Or, The Cops and Robbers Theory of History
HE most important and revealing sentence I in Sir Roy Welensky's book* comes on the second page. Welensky is referring to Creech- Jones, Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Labour Government : `Many Rhodesians, I know, will be surprised, but I rate him as one of the few men I have met in public life whose word is his bond.' It is an astonishing comment to come from someone who has for many years known every important person in the Commonwealth. It tells us more about the writer than the whole of the rest of the book. Or rather it condenses the rest of the book into this one sentence. Almost every- one (except Welensky and 'his allies) is un- principled. This is the pathetic message of the 4,000 days.
Sir Roy is concerned, then, to depict himself as the hero, calm, strong, steady-eyed; confront- ing an endless succession of broken, shattered British Ministers. And so we read of Macmillan (`the tears rolled down'), Butler (`close to col- lapse'), Sandys (In sullen despair'), and myself On a state of nerves'). Perhaps the pleasantest fantasy (script by John Roberts, production by Sir Roy) is the dramatic scene where John Roberts watches with unbelieving eyes the spec- s tacle of a Secretary of State on the edge of a breakdown. As Sir Winston Churchill once observed in another context: `It would be hard to state with greater precision the exact opposite of the truth.'
The same dream colours all his judgments of British politicians. Like a small boy playing cops and robbers he judges them by one test only : whether they believed in the Federation in gen- eral and in Welensky in particular. By these standards Lord Colyton (equally unknown as Henry Hopkinson) becomes a statesman and a cop: Maudling tcompletely ignorant about Africa . . neither strong enough nor indepen- dent enough . . .') is, of course, a robber. Sir Robert Armitage, Governor of Nyasaland at the time of the emergency, is a cop: Sir Glyn Jones, who succeeded him and is now to .be the first Governor-General of Malawi, is dismissed with a crude sneer. Yet Jones was not only by far the abler of the two Governors but estab- lished at once a close relationship with Dr. Banda. The Governors of Northern Rhodesia, Sir Arthur Benson and Sir Evelyn Hone, men of real calibre, are both disparaged. Only those who could be bullied or cajoled or hoodwinked by Welensky are cops. All Secretaries of State are robbers. So are Lord Devlin, Lord Monckton and Lord Shawcross. Salisbury is top cop: Macmillan the chief robber. As the tedious story goes on and Welensky finds himself with fewer and fewer friends, the hysteria of his argument mounts. Accusations of breach of faith are hurled almost daily at British Ministers, British judges, British civil servants. From anyone else these charges would be so serious that they would merit a detailed reply. To read this book is enough to know that it would be a waste of time. There is the one short deadly sentence in the comment on Dingle Foot's private and privileged interview with Dr, Banda in a prison cell at Gwelo in Southern Rhodesia: `Mr. Foot was alone for some time with Dr. Banda . .
*WEt.rtsisKy's 4.000 DAYS. (Collins, 36s.) and there follows a long and detailed transcript of their interview. What other explanation is there other than that the cell had been `bugged"? And it is still hard to believe, even as one reads the account of it in his book, that Sir Roy would make use of and advertise his use of such information obtained by a trick. It is perhaps worth noting that when Welensky sought to make charges of breach of faith in 1960 against Lord Monckton (of all people!) on the basis of what passed between Dr. Banda and his legal adviser, he was challenged by a Tory MP to say whether he had a transcript obtained by a listening device. Sir Roy denied it. What does he say now?
Or again, Sir Roy uses Cabinet memoranda, private letters, versions of private conversations, some of them of suspicious length and detail, without asking for permission, without caring that by doing so he destroys the faith that Ministers must have that their State discussions are not to be told at all, much less half-told. Sir Roy Welensky, Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Knight Com- mander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, believes that he has different standards from those of the men he dealt with in British public life. He is quite right. He has.
There is one piece of bugaboo which perhaps should receive a short reply. Welensky pro- duces two quite different versions of what he alleges to be a build-up of British forces to attack the whites in Northern Rhodesia. Now he has discovered a third. He said last week at London Airport that he had been told 'on extremely good authority that Macleod was the man who ordered the plan to go ahead.' In the book the villain of one story is the War Office, of the other Harold Macmillan. Now apparently I was Commander-in-Chief, Sir Roy has been so manly, so open, so frank, so reputable in his revelations that' perhaps he could give us the name of this 'extremely good authority.' Otherwise he must excuse me if I think it just possible that the story was nothing more than a diversion from the awkward questions that were being pressed on him by 'reporters. Certainly this mysterious 'authority' must have produced this new information recently, otherwise it would have been in the book. Who is he, please? In any case, all these stories are nonsense. Of course every serious situation in Commonwealth or international affairs calls for endless con- tingency planning against disturbances, especially when, as in 1961, the cauldron of the Congo was so close to Northern Rhodesia. The British Government no more contemplated using troops against the Northern Rhodesians then, than they do against the Southern Rhodesians now.
