A SPECTATOR'S NOTEBOOK'
T is possible to sympathise with the Polish Government in Londcn 1 in its disappointment over the decisions of the Crimea Conference regarding Poland, and yet to ask what it hopes to gain by the "fifth partition of Poland " declaration it issued on Wednesday. It is true that the Conference fixes something like the Curzon Line as Poland's eastern frontier, but it was obvious that Poland would have to reconcile herself to that in any case, and some of her own ablest politicians have plainly recognised that. Something, at any rate, counts for good. There was grave reason to fear that the Lublin Government would be maintained in power in Poland as a Russian instrument. That danger is definitely averted. The proposal for a new Government, under the auspices of a committee of three, which, besides Mr. Molotov, includes the British and American Ambassadors at Moscow, represents a marked improvement in the situation, and it will not help the Polish Government in London if by intransigent statements itself from inclusion in the new administration. Fortu- nately, men like M. Mikolajczyk and Dr. Romer have not so far committed themselves. There is one question for Poles to concentrate on now if they are wise. Free elections have been guaranteed, but there is, so far as I can see, no provision made (as there is in the case of Greece) for seeing that they really are free. The function of the committee that is to arrange for the new provisional government ought, I should have thought, to exten, to that, and the necessary machinery be put at its disposal.
* * * * The announcement that on the retirement of Sir Richard Hopkins, Sir Edward Bridges, the Secretary to the Cabinet (who is a son of the late Poet Laureate), is to become Head of the Treasury raises again the vexed question of whether that office in its present form can with advantage be perpetuated or not. It is, of course, answered as well as raised, for the appointment of Sir Edward Bridges answers it so far as the immediate future is concerned. And it may be said at once that if there is to be a Head of Civil Service, it would be hard to find a better one than Sir Edward. Quite apart, moreover, from his personal qualities—to which all who know and have worked with him pay tribute—the advantage to the Prime Minister of being advised on civil service appointments and promo= tions by someone in such close touch with him as the Cabinet Secretary necessarily is must be considerable. I have argued before this that the importance of the vastly increasing civil service demands that the head of it should be not a civil servant, and cer- tainly not the senior Treasury civil servant, but a Minister. Against that it is contended that while Ministers come and go, this is essen- tially an office in which continuity is essential ; and that while Ministers are politicians, and party bias might in some cases in- fluence appointments, a Civil Service Head regards efficiency as the sole criterion; That may be so. It is one of the cases in which opposing views are particularly nicely balanced. * * * * The variety artistes, I see, have resolved that they will refuse for ten or twenty years to take part in any shows in which citizens of ex-enemy countries are included ; but the decision was by no means unanimous. It can be looked at in two ways. Is the British music- lull likely to be seriously impoverished as a result of it? And is this comprehensive ban on possibly harmless, possibly quite desir- able, individual citizens of enemy countries reasonable or not? I should say No to the first question—for British halls will suffer
nothing worth speaking about through the absence of German per- formers, and nothing calamitous through the absence of Italians ; and Yes to the second question. Germany as a whole—under Nazi leadership if you like, but Germany as a whole—has so comported itself in this war that no British audience is likely for a long time to come to want to be entertained by Germans, and no British artistes want Germans as colleagues. A nation is a nation, and indi- viduals cannot detach themselves from it at will and so evade the penalties its crimes involve it in—unless, indeed, like Toscanini, they
revolted against totalitarianism and its deeds from the first. * * * *
Do soldiers detest crooning? Someone asserts categorically that they do. But no doubt someone might assert categorically that they love it, and be just as right. For soldiers, after all, are only civilians in uniform, and the range of tastes in the Army is the range of tastes in the population. There is something encouraging about that, in view of one particular piece of evidence as to the Army's musical taste. Every week in the B.B.C. Forces Programme there is regularly included a series of " request " items asked for by men in the Forces at home or overseas. And it is surprising how many of these requests are for something classical. In this week's programme, for example, I notice under that head a recording of Beethoven's C Minor Con- certo, by Artur Schnabel, and a suite, " The Wise Virgins " (Bach-
Walton), by the Sadler's Wells orchestra. And this is not exceptional. * * * * I am glad that the B.B.C. a few evenings ago gave some extracts from the letter addressed in the name of the doctors of Holland to the German Governor Seyss-Inquart. The letter, as a whole, is a deeply distressing document, presenting a picture of suffering, disease and malnutrition in the occupied area which must have the gravest effect on the health of the next generation. Some Dutch children from the liberated area have been brought to this country, but it is in the still occupied area, naturally, that the worst conditions exist, and Mr. Law, speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, had to sound the warning that even as areas are freed they will still be zones of military operations, and the adequate relief of civilians will be difficult. He spoke, incidentally, of 2,000 calories a day for adults as the target to be aimed at under the relief schemes. Holland under German rule is getting boo to Soo calories. * * * *
A coroner's must be a gloomy profession, and I suppose suppressed emotions sometimes break out and take charge. That seems the most charitable explanation of the supremely foolish observations attributed to the gentleman who holds inquests at Hull on the subject of democratic government generally. On a- letter from an unhappy woman who wrote "Why do they have to have wars and upset people's lives? " he commented, " You must blame the politicians. The _higher they are the worse they are " (the Prime Minister, no doubt, worst of all, with Mr. Eden a good second), and proceeded to lay down the law on the vexed question of delegation and representation. After affirming that most M.P.s have no interest in their constituencies, he added portentously, " Things will have to be altered after this. They will have to get their orders from the electors. The electors are never consulted. They are treated with contempt." A little course of Burke on this
subject wouldn't hurt the Hull coroner.