Election Prospects in Britain To-Day

2st YEAR No. 37 — Friday 22nd April 1955

In November last, the Gallup Poll showed that 47% of the people would have voted Labour in a General Election, against 46% for the Tories and 6% Liberal.

A few days ago, another Gallup Poll was taken which showed that the Tories had gained slightly, and Labour had lost quite considerably to the Liberals. The latest poll showed 46½ % support for the Tories, 44½ % for Labour, and 8% for the Liberals. Despite this, Labour would prefer an early election, while the effect of the Government’s recent economic policy changes is still fresh in people’s minds. It is not felt in Labour circles that the ‘split’ in the Party will adversely affect the Party’s performance at an election; and many Tory candidates are admitting privately that they too feel that their chances are no brighter because of the Bevan affair.

Tory Govt’s unpopularity

There is no doubt that this Tory Government has earned the opprobrium of all sections of the electorate except that section which lives by parasitic barnacle-like existence on someone else – the financiers and bankers, for example, and the traders and road hauliers, the farmers and licensed victuallers all of whom are the Tory Party’s friends and have been treated generously. Public money is poured into farmers’ pockets as subsidies; these subsidies are no incentive to a farmer to farm more efficiently. The Tory government has sold back the road haulage industry to private ownership, and has lost millions of pounds in the transaction. In the Government-developed New Towns, the Tories have handed the drink trade to private breweries and licensees. The rise in the Bank Rate has ensured fatter profits on loan transactions with a consequent increase in the expenditure of local authorities and an increase in the rates paid by private people to their local borough or town council.

The rise in the cost of living

The ordinary man has been hard hit by the rise in the cost of living. Yet the Tories promised that they would halt the rise in the cost of living and indeed, would keep prices down. Instead, the cost of the essential foodstuffs has gone up. Bread, flour, tea, milk, butter, margarine, bacon – all cost more than when the Tories regained power in 1951. The most spectacular rise had been in the price of tea which now costs, for a decent brand which will make good tea, around 8/- (Rs 5.35) a pound. The same brands costs 3s.8d. (Rs 2.50 – a pound in October 1951. The huge increase in the price of tea followed its derationing and freedom from price control; just as, at the end of 1951, the Tories cut the subsidy on cheese and so doubled the price of cheese overnight!

Purchasing power of the £

The trade journals, such as the Grocer and the Meat Trades Journal, non political papers concerned only with facts, have recently published figures showing the rise in price of the basic and essential foods during the period of the present Tory Government. The Tories prate of prosperity under their rule, but as the Manchester Guardian said a few days ago in a trenchant leading article, “Tory prosperity is illusory”. The Chancellor recently had to announce steps to restrict private spending; it is now more difficult to buy furniture and other goods on hire purchase. The purchase tax on, for example, furcoats has been reduced; on essential household goods such as mops, it has been reduced by much less. The internal purchasing power of the £ has fallen by over 5% under the present government – yet their election propaganda in 1951 was geared to claims that they would reduce the cost of living, halt the rise in prices, and not reduce the food subsidies. All of these election promises have been unfulfilled. The food subsidies have been cut, prices have risen, the cost of living has soared.

Bread and Butter election

The next election will be a “bread and butter” election. On matters of great international and Commonwealth moment, there is a great measure of agreement; less so as regards Commonwealth matters, of course. It is in domestic affairs that there is the pronounced difference between the two parties; and the Tory attitude to the problems, the day to-day problems of living, of the man in-the-street is one of indifference. Profit lies at the back of Tory policy, and to the cause of profit everything is sacrificed.

The County Council elections so far held show a slight swing to the right in political opinion. However, the Tories have not in County Councils regained as much ground as they lost in the last elections, in 1952; they went all out to recapture control of the London County Council, which Labour has controlled for 21 years, and failed miserably. The greatest municipality in the world is still under Labour rule for another three years; despite the efforts not only of the Tory party but (before the stoppage) of all the London evening papers and most of the dailies, especially the Daily Mail and Express. And although there has been a slight Toryward swing in the local elections, the small percentage of voters (about 30% overall) actually going to vote is not a sure pointer of what would happen at a general election when interest is greater.

One thing is certain, however, the next election will be contested bitterly on both sides; and if they Tory party wins again, it will be goodbye to democratic advance in colonial territories.

(M.Times — 15 April 1955)

***

Editorially Speaking

More land for more production

When His Excellency the Governor made his speech from the throne on the 22nd of February, outlining his programme that Government proposed to follow, he gave pride of place to Agriculture and said: “An opportunity for a General debate on agricultural policy will be given in the course of the first part of the session.”

That opportunity was given on Tuesday the 12th of April when the Hon. The Colonial Secretary presented the following motion: “That this Council agrees with the Agricultural policy of Government as outlined in the address by His Excellency the Governor at the opening of the third session of the Second Legislative Council on the 22nd February”.

As the Sugar Industry is our recognized main industry emphasis was not laid on it. Attention was directed rather to our other three crops grown industrially, viz, tea, tobacco and aloe.

The general trend of opinion is that we must intensify the cultivation of tea.

Apart from that, it has been suggested that we must plant more fruits and more vegetables. And Hon. Osman had a kind thought for our cattle in suggesting the cultivation of fodder. Feeding the five hundred thousand and odd human mouths is no easy task but feeding cattle too is an acute problem. The conviction of some people recently in connection with fodder must still be fresh in many minds.

So, the call is to extract the maximum from the soil. Which soil? That already under cultivation only? It could not be.

We told Sir Geoffrey Clay when he came to advise Government on agricultural problems that something must be done with Crown Lands in order to step up production. We repeat it today. We are glad to note that  one or two of our M. L. C’s have expressed the same opinion.

We have discussed the question of high rent with Sir Geoffrey, His answer was that the Agricultural Act of 1947 stabilises land rent in the UK. We think that some similar legislation will make tenants of land feel secure and thus be an incentive to high production.

The scourge of unemployment is staring us in the face, overpopulation is raising its ugly head. Now is the time to allot land to

people to allow them to work and live. More land will secure more production and more production will be an end to the uncertain days lying ahead.

Let there be more light

Whatever be the shortcomings of the Government programme outlined by His Excellency one thing behind it is of inestimable value and that is Planning. The ten-year plan to provide electricity to the whole of Mauritius is an excellent example of the valuable idea of planning on which the programme is based.

When the Central Electricity Board came into existence in 1952, only 16% of our island had electricity. It is easy to understand how formidable a task it is to carry electric light over the remaining 84%.

The CEB has estimated that the expenses involved in this gigantic task will amount to 40 million rupees. It would be better to consider that staggering figure as representing 4 million a year.

The ten-year electricity plan has become an apple of discord. Those who are against it are presumably no disciples of Darkness but they simply cannot bear the idea of spending so much on a project which to their mind should not receive priority. But, in fact, is the project receiving priority? If yes, priority over what? Has anything essential been put aside? One could have a plausible argument to fight the ten-year plan had Government disregarded planning in other departments of life. But there is priority only as far as a long term policy is concerned and that’s all.

If everything works to schedule there will be clear and bright light throughout the length and breadth of Mauritius in ten years and that thanks to a Plan.

We are all for light – for light inside every home and inside every man. Ignorance too is no less darkness. We consider that the darkness of illiteracy has lingered long enough. Let us hope that before long as the programme of building new schools is executed, our children will cease queing for primary education and that a Plan will be elaborated to render education compulsory as soon as possible.

(M.Times – 22 April 1955)

* Published in print edition on 22 May  2015

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