The parties, especially the government are
now beginning to natter about their "policies". We have heard it all
before. The below is from a long time ago, but not a lot changes.
1923 Conservative Party General Election
Stanley Baldwin's Election Address
In submitting myself to you for re-election, I propose frankly to put
before you the present situation as I see it, and the measures which in the
opinion of myself and my colleagues are necessary adequately to deal with it.
The unemployment and under-employment which our working people and our
great national industries are now facing for the fourth winter in succession,
on a scale unparalleled in our history, having created a problem which calls
urgently for a solution.
Their indefinite continuance threatens to impair permanently the trained
skill and the independent spirit of our workers, to disorganise the whole
fabric of industry and credit, and, by eating away the sources of revenue, to
undermine the very foundations of our national and municipal life.
In large measure this state of affairs is due to the political and
economic disorganisation of Europe consequent on the Great War. In accordance
with the policy affirmed by the Imperial Conference we shall continue to devote
every effort through the League of Nations and by every other practical means,
to the restoration of a true peace in Europe.
But that at the best must take time. A year ago Mr Bonar Law could still
hope that a more settled condition of affairs was in prospect, absence of any
modification of fiscal policy, of the ultimate necessity of which he himself
was always convinced. Since the occupation of the Ruhr it has become evident
that we are confronted by a situation which, even if it does not become worse,
is not likely to be normal for years to come.
The disorganisation and poverty of Europe, accompanied by broken
exchanges and by higher tariffs all the world over, have directly and
indirectly narrowed the whole field of our foreign trade. In our own home
market the bounty given to the importation of foreign goods by depreciated
currencies, and by the reduced standard of living in many European countries,
has exposed us to a competition which is essentially unfair and is paralysing
enterprise and initiative.
It is under such conditions that we have to find work for a population
which, largely owing to the cessation during the war period of the normal flow
of migration to the Dominions, has in the last census period increased by over
a million and three quarter souls.
No Government with any sense of responsibility could continue to sit
with tied hands watching the unequal struggle of our industries or content
itself with palliatives which, valuable as they are to mitigate the hardship to
individuals, must inevitably add to the burden of rates and taxes and thereby
still further weaken our whole economic structure. Drastic measures have become
necessary for dealing with present conditions as long as they continue.
The present Government hold themselves pledged by Mr Bonar Law not to
make any fundamental change in the fiscal system of the country without
consulting the electorate. Convinced, as I am, that only by such a change can a
remedy be found, and that no partial measures such as the extension of the
Safeguarding of Industries Act, can meet the situation, I am in honour bound to
ask the people to release us from this pledge without further prejudicing the
situation by any delay. That is the reason, and the only reason, which has made
this election necessary.
What we propose to do for the assistance of employment in industry, if
the nation approves, is to impose duties on imported manufactured goods, with
the following objects:-
to raise revenue by methods less unfair to our own home production which
at present bears the whole burden of local and national taxation, including the
cost of relieving unemployment.
to give special assistance to industries which are suffering under
unfair foreign competition;
to utilise these duties in order to negotiate for a reduction of foreign
tariffs in those directions which would most benefit our export trade;
to give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our
duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle of
mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of our
trade, and the development, in co-operation with the other Governments of the
Empire, of the boundless resources of our common heritage.
Such a policy will defend our industries during the present emergency
and will enable us, as more normal conditions return, to work effectively to
secure a greater measure of real Free Trade both within the Empire and with
Trade which is subject to the arbitrary interference of every foreign
tariff, and at the mercy of every disturbance arising from the distractions of
Europe, is in no sense free, and is certainly not fair to our own people.
It is not our intention, in any circumstances, to impose any duties on
wheat, flour, oats, meat (including bacon and ham), cheese, butter or eggs.
While assisting the manufacturing industries of the country we propose
also to give a direct measure of support to agriculture. Agriculture is not
only, in itself, the greatest and most important of our national industries, but
is of especial value as supplying the most stable and essentially complementary
home market for our manufacturers.
We propose to afford this assistance by a bounty of £1 an acre on all
holdings of arable land exceeding one acre. The main object of that bounty is
to maintain employment on the land and so keep up the wages of agricultural
labour. In order to make sure of this we shall decline to pay the bounty to any
employer who pays less than 30/- a week to an able-bodied labourer.
The exclusion from any import duties of the essential foodstuffs which I
have mentioned, as well as of raw materials, undoubtedly imposes a certain
limitation upon the fullest extension of Imperial Preference.
But even the preferences agreed to at the recent Economic Conference
within our existing fiscal system, have been acknowledged as of the greatest
value by the Dominion representatives, and our present proposals will offer a
much wider field, the value of which will be progressively enhanced by the
increasing range and variety of Empire production.
Moreover in the field of Empire development, as well as in that of home
agriculture, we are not confined to the assistance furnished by duties. We have
already given an earnest of our desire to promote a better distribution of the
population of the Empire through the Empire Settlement Act, and at the Economic
Conference we have undertaken to co-operate effectively with the Government of
any part of the Empire in schemes of economic development.
More especially do we intend to devote our attention to the development
of cotton growing within the Empire, in order to keep down the cost of a raw
material essential to our greatest exporting industry.
These measures constitute a single comprehensive and inter-dependent
policy. Without additional revenue we cannot assist agriculture at home, but
the income derived from the tariff will provide for this and leave us with
means which can be devoted to cotton growing and other development in the
Empire, and to the reduction of the duties on tea and sugar which fall so
directly upon the working class household.
For the present emergency, and pending the introduction of our more
extended proposals, we are making, and shall continue to make, every effort to
increase the volume of work for our people. The Government are spending very
large sums on every measure of emergency relief that can help in this
Further, the local Authorities of all kinds throughout the country, and
great individual enterprises, such as the railways, with the assistance of the
Government, or on its invitation, are co-operating wholeheartedly in the
national endeavour to increase the volume of employment. This great combined
effort of the Government, of the Local Authorities, and of individual
enterprises, represents an expenditure of no less than £100 millions sterling.
The position of shipbuilding, one of the hardest hit of all our
industries, is peculiar. It can only recover as shipping revives with the
development of Empire and foreign trade which we believe will follow from our
measures. We propose in the meantime to give it special assistance by
accelerating the programme of light cruiser construction which will in any case
become necessary in the near future.
We are informed by our Naval advisers that some light cruisers will be
required during the next few years in replacement of the County class, as well
as a variety of smaller and auxiliary craft, and we intend that a substantial
proportion of these shall be laid down as soon as the designs are ready and
Parliamentary sanction secured.
The solution of the unemployment problem is the key to every necessary
social reform. But I should like to repeat my conviction that we should aim at
the reorganisation of our various schemes of insurance against old age,
ill-health and unemployment.
More particularly should we devote our attention to investigating the
possibilities of getting rid of the inconsistencies and the discouragement of
thrift at present associated with the working of the Old Age Pensions Act.
The encouragement of thrift and independence must be the underlying
principle of all our social reforms.
Not a lot changes really.