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'Rt Hon Dress Suit (Checking the unemployment figures ...' Cartoon by David Low on Mosley's resignation from the Cabinet, May 1930.

Phillip Maddison, central figure of the Chronicle, has also, like Willie, experienced the 1914 truce but where Willie has tried to develop a world view, part political, part mystical, in response, Phillip, a decorated war hero, has gone to pieces, putting himself together again, like Williamson, by becoming absorbed in the natural world and becoming a writer, under the influence of Richard Jefferies. In 1930, though, politics suddenly become interesting:

'When the paper-boy brought the morning papers he got up to meet him, and returning to the deckchair glanced through the London paper. By this act he broke his rule never to look at the papers until after the morning stint, of a minimum thousand words, was done.

'On the front page was the news of a junior minister’s resignation from the Labour government. The name of Birkin was prominent ... GREAT SPEECH TO THE HOUSE, ran the headline.

'"If this loan of one hundred million pounds cannot be raised," continued the Minister, "then unemployment, as an urgent and immediate problem, cannot be dealt with. We are told by the City of London that we cannot have the money to help the workless back to work - in reclaiming land, in afforestation, in building great new roads to replace the narrow, wandering tracks that so frequently link town with town, creating obstacles for traffic and danger to life; in electrification projects; and in everything needed to bring this great country up to date in the public utility services—all these things are needed for our survival. More important still, for our true wealth lies in our people, not only should children be kept out of industry, but an ad hoc pension scheme must be instituted whereby old people shall be encouraged to retire from industry at sixty by payment of pensions of twenty-five shillings a week. Thus more jobs will go to those who urgently need them - those on the threshold of adult life who are now growing up in idleness and subject to demoralisation of every kind ..."'

The 'junior minister', Birkin, is, of course, Oswald Mosley, at the time Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Labour government under Ramsay Macdonald (a personal friend as it happens). The account in The Phoenix Generation (pp.52 et seq) is very closely based on Mosley's actual resignation speech after his 'memorandum' - putting forward ideas very close to those of Jimmy Maxton of the Independent Labour Party (Mosley was also a member of the ILP, as had been MacDonald and his chancellor Philip Snowden) and those that had been discussed by, for example, Keynes and Bevin in the recent Mond-Turner talks, 1928-9.

Maddison's reading continues:

‘"The Chancellor of the Exchequer [Philip Snowden - PB] has told us that the unemployed figures have risen, that they are bad and getting worse. He has told the House that if the unemployed problem is regarded from a purely Party point of view a tremendous case can, in the light of the published figures be made out against the Government.

'"The solution lies in the system of an import control board. Applied to agriculture, and particularly to wheat, an import control board can increase the price to farmers by ten shillings a quarter above the present world prices without any increase in the price of bread. Many thousands of men can thereby be found employment on our derelict arable farms, and the policy of controlled imports can be applied no less to other trades. For if we are to build up a home market, it must be agreed that this nation be, to some extent, insulated from the electric shocks of present world conditions. You cannot build a higher civilisation and a standard of life which can absorb the great force of modem production if you are subject to price fluctuations from the rest of the world which dislocate your industry at every turn, and to the sport of competition from the virtually slave conditions in other countries ...

'"If that effort is not made, we may soon come to a crisis, to a real crisis. I do not fear that so much, for this reason: that in a crisis this nation is at its best. This people knows how to handle a crisis; it cools their heads and steels their nerves. What I fear much more than a sudden crisis is a long, slow crumbling through the years until we sink to the level of a Spain, a gradual paralysis beneath which all the vigour and energy of this country will succumb. That is a far more dangerous thing, and far more likely to happen unless some effort is made. If the effort is made, how relatively easily can disaster be averted. You have in this country resources, skilled craftsmen among the workers, design and technique among the technicians, unknown and unequalled in any other country in the world.

'"What a fantastic assumption it is that a nation which within the lifetime of everyone has put forth the efforts of energy and vigour unequalled in the history of the world, should succumb before an economic situation such as the present. If this situation is to be overcome, if the great powers of this country are to be mobilised and rallied for a great national effort, then the Government and Parliament must give a lead. I beg the Government tonight to give the vital forces of this country the chance that they await. I beg Parliament to give that lead."'

His enjoyment of the article is a little disrupted by the interjections of the drunken odd job man, Rippingall ("I've seen the ghost of the murdered priest") and writer, Cabton, whom he dislikes. After finishing the article he is joined by his wealthy uncle Hilary:

'"Talking of cobwebs, have you read Birkin’s speech following his resignation from the government, Uncle Hilary?"

'"Yes, I have, and in my opinion it’s a lot of unrealistic idealism. Birkin was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and yet he pretends to be the friend of the working man."

'"He is the friend of the working man, Uncle Hilary, surely? His generation led them in battle, after all."

'"That’s not enough to run a country in these difficult times, with a world slump threatening to become worse. Noble sentiments I agree, but they come from a hot head. Birkin wants to ignore world conditions, which rule our overseas markets. He knows nothing about finance, which is ruled by the world situation, as I said," replied the older man, his voice between the persuasive and conciliatory. "I hold no brief for Churchill, but he was right when he urged the raising of the Bank Rate, which stopped Labour’s wildcat schemes. Now Birkin, in resigning, has turned his coat again, as once before he turned it when he was a Conservative. The fellow lacks stability."

‘"Birkin said that Churchill, who raised the Bank Rate, is like a man who sets fire to his house, then throws stones at the fire brigade."

'"If these wild-fire socialists came to power, the first thing they would do would be to block Sterling. Then where would our export markets be?"

'"We could export to the Empire, surely, and invest all Sterling there, chiefly in raw materials."

'This did not please Hilary, who wanted to be free to invest his capital where he could get the biggest yield.'