11 JUNE 1937, Page 6


THE "revolt of the Simonites " was diligently worked up in advance by certain lobby correspondents, but it never looked like amounting to much. Such revolts rarely do. The charge, such it was, against Sir John Simon was preposterous. It is a serious blot on the principle of National Government that it should involve an allocation of offices between the different sections in the Government camp, irrespective of the intrinsic merits of the appointees. But if the leader of each section is to be carpeted by disappointed followers because he did not require the Prime Minister to make the appointments which disgruntled aspirants desired, the whole system becomes a farce. Actually the well heralded revolt collapsed incontinently when Sir John Simon stated the position on Tuesday night in a few common-sense sentences. In another connexion Sir John Simon is rather to be sympathised with in his dual role of benevolent testator and embarrassed legatee. Leaving the Home Office he bequeathed to Sir Samuel Hoare an admirable programme of prison reform which won the new Home Secretary in the debate on that subject laurels that should really have been woven to wreathe another brow. Per contra Sir John, when he got to the Treasury, found himself heir to a good deal—among other things to N.D.C. That encumbrance has been disposed of now, but the new Chancellor has still to find a substitute that will be substantially less obnoxious and substantially more effective. The move looks rather like exchanging a feather bed for planks, but no doubt the prestige is worth the price. * * * * Mr. Pierpont Morgan, I observe, calls tax-evasion a purely legal question, not a moral one, and considers President Roosevelt's attacks on tax-evaders so much nonsense. There is a good deal to be said for that, up to a point. So far as tax-evasion means simply taking advantage of loopholes left unintentionally in• a sloppily- drafted Finance Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (or in America the Secretary of the Treasury) is to blame, not the taxpayer who confines himself resolutely to paying what the law requires him to pay. But the attitude of mind which considers it fair game to dodge the law if you can is another matter, and it is astonishing how prevalent it is in the particular case of getting dutiable goods through the Customs. To slip a camera or a box of cigars past the scrutiny of the revenue officer at Dover is for some people the one essential crown of a successful holiday. As a sport it is hardly worth the candle, and on moral grounds it stands condemned, for to answer the inevitable question "Have you anything to declare ? " with a negative when the facts are otherwise involves the evasion of much more than a tax.

* * * * Writing in The Spectator a fortnight ago on Elmer Rice's play, udgement Day, when it had its trial trip at the Embassy Theatre, Mr. Peter Fleming allowed himself to wonder whether Carlton House Terrace diplomacy would take the West End production of the play, with the wider publicity thereby secured, lying down. Having seen the play since it came to the Strand, I wonder about that too. But Germany is not the only Totalitarian State in Europe, and Herr von Ribbentrop may quite well deem it the subtlest diplomicy to regard Mr. Rice's poignant satire as M. Maisky's -affair. It is a little difficult, for that matter, for the representative of any of the Totalitarian Statzs to rise up in indignation and protest "this means us." Perhaps Mr. Elmer Rice's own diplomacy is the subtlest of all.

* * * * The resignation by Mr. John Grierson of his post as head of the General Post Office film unit (which involves neither termination nor restriction of the film unit's activity) marks the end of an important little chapter of official history. It goes back to the days of the Empire Marketing Board, when under the general aegis of Sir Stephen Tallents, and with Mr. Grierson as inspiring (and, it is hardly too much to say, inspired) director, such admirable films as Drifters, Song of Ceylon (for which Mr. Grierson's colleague Mr. Basil Wright was justly honoured at the Brussels International Exhibition last year), Industrial Britain (Mr. Robert Flaherty of Man of Aran and Elephant Boy collaborating) made aspects of British and Imperial activity familiar to cinema audiences throughout the Commonwealth. When the Empire Marketing Board was wound up Mr. Grierson went to the Post Office, and Weather Forecast, The Night Mail and other documentary films were the result. In that genre Mr. Grierson is accepted master, and to it he intends, I believe, to devote his talents in the enjoyment of a freedom such as a Government official can never claim.

* * * * Business enterprise on the part of any Government Depart- ment is normally to be commended. But there are exceptions to the rule. The War Office—it is fair to the new War Minister to recognise that he has to defend an arrangement which he inherited—lent tents and other stores for the Bilbao children's camp near Southampton and is charging for the hire 5 per cent. of their value (which was £6,800) for the first 30 days. That is at the modest rate of 6o per cent. per annum, the kind of figure on which Judges in County Court moneylender cases are accustomed to pass pungent comments. It is true that the rate is halved after the first month, and that no doubt there is depreciation to be allowed for, but all things considered, the Minister's consent to "look into the matter further" was politic as well as conciliatory.

* * * * Nothing I have seen in any paper in the past week is quite as interesting in its way as the news (sent by the Daily Telegraph's New York correspondent) of the attempt now in preparation to scale and explore a plateau, in the Grand Canyon in Arizona, on which no man's foot has ever yet trod. Here is this flat square mile, elevated 7,000 feet from the base of the " pillar " on which it stands, so thickly covered with vegetation that the aeroplanes from which it is surveyed have no hope of being able to land on it, planted in the middle of one of the world's great tourist-centres, and preserving, there seems reason to believe, the character- istics that have marked it since a date long before the first men appeared on this planet. Will the expedition, which cannot get there from the air, succeed in scaling the column from the base ? What will it find there in the way of animal and vegetable life ? Is it conceivable that any human traces will be discovered ? It would be hard to frame more fascinating questions than these. Pa4trs.