10 NOVEMBER 1950, Page 3

. AT WESTMINSTER T HE new Chamber has now experienced the

full shock of battle. The general debate on the Address last week fol- lowed a rather placid course. Certainly it was not stirring enough to tease members out of an acute awareness that they were sitting in a brand-new Chamber, nor could it prevent them from feeling something of the constraint that goes with new things. On 'Monday and Tuesday this self-consciousness was swept clean away in the conflict—often animated, sometimes noisy, yet withal fundamentally good-tempered—over the three amendments to the Address on housing, the cost of living and controls. The Chamber as a show-piece was completely forgotten. It had become just the House of Commons, staging once more the historic spectacle of two great parties contending for power.

* * * * The Opposition's hopes of ever dislodging the Government oil a vote in the House are fading. An election, it is now fairly clear, will come only when Mr. Attlee or the Labour Party wants it. Even if the Liberals had not "performed such fantastic tricks before high heaven" as they did the Government would still have been safe. Liberals in the country must be troubled about this stultifying performance by their nine representatives. Where could a precedent be found for the Whip of a party (Mr. Grimond) going into' one lobby and the deputy, and on this day, acting-leader of the party (Lady Megan Lloyd George) going into the opposite one ? This was equalled in novelty by the abstention on the following day of Lady Megan and two other Liberals on the Liberals' own amendment which they had backed.

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There has been hardly anything wanting on the personal plane to make for continuous liveliness. Mr. Churchill has been a joy to friend and foe. He has been in the House pretty well all the time and whether in his seat or on his feet his spirit has been all-persuasive. What a human being he is! 'Mr. Churchill has been at one moment (winding up the housing debate, for example) the responsible leader of his party and at another like a boy out for a lark. In this latter role he has been irresistible, whether making puckish grimaces at the Government benches or bawling at them or, from his seat, egging Mr. Dalton on to bang the dispatch-box more and more. Heaven knows, Mr. Daltbn was doing his best. A kind of bombastes furioso, he was laying into the box with an atomic energy that looked like splintering New Zealand's gift. Mr. Churchill merrily mimicked each blow, 'hammering the air with his fist, and then he got up to point out the more vulnerable spots on the box where Mr. Dalton might do some real damage. Think of the House of Commons without Mr. Churchill and weep.

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His handling of Mr. Bevan in the housing set-to was wonderfully adroit—adroit, that is, in temper, for it was not a great speech. Mr. Bevan had done his best to "wipe the floor" with Mr. Churchill and the Tories according to his master's instructions. He had savaged them and he had been caught up at times in a swirl of Welsh rhetoric. Did Mr. Churchill fall on him ? Not a bit of it Like a father he advised the terrible fellow that hate is a bad guide. In an equally paternal way he declined to believe he is as bad as he pretends to be. He even acknowledged his ability. After that he ignored him.

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This debate on housing was, the most interesting of them all, The initiative has so plainly passed to the Conservatives. The platform at Blackpool could never have dreamed there was any tactical advantage in the 300,000 target when it was forced to accept it. Attainable or not, it has put Mr. Bevan and the Government in the electorally most undesirable position of having to go on proclaiming that there can be no more than 200,000 a year. Mr. 'Bevan has never had such an obvious)), questioning party behind him. The brilliant debater, they may well think, is winning the