The book deals with the past and concludes with some inconsequent thoughts about the future. It is an apologia and not history, and so it fails to answer the real question. Why did we all fail, for fail we did, to make Federation succeed? Was it always doomed to failure? It is fashionable now to say that it was, but I do not agree. Foi myself I was still a believer in Federation when I left the Colonial Office in the autumn of 1961. But I did not believe in Welensky and I thought his United Federal Party was the sham that the Northern Rhodesian elections finally proved it to be. One day there may be a new Federation. It may even be wider in scope than the old Central African Federation. It , was not Federation itself that was wrong. When Dr. Banda stormed as he often did against 'this stupid Federation,' I think he put as much em- phasis on the first word as on the other two. But the Federation Welensky wanted was always doomed. He tried to equate belief in the Federa- tion with belief in himself. Federation could have succeeded • if there had been any real action by Welensky and the United Federal Party to match the fine words about partnership. But what little there was was too late.
Sir Roy is a much more reasonable man than Ian Smith, the present Premier of Southern Rhodesia, but when Ian Smith says that he does not expect to see an African majority in his lifetime Welensky's heart echoes the words in hope. The British Government of course made mistakes, but the only really serious mistake was that we gave Welensky too many, not too few chances. So we tried too hard to meet him over minor points in the Northern Rhodesian Consti- tution. We consulted him too much and even though we took little enough of his advice the African nationalists grew suspicious. On almost every point Welensky has already been proved wrong about both Northern Rhodesia and Nyasa- land. He could never see that Dr. Banda and Dr. Kaunda were in fact the most moderate of the African leaders in the Northern territories, and that it must be wise to encourage them. His book is full of repetitive tendentious whining about them both. I should make it clear that I had regard and respect for the UFP members in Nyasaland, and I often wished that Michael Blackwood in particular lived in a bigger pond. I do not mean that he agreed with me. Nearly always he did not. But he disagreed fiercely and cleanly, and when the test came at the Nyasa- land Conference he met and accepted openly the challenge of African rule. The leaders of the UFP in Northern Rhodesia counted for nothing. John Roberts, their leader, was pleasant and weak and completely overawed by Welensky. I can't even recall the names of any of the others. The Liberal Party leaders, Sir John Moffat and Harry Franklin, were able and moderate men. ,In the atmosphere of 1961 that was enough to ensure their rejection.
Negotiating at first or second hand with Welensky was a weary routine. Every prospect to start with was `fundamentally unacceptable.' Similar phrases occur over and over again in his book. I remember suggesting in my early days as Colonial Secretary that we might save a lot of money on signals • if one symbol stood for `Welensky and Whitehead are completely opposed to all your suggestions.' Welensky never conceded anything until he found himself in the last ditch, and then he conceded everything. In the event the Constitution that emerged for Northern Rhodesia was a complicated comprom- ise. It was meant to be. 'Parity of abuse' was my answer when a group of Commonwealth corres- pondents asked me what my aim was. It was a phrase from my days as Minister of Labour.
R. BLAXLAND has in this book* written a
life of an interesting and colourful personality, who played a considerable part in the Labour movement, more especially in the industrial field as the leader of the railwaymen during the long struggle of the trade unions to gain recognition from the singularly reactionary- minded directors of the railway companies. Mr. Blaxland writes in an exuberant journalese thoroughly suited to his subject.
Jimmy Thomas started life with few advan- tages. He did not discover for some years that he was not the son of the mother of a large family of which he appeared to be the youngest member, but the illegitimate child of an elder daughter. This disability of illegitimacy he shared not only with his leader Ratniay MacDonald but with Keir Hardie, but although he sustained a shock, the knowledge did not warp his nature as it did that of MacDonald.
The quick-witted Welsh boy with high spirits and a gift of the gab graduated through a variety of jobs into the railway service in his native town of Newport, Mon., and began his career as an active trade unionist in an industry where the workers were badly organised in several unions.
The Downfall of a Gambler
ATTLEE with the workers. He was a born gambler devoted to horse-racing, cards and the stock market and while these avocations brought him friendship with many men of distinction, including King George V, it also made him associate with dubious characters and ultimately caused his downfall.
To Mr. Blaxland, Thomas is a hero, and he has but scant sympathy with those who took a different line, whom he is apt to dismiss as pacifists or socialist theorists. Thomas was not a socialist, though he paid dutiful homage to the ideal. In many ways he was an old-fashioned imperialist. Thus he was not very successful as Colonial Secretary, nor later at the Dominions Office. It is surprising that MacDonald should have thought of him as a possible Foreign Secretary and even as a Viceroy of India, for his cheerful slanginess and vulgarity did not as a rule go down with men like de Valera and Mr. Bennett of Canada. As assistant to the Prime Minister at the imperial conference I saw this myself.
But Thomas's decline began before this with his acceptance of the position of Minister dealing with unemployment. He failed to grasp the problem, did not consult his colleagues and made futile and well advertised efforts like his fruitless visit to Canada. From this time he lost his hold on the House. Thomas was MacDonald's one close friend in the Cabinet. They were not good