Posts Tagged ‘Quintin Hogg’

The Immense Popularity of the Beveridge Report, and its Reception by Labour and the Tories

March 11, 2016

A week or so ago I had a debate on here with a critic, who objected to my crediting Aneurin Bevan with the creation of the NHS. He asserted that the Beveridge Report, on which the NHS is based, was a policy of the wartime National Government, and also had Conservative support.

This is true. However, the Beveridge Report was based on the work of Sidney and Beatrice Webb and the Socialist Medical Association, who had been demanding a free medical service for decades. Indeed, a free health service had been Labour party policy since the 1930s. And while the Tories in the Coalition government also supported Beveridge’s outline of the welfare state, it had particularly strong support in the Labour party.

Pauline Gregg in her book, The Welfare State, describes the massive popularity the Beveridge Report enjoyed with just about all parts of the British population on pages 19-20.

On November 20, 1942, only seventeen months after the appointment of the Committee, it was ready and signed. On December 2, it was made available to the public, and seen at once to go even beyond the expectations of The Times. Though called, simply, Social Insurance and Allied Services, it was an eloquent cry to end poverty, disease, and unemployment, and purported to supply the means of doing so. Its appeal was instantaneous. Queues besieged the Stationary Office in Kingsway. Not only the Press but BBC news bulletins summarized the Report. Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information, needed only a few hours in which to perceive its enormous propaganda value, and soon it was being trumpeted across the world in many languages. At the cost of 2s, the then normal price of a government White Paper, it immediately became a best-seller at home and abroad, the subject of leading articles, letters to the Press, speeches and discussions at every level of society. Beveridge himself explained his Plan to millions on the radio and on the cinema screen, as well as addressing countless meetings. In twelve months 256,000 copies of the full Report were sold, 369,000 copies of an abridged edition, 40,000 copies of an American edition. Permission was given for translation into Spanish, Portuguese, and German. Translations were published in Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, and Switzerland. Parts 1 and VI were translated into Czech, the abridgement into Italian and Chinese.

The Trades Union Congress and the Co-operative Party gave it their blessing. the National Council of Labour, representing all the bodies of organized Labour, called for the legislation necessary to implement the Report at an early date. The Liberal Party supported it, and through Geoffrey Mander welcomed the general principles of “that momentous report”. A group of young Tories tabled a motion in the House of Commons requiring the Government “to set up forthwith the proposed Ministry of Social Security for the purpose of giving effect to the principles of the Report”. “We believe”, said Quintin Hogg, who sponsored this motion, “the keynote of the restatement of political controversy after the war to be practical idealism.” The Beveridge scheme, said another Tory Member of Parliament, “touches the individual life of every man, woman and child in the country and reaches deep down into the homes of the people”. The Labour Party made the Report peculiarly its own. “It expresses”, said Sydney Silverman at its Conference in 1943, “the basic principle of this Party, the only thing which entitled us at the beginning and entitles us now to regard ourselves as fundamentally different from all other parties.” The Report, wrote The Times, had changed the phrase “freedom from want” from a vague though deeply felt aspiration into a plainly realizable project of national endeavour. “Sir William Beveridge and his colleagues have put the nation deeply in their debt, not mere for a confident assurance that the poor need not always be with us, but far a masterly exposition of the ways and means whereby the fact and the fear of involuntary poverty can be speedily abolished altogether.” The Report, it concluded, “is a momentous document which should and must exercise a profound and immediate influence on the direction of social changes in Britain.

Gregg notes on page 23 that in the House of Commons, when it came to a vote only a minority voted for the immediate implementation of the policy. In the end the Labour Party tabled an amendment calling for the early implementation of Beveridge’s plan as a test of Parliament’s sincerity. She also notes on page 25 that many Tory MPs voted against the motion as a reaction against the Plan’s support by Labour.

Meanwhile the Labour amendment was put to the House of Commons. “The Beveridge Plan”, said James Griffiths, moving it, “has become in the minds of the people and the nation both a symbol and a test. It has become, first of all symbol of the kind of Britain we are determined to build when the victory is won, a Britain in which the mass of the people shall ensured security from preventable want. Almost … every comment that has been made in the Press and on the platform since the Report was issued, the widespread interest taken in it and in its proposals, and the almost universal support given to it, are clear indications that the Report and the plan meet a deep-felt need in the minds and hearts of our people.”

But the effect of calling upon a Labour amendment was to unite the Tories against it, in spite of their own speeches, and Griffiths’ amendment was lost by 335 votes to 119, leaving the original non-committal motion to stand. It was a regrettable position. After the welcome and the publicity given to Beveridge’s proposals, and the high hopes raised, the Report was accepted by then sent to another Committee at Whitehall, who spent nearly two years considering it. Further consideration of details had, indeed, been assumed by its author. But the impression given was of shelving the Report, of wriggling out of the proposals. “This”, said Griffiths after the counting of the votes in the House of Commons,” makes the return of the Labour Party to power at the next election an absolute certainty.”

(My emphasis).

The commenter also found my story, about how the pharmacist father of one of my mother’s friends declared he was going to vote Labour because so many people needed the NHS ‘absurd’. This was presumably because he couldn’t accept the idea of a true-blue Tory businessman ever voting Labour. But this paragraph shows this was pretty much what did happen, and the government knew it the moment the Tories voted against the Labour motion.

