Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Governments Who Dig Their Own Graves

Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937)
Remind you of anyone?
Non-fiction ~ article/essay
Published in the Western Daily Press [Bristol], 13th January 1930*
1,130 words
(First read 16/09/2014)

Mr Benson has a reet good dig at the political establishment of the day ~ a mildly diverting read, even if (like me) you know absolutely nothing about the subject.  While he's wittily scornful of the as-good-as-defunct Conservative and Liberal Parties, who lie in adjoining graves from which 'faint and unexplained tappings' can sometimes be heard, he's most cutting about the recently(ish) elected Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald, which he characterizes as a bunch of self-seeking betrayers of the class who elected them ~ not to mention everyone else who didn't.

* As with quite a few of these articles, I dare say this one was published elsewhere too: this just happens to be where I found it.  It says at the end "Copyright of the Freedom Association" ... which I'm afraid I'm too lazy to be bothered to look in to just at present ~ for another article marked thus see Liberty of Law (1928).

The full article is reproduced below.  As far as I know, this is the first time it's appeared in full, free of charge and for all the world to see, since 1930.

Governments Who Dig Their Own Graves by E. F. Benson
Among the first and best established duties of every new Government is that of digging is own grave. Whatever its life may be it sets about the business of its latter end, and a Party has no sooner got into office than it puts some business in hand which if persevered in will render its position untenable.
Sometimes, if it has but a feeble sense of this duty, it puts off the necessary task, but its conscience always awakes before long, and it shovels away with the praiseworthy notion of making up for lost time. The Protectionist policy of the Conservative Government before Labour first came into office is an instance of this. Its efforts were brilliantly successful on that occasion, the party was rent, like the veil of the Temple from top to bottom, and with a sense of a task happily accomplished, it attained its minority.
Its industry met with less lasting success than it deserved, for in a year's time the party was in power again with a majority that was almost impossible to fritter away in the course of its natural life. But, when middle-aged, it began, as was so right and proper, to turn its attention to grave-digging, and introduced what is irreverently known as the 'flapper-vote', which, as is universally recognised now, could not, from the point of view of burial, have been bettered. This time its grave was well and deeply dug, and in it for the present it lies satisfactorily interred and at such a depth that it may well be excused form hearing the last trump.
The Liberal Party
In the grave next it repose the remains of all that was immortal of the Liberal Party, and though faint and unexplained tappings are believed to be going on between the coffins containing their late leaders, there is no evidence that they are really in communication with each other. They may only be turning in their graves in posthumous horror at their proximity. They sleep, perchance to dream, but no veridical vision appears to have visited them. Probably they should be considered as dead, and the efforts of the younger members of the Conservative Party will be unable to galvanise the lost leader into life.
Meantime the third party is buzzing like a swarm of bees in May, and it is most sincerely to be hoped that they will be left to buzz in peace, for any attempt just now on the part of others to smoke them out would be foredoomed to failure, and an appeal to the electorate would only cause them “to o'erbrim their clammy cells,” and issue in overwhelming number. It is most important that they should be left to themselves.
They began operations by a series of measures long overdue, and the voice from the latest tomb sepulchrally reminded them that they were only carrying out the policy of their predecessors. Their rejoinder that they were only wiping up the mess which had been bequeathed them, and which should have been finished with long ago, seemed unanswerable.
The Rights of Musicians
But then, as all good Governments should, they began to take steps for their own interest. This they should be allowed to do without any interference, for no one can do it so well. They put forward a Bill about the rights of musicians over the fruits of their own work, and its object seemed to be that of depriving workers of their small wage in order to make music cheap for the middleman and the millions.
Peter was being robbed not to pay Paul alone bu to tip the rest of the apostles, including Judas. This was a very laudable effort on the part of Labour, whose contention it is that the worker should reap the due harvest of his toil, and not have to sell it at starvation rates to the exploiter. But this grave was dug, so to speak, in sandy soil, and the side fell in; in other words, this rank recantation of their mandate affected only a very small body of workers, and though Mr Bernard Shaw whooped and whistled on his fingers, this first attempt at grave-digging was not truly successful.
Income of Cabinet Ministers
But very soon the Government got to work again, and foreshadowed a measure for the increase of the incomes of Cabinet Ministers. That was more like serious grave-digging, and we hear that, with a due regard to the spirit of the season, they are hoping to secure the support of an influential committee drawn from other parties, so that this little Christmas-box with which they present themselves will be a symbol of peace and harmony.
Of course the cost of it will be a mere bagatelle: the purchasers, who are the tax-payers, will surely, they imagine, be only too delighted to contribute towards so small a gift. But they could scarcely have devised a scheme which, so inexpensive in itself, was symptomatic of a more cynical indifference to the principles they profess. Economy, they rightly insisted was one of the very first duties of the Government, for the industries of the country were crippled by taxation, and that burden must at once be lightened.
They resemble, in fact, a newly appointed Board of Directors of some great public company, whose energies are paralysed for want of funds; so, in order to bring relief, their first business has been to vote an increase in their own salaries. “Clever men like us,” they frankly said, “could be earning far larger incomes if we attended to our own affairs, instead of kindly consenting to manage yours, and it is not worth our while to do so, unless we are better paid. Do you think we esteem it an honour to be Directors of the British Empire Company? You are quite mistaken if you do. A successful book-maker earns more than any of us, not to mention the fun he has in attending race mettings.”
Imagine the Fulminations
Such is the light in which this measure presents itself to those who have to pay for the Christmas-box. It is indeed lucky (supposing that the leaders of the Conservative Party are in accord with it) that they did not introduce the measure themselves. What a slogan the Labour Party would have made of it at the last elections! One can imagine their fulminations against a Government which from motives of the meanest personal greed, seeks to enrich a handful of wealthy men at the expense of the workers, and of industries already withering under taxation.
The Conservatives had been blamed for the slackness and inaction; but deeper yet would have been their grave if they had exerted themselves in such a cause.
As it is, the sextons are delving for others.

Reproduced from the Western Daily Press [Bristol, UK], 13/01/1930

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