I have a great respect for the chief Minister of a great country like Italy (hear, hear, and applause), but I know the temperament of my own people. The English people will never tolerate a dictator (applause). The English people will never tolerate being Prussianised, nor, may I add, being Russianised (applause). All the kind of criticisms that go on in the corners of clubs - (laughter) there is not a single leader we have had in my time of whom I have not heard the same things said, that I know have been said about me. I remember when people got together and said with an air of mystery, ‘Balfour is played out’; ‘Bonar is not the man he was.’
They Always Exist
I have heard them all, and they always exist. When the Party wants to change its leader I will step down, but not till then (loud and long continued applause). And remember this, that whether this country is going to get through the difficult years that lie immediately ahead of us depends more than anything else on the strength, the stability, and the loyalty of one to another and each to all (applause).