‘Renewing the glory of our island home’

21 July 1951, Royal Wanstead School, Woodford

It is six years almost to a week since the Socialist Government came into office and we entered upon that melancholy period of eclipse and frustration which, if it continues, will lead to our decline and fall. What a contrast between our position at the end of the war and that to which we have been already reduced today. Not only were we victorious after all the hard toils and struggles but we were more honoured, respected and admired by friend and foe alike than we had ever been before.

And where do we stand today in the eyes of the world? For the time being we have lost our rank among the nations. There is hardly any country in the world where it is not believed that you have only to kick an Englishman hard enough to make him evacuate, bolt or clear out. Countries we have defended from Nazi and Fascist violence, countries we have rescued after they had been subjugated, countries which had found us strong and steadfast comrades and allies, are watching with astonishment a Britain which they think is in retreat or in decline. Egypt, Persia, Albania, the Argentine and Chile compete with each other in the insults and the humiliations they inflict upon us – and what is the cause? It is the attempt to impose a doctrinaire Socialism upon an island which has grown great and famous by free enterprise and valour and which six years ago stood in honour though not in size at the summit of the world. . . .

Devaluation was the child of wild profuse expenditure, and the evils which we suffer today from what I have called ‘the money cheat’ are the inevitable progeny of that wanton way of living. The greatest national misfortune which we are now entering is the ever-falling value of our money, or to put it the other way round, the ever-increasing cost measured by work and thrift of everything we buy. Taxation is higher than in any country outside the Communist world. There they take all. There no one has anything except the salaries paid them by the privileged Communist aristocracy. British taxation is higher now than it was in the height of the late war – even when we stood alone and defied all comers.

Is not that an astonishing fact? Six years of Socialist Government have hit us harder in our finance and economics than Hitler was able to do. Look at the effects you face of devaluation abroad. We are an island with a population of fifty millions living on imports of food and raw materials, which we have to buy by our exertion, ingenuity and craftsmanship. We have to pay across the dollar exchange twelve hours of work, with hand or brain, to buy what we could before have got with eight hours. We are a hard-working people. We are second to none in ability or enterprise so far as we are allowed to use these gifts. We now have to give a third more of our life strength, energy and output of every kind and quality to get the same revivifying intake as we had before devaluation two years ago. . . .

The whole social programme of which the Government boast was devised in conception and detail by a National Government resting upon a House of Commons with a Conservative majority of one hundred over all parties. Only one single new idea has been contributed by the false guides who have led us far astray, who have robbed us of the fruits of our victory and mauled our daily life. Only one. You know the one I have in mind. Nationalisation. What an awful flop! Show me the nationalised industry which has not become a burden on the public either as taxpayers or consumers or both. There is hardly an industry in which the employees are contented with changing the private employers with whom they could negotiate on equal terms through the trade unions for the hordes of all-powerful officials in Whitehall. . . .

And now I come to the worst thing of all. We had a speech the other day from the Communist Horner in which he said: ‘If a Tory Government is returned it is certain that there will be a national strike of the miners. . . . It is only responsibility and loyalty to the Labour Government that has caused the miners to pull their punches.’ This speech, which is, of course, only a part of the Communist conspiracy to bring Britain under the whole of the Kremlin, would not have counted if it had only been the mouthings of a Moscow lackey. But there, sitting at his side, was a Minister of the Crown – Mr Griffiths. I give the Government credit for their hostility to Communism, though they are bringing it nearer by all they do. But fancy this Minister sitting there beside this Communist agent and not daring to open his mouth in protest or contradiction. And fancy that a week has elapsed without the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government disowning and denouncing the declaration which Mr Horner made. Let us see exactly what this declaration means. If the people of Britain should at any time be allowed to have a General Election, and if the will of the people expressed through the universal suffrage electorate should return a Conservative Government to power, Mr Horner says it is certain that there will be a national strike of the miners. This of course, if it happened, would paralyse the whole life and industry of our country.

Now I have always been a friend of the miners. Just over forty years ago I moved the Second Reading of the Mines Eight Hours Bill. I set up the system of mines inspectors drawn from the miners themselves which exists today as one of the main measures to ward off the perils of coal-mining. In 1925 as Chancellor of the Exchequer I provided £20 million to give a year for further negotiations to solve the difficulty in the mining industry and thus avoid a national or general strike. The only quarrel I have ever had with the miners was in the war when I had to forbid them from pouring out of the mines to join our armies in the field. Let them dismiss from their minds these malicious tales that a Conservative Government would be hostile to the mining community. I have always affirmed that those who work in these hard and dangerous conditions far from the light of the sun have the right to receive exceptional benefits from the nation which they serve.

But now the Communist Horner has stepped outside the sphere of industrial disputes and threatens the whole British democracy, thirty million voters, with a national strike to bring the country down if they dare express their opinion and wishes at the polls. This is an insult to the will of the people which no free democracy could endure. The idea that one section, however worthy, in our island should claim the right to deny political liberties and rights to all the rest of us, is one which would never be tolerated and one which, in my belief, the miners themselves would be the first to repudiate.

But while these shameful menaces are uttered, the Socialist Government, intent on electioneering – and false electioneering as it will turn, out to be – remains ‘mum’. Attlee doodles, Morrison gapes and only Mr Bevan grins. Well, anyhow, we are going to have a General Election as soon as we can force these office-clingers to present themselves before their fellow-countrymen. Then the people will have a chance to express their will. Great as are the difficulties of the time, ugly as the inheritance is which the Socialists will leave behind them, long as is the period of stable progressive government which will be required to remedy our misfortunes, and to rebuild our national power and fame, I have no doubt that it is the duty of all those who are here this evening, and of every man and woman in the land, to prepare themselves fearlessly and faithfully for the splendid opportunity they will have of reviving the strength and renewing the glory of our island home.

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