J.T. Walton Newbold

Will the Bonar Law
Government Fall?

(26 April 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 34 [16], 26 April 1923, pp. 290–291.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

There has been considerable volume of rumor about for some weeks past concerning the duration of the present government in England. It is generally recognized that Premier Bonar Law is in very poor health, anti that he may, at no distant date, be compelled to resign his leadership of the ministry and retire into private life. He is a man whom everyone likes personally, for the very simple reason that when be says a thing, you feel instinctively that he means it, that he will not mislead you if he can possibly avoid it and that however he may oppose you he will be perfectly frank with you. He is, in my opinion, by no means such a wooden-head as some people are disposed to make out. He is, personally, a strong man who knows what he wants and just how much likelihood he has of getting it. He is not a brilliant man but he is dependable. He is, in fact, just the type of man which the dominant interests in British capitalism require to lead them at the present time.

He lias, in his government, a number of rather stupid men, members of the House of Lords, whom he had to include because of their personal influence in the Tory Party. The Duke of Devonshire, the Marquess of Salisbury and the Earl of Derby are all peers who are the inheritors of a political tradition, which is such that if they have any ability whatsoever, the holders of those titles are certain to occupy leading places in their party. They belong to the great governing families of England. He has, in his government, in the House of Commons a number of young men, largely without experience, who may, however, given the time, prove not incapable heads of departments. They are, however, most obviously there in office because they belong to good families, have influence in high finance or at Court, were educated at the best schools and are members of select West End clubs. They have about them that peculiar bearing and modest culture which are the hallmark of the English gentlemen. They are tranquil exponents of a tranquil policy. They mean well, one feels as one looks at them, but the poor young things will never understand that the social fabric is built upon a cesspool of class iniquity. There is one man amongst them who stands out as of more than ordinary ability. That is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Stanley Baldwin. He belongs to a family of Midland and South Wales iron and steel masters, who have made a huge fortune in the industry, but who have sold their business concerns to a syndicate of bankers, belonging to the same group of international credit-houses as stands behind Krupp. The Baldwins are now sleeping partners in the concern, drawing a regular income from debenture and similar holdings when they have not transferred their interests entirely. They have joined the ranks of the rentier class. They have become members of the class from which are recruited the men particularly versed in the arts of government. Mr. Baldwin was, formerly, a director of the family steel works and of the largest railway company in the country. He belongs to the same type and generation of business men as his neighbour in the “Black Country” of Worcestershire, Mr. Austen Chamberlain.

Now, the Government has caused intense annoyance to everyone, including the rank and file of their own party by their utter and callous neglect of the ex-soldiers, many of whom are starving and broken in health, but cannot get decent pensions. No one ever gets satisfaction out of the Minister of War Pensions. He is a weak and vacillating ex-officer who is helpless in the hands of the bureaucrats of his department who, in turn, can get little or no money from the spending department, the Treasury. The Government has, also, failed to find employment for ex-servicemen in its own offices in such manner as to give them hope of civil advancement. It was failure in this respect that was the object of a critical attack by one of the Free Liberals in the course of a debate on a formal resolution “that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair” so that the House could go into what is called Committee of Supply, i.e. to discuss and vote upon grants of money for the state services. This debate permits any member to raise any grievance he cares in connexion with the departments for which the House of Commons is about to vote money. Usually, the criticisms are made but no vote is taken. If the vote goes against the Government on such a resolution, it is considered a severe censure upon the Department meriting amendment of its conduct. It is not, however, the kind of vote which would cause any modern government to resign office.

The Labour Party, unexpectedly, challenged a vote on the motion. Very few of the supporters of the government were at hand. The Government was defeated on a chance vote. The Labour Party, which fights furiously – with its mouth and its feet – in Parliament, clamored hypocritically for the government to concede the matter which had been raised by the critics. The Labour Party did not wish an election. It was being a good parliamentary opposition and getting as much publicity out of its pyrrhic victory as it could. MacDonald knew how unreal a fight it was and wished to protest mildly against the Government’s action in taking the same resolution over again next day. Henderson, who is an excellent political “boss”; wanted to humiliate the government by causing Parliament to lose a day. He stimulated a scene which Lansbury and the Clyde men spontaneously caused and in which I participated because we all of us wish to do, what MacDonald and Henderson certainly do not wish to do, make Parliament no longer a fetish of respectability.

We sat and shouted and sung the Red Flag. In the end, the Speaker suspended the sitting for the day. It was all symptomatic of the indignation felt at the government’s lack of sympathy for the masses. The Lloyd George Party, together with some of his Tory friends, like Lord Birkenhead, who thoroughly despise the government and would, also, like to be taken back into office in a new Coalition, availed themselves of the amusement and indignation felt at the government’s foolishness in being defeated on the question of treatment of ex-soldiers, to attack the Ministry. This attack was not made in Parliament but in the underworld of political clubs and newspaper intrigue.

The whole business was a mere excuse to make a demonstration against the government, which was framing its Budget in such a way as to keep high the taxes on the available surplus of those heavily handicapped industrial and commercial concerns who support Lloyd George and the leaders of the late Coalition. The government reflects the interests of the banks and credit-houses to whom Lloyd George’s friends must go for ready money. If taxes are so high as to drain off all the ready money they have in hand the industrialists and traders must pledge their assets to Mr. Baldwin’s friends. That was the whole quarrel. It is probable in fact, that the result of it was a compromise, seen in the reduction of 6d in the income tax and 1Sh. on the corporation tax.

Furthermore, the “Die hard” elements in the Government were anxious to give more support to France in her policy in the Ruhr, and were pressing for a denunciation ot the Trade Agreement with Russia and the expulsion of the Trade Delegation. Mr. Lloyd George and Sir Robert Horne and their friends, particularly Mr. Leslie Urquhart, are opposed to both these tendencies. They have been frightening the Government into a surrender to reason, of course, behind the scenes. They have, also, been leading a revolt against the Government’s acquiescence in the American agreement with the Turks over petroleum concessions.

The underworld of big business and high finance is very disturbed. There are some very big catastrophes threatening in the industrial world – unless the victims mortgage themselves to the banks or unless the bankers’ Mr. Baldwin reduces taxation. Some hope!

Last updated on 13 October 2021