As for Sydney Silverman’s statement that support for the welfare state is what makes the Labour party fundamentally different from all other parties, it’s a pity that this wasn’t taken on board by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they decided to continue Thatcher’s programme of dismantling the welfare state and privatising the NHS. And it’s a pit that it isn’t recognised by Bliar’s successors – Liz Kendall and now Dan Jarvis.

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Corruption and the Sale of Tory Seats in the Early 20th Century

February 27, 2016

From contemporary political corruption in America, to political corruption here in Britain. In the early 20th century parts of the Conservative party were scandalised by the cynical way safe seats were sold to the highest bidder by the local Conservative associations. These charged for the time exorbitant fees to prospective candidates. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymus author of the anti-Tory book, Your MP, devotes a whole chapter to the corrupt sale of seats, and the massive preponderance of the rich in the Tory and National Liberal parties. However, this passage in particular on pages 27 to 28 makes the point.

Now we go deeper still: we find one of our witnesses, one of Major Patriot’s Tory colleagues, saying that “it is lamentable that Tory seats should be sold to the richest candidate.”

And, turning back, we find a reference to a “financial burden not within the capacity of all” potential candidates (East Toxteth), and another M.P. complaining that “a married man with an income of £2,000 a year” cannot afford to be an M.P. (Spelthorne).

There is plenty of evidence on this. P.W. Donner (Basingstoke) was reported by the Morning Post, 28.6.35, to have said that he “had been forced to leave Islington, his present constituency, on the grounds of health and economy. The Hampshire Executive (of the Tory Party) had asked him for a subscription less than half what he was now paying in Islington.”

The Hon. Quintin Hogg (Oxford) wrote in the Nineteenth Century, January, 1934, that “the local Tory associations are rotten to the core”. In one agricultural constituency, he wrote, prospective Tory candidates have been informed they need not apply unless they can subscribe to the organisation the fantastic sum of £3,000 per annum.

In a northern industrial city, £600 a year is the least annual subscription that the Association will consider.

According to the a valuable study recently published, Parliamentary Representation, by J.F.S. Ross, the average amounts of election expenses for contested elections in 1935 were in round figures:

Conservative candidates……£780
Liberal candidates. ………£520
Labour candidates…………£360

One Conservative candidate, Mr. Ian Harvey, published in January, 1939, a memorandum headed “A Plutocratic System,” which goes so far as to state that “in nearly every case” (when candidates for Tory seats are chosen) “the question of finance is of primary importance.” He estimated that men “have always an excellent chance of being adopted “if they are willing “to pay all their elections expenses (anything between £400 and £1,200) and to subscribe between £500 and £1,000 (a year) to the local Association.”

The Federation of University Conservative Associations, meeting in London as Mr Ian Harvey’s memo was published, passed unanimously a resolution deploring the influence on the choice of candidates of “considerations of personal fortune”.

In the book by Mr Ross there are further examples, from Frome in Somerset, Hendon, and the University of London Conservative Association. Mr Ross calculates that only one person out of each 1,150 of the adult population has the income necessary to have “an excellent chance” in Mr Harvey’s phrase, of being adopted as a Tory M.P.

When Mr R.A. Brabner, (Hythe) was chosen as candidate, it was stated in the London Press that he “will pay £500 a year to the Conservative Association, and his election expenses. That is a fairly moderate contribution for a safe seat near London” (Evening Standard, 27.6.39).

The same inquisitive newspaper noted, about Lt.-Col. F.G. Doland (Balham and Tooting(, that his is “an expensive seat to fight. The Conservative candidate’s election expenses are between £700 and £700 … I understand that the Conservatives expect their candidates to find this money out of their own pockets, and, in addition, to provide a ‘subsidy’ of about £600 a year” (13.7.36).

Sir Derek Gunston (Thornbury), one of the very few Tory M.P. on the Executive of the League of Nations Union, spoke more recently on the subject of “purchasable seats’:

“Rich, safe seats, with ample resources that could be tapped, are too lazy to make the effort so long as they can find rich men who, while willing to go through the mill of fighting an election, are nevertheless prepared to pay for a safe seat. In practice you find the able but less well-off candidates fighting the hopeless seats. It is the rich, safe seats which demand the highest contributions (Evening Standard, 2.10.41).

Let us try to be clear what all this evidence amounts to. it does not mean that every Tory buys his seat. It means that enough of them do so to matter a great deal – to matter so much that very many other Tories protest, are uneasy, try to get the matter altered. (But do not succeed in doing so).
(My emphasis).

It therefore comes as no surprise that 95% of MPs are millionaires. Nor is it surprising that contemporary grass roots Tories complain about being sidelined in favour of rich donors. This type of corruption also became endemic in New Labour, when various businessmen ostentatiously switched from the Tories to Labour, and then were parachuted into safe Labour seats in preference to the local parties’ preferred candidates. And there has always been an element of corporate corruption in politics, where Corporations have bought influence by contributing to party coffers. It’s rife within the modern parties, and particularly the Conservatives, where the Tory party conference was largely funded through sponsorship and donations by rich corporations seeking a slice of public contracts. For example, Jeremy Hunt last year moderated a discussion about the future of the NHS in a talk sponsored by a private healthcare firm.

While the effective sale of Tory safe seats may not exist, or proceed in quite the same form, this passage shows how cynical the Tories were in choosing the richest as their preferred candidates, and the influence money could get you in the party.