George Walford: Now, But Then Too

IC35 included (on page 2) a note suggesting that Thatcherism stands closer to old-fashioned conservatism than is sometimes thought, its greater sharpness arising from the need (from the Tories’ viewpoint) not merely to maintain an existing condition but to work back to one that has been largely lost. Christopher Thorne, reviewing a batch of books on the run-up to 1939, reminds us that under Chamberlain dissenters were treated with harsh intolerance, that the media, the BBC among them, were successfully intimidated or manipulated, that one uncooperative Tory MP had his phone tapped, and that Sir Robert Vansittart was trailed, on Chamberlain’s instructions, by the security services. Even the belief that conservatism used to be milder than it is seems to have more than a touch of “good old days” mythology about it.

Thorne also sticks another pin into comfortable orthodoxy. We are all familiar statements by right-wing people in favour of Hitler or Mussolini, and he recalls Harold Nicolson’s account of three young peers saying rather Hitler than socialism. But he also quotes Sir Stafford Cripps in 1936: “If Germany were to defeat Britain in war it would be a disaster to the profit makers and capitalists, but not necessarily for the working class.”

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THE PILOT was surprised to find his right-hand engine had dropped off. (BBC Television News, 25 January 89)

from Ideological Commentary 38, March 1989.