Monday, 18 January 2010

Conservative misery-mongers of 60 years ago

One of my hobbies is to collect Labour Party memorabilia, autobiographies and biographies particularly - anything which catches my eye. I have an old copy of the Listener from June1950. The Listener for younger readers was the BBC's version of the New Statesman/Spectator and it ceased publication in 1991. I bought this edition as it contained a Party Political Broadcast by the Labour Party.
An article was published which consisted of a transcript of the radio broadcast by Morgan Phillips (pictured) the Secretary of the Labour Party. I don't know when the baton was passed from party officers to politicians. Here are some of the things he said, some resonate still today and some show how much things have changed...
"Do you remember listening to those Tory broadcasters during the February 1950 election campaign? Time after time they came to the microphone and warned against electing another Labour Government. "If you are as stupid as that", they said, "this island race will be doomed for sure". Well you did elect another Labour Government and today most people feel that things are looking up."......
"We've also got to think about the future and about jobs that still need doing. There are many of them. Right, then, back to the misery-mongers - those Conservatives who predicted disaster. You've got to admit that it hasn't worked out quite as they predicted. Look around for yourself. Does this honestly look like a nation on its last legs? Not on your life. Whatever the Conservatives may say, this is a nation full of vitality. We are a country proud of our achievements and confident of our power to face whatever the future may bring."....
"Let's look a little more closely at this petrol business, for example. The 1950 election was on and lots of motorists were fed up because they wanted more petrol. So the Tories jumped in with both feet and offered it to them. They said: 'We'll get rid of petrol rationing.' What a fine gesture! Find out what people want and offe it to them, no matter how much it is going to cost or no matter whether you can carry out the promise or not. That was Tory electioneering for you. But we needed our dollars to buy food, to buy to buy raw materials, and to keep industry going: and as long as there's a Labour Government food and raw materials will come first."....
Here is the part that struck me most...
"Although real poverty has already been abolished, there are still far too many economic inequalities and injustices in our economic system. Too many factors other than ability, still count in determining the kind of education a boy or girl can get. The appalling heritage of slums still leaves its mark on each new generation. But it isn't all. We want to see more houses, more schools, more goods in the shops, more fun in people's lives."
He finishes with a fine peroration...
"Our vision is of a community in which human personality can develop to the full, in which spiritual values and the simples virtues of kindness, tolerance and a concern for our neighbours' needs will reign supreme - a community in which men and women will recognise and respect their common humanity and not be divided by differences of economic interest or social class. There you have the ethical basis of our socialist faith. There is the ideal we are dedicated to achieve. And if you think it worth working for, as I hope you do, why not come in and help?"
Surprisingly there is no mention of the National Health Service founded in 1948. Would any modern politician talk about the abolition of poverty? Yet Morgan spoke with intimate knowledge of an entirely differently level of poverty in the 1920s and 1930s with mass unemployment. How fortunate we are, and how many today take it for granted or take seriously the Conservative misery-mongers who talk our country down.
I would like to see the Labour Party in the coming election talking about "more fun in people's lives", to talk about "the ethical basis of our socialist faith", and to talk about "a nation full of vitality".

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