MISCHIEF AT MORECAMBE
THE extent of the damage, one day at Morecambe has done to the Labour Party will not be fully demonstrated for some time to come. The magnitude of the Bevanite success must not be exaggerated, though to secure six seats, against a previous four, out of a possible seven would satisfy most political groups. The achievement, naturally, secures quite disproportionate publicity; the trade union section of the Labour Party, representing close on five million votes, can conduct its own elections to its twelve seats on the executive Without fuss or any call on public attention. The constituency section has seven seats to fill; its delegates to the annual con- ference are appointed by local Labour Parties which, like trade union branches, tend to be dominated by a few ardent and extreme members. It is fair to recognise that, in the interests of the Labour Party itself. But for all that, a Party that deliber- ately preferred Mr. Bevan, Mrs. Castle, Mr. Harold Wilson, Mr. Driberg, Mr. Mikardo and Mr. Crossman to Mr. Morri- son, Mr. Dalton, Mr. Shinwell, Mr. Gaitskell, Mr. Noel-Baker, Mr. Robens, would stand self-condemned before the world; a great many people who voted Labour at the last election Would see that plainly enough, and act accordingly next time. Labour's share of the floating vote will almost certainly be smaller. It is possible for many persons outside the Labour Party to hold that Labour fully deserved its success in. 1945 and its survival in 1950. But Labour in that context is something very different from Bevanism, and anyone who supports the former must ex hypothesi oppose the latter, even though Mr. Bevan was for five years a member of a Labour Cabinet. The split now stands glaringly revealed. The fiction that underneath certain superficial and salutary differences of opinion fundamental harmony and unity of purpose prevails Will not survive the perverse decision to make Mr. Morrison the eighth choice for seven places and Mr. Crossman the seventh.
If any comment on the harmony claim is needed the demonstrations at the Conference -on Wednesday, when Mr. Crossman was loudly booed by one section and Mr. Arthur Deakin, who was denouncing the Bevanite organ, by another are sufficiently convincing. A study of three key speeches Makes the conclusion more convincing still. The contrast between Mr. Aneurin Bevan's on Tuesday and those of Mr. Earnshaw before it and Mr. Morrison after it is instructive. Mr. Bevan presses for what he calls the rehabili- tation of the social services. Where is the money to come from ? The most serious charge against Mr. Bevan when he his Minister of Health was that he was determined to expand nis services no matter what the cost; in that he ran foul of the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Gaitskell, no less than he would have of a Tory Chancellor. Mr. Earnshaw, ill an address marked by an encouraging realism, had declared soundly that " however much they needed to expand Welfare services there could be no great expansion unless is was earned to pay for it." There is no question which la the immediately popular doctrine, but Labour voters will have time to think twice about it. . From Mr. Bevan the conference had, too, the usual hit at the United States, " hag-ridden by two fears: the fear of War and fear of unemployment—or fear of peace." (This line is Mr. Crossman's speciality, and it is surprising that his leader should think he needed any support.) On that Mr. Morrison on Tuesday was as sound as he was, on this occasion, on nearly everything. It made him tired, he affirmed, when the Labour movement, which believed in international co-operation, Picked out particular countries . for dislike, antagonism and friction, and he recalled pertinently and forcibly the help, financial and other, the United States had freely extended to this country since 1945. Where, it may well be asked, should we have been without it ? To put it briefly, Mr. Bevan never rose much above the level of a demagogue, Mr. Morrison never fell below the level of a statesman. The late Foreign Secretary has his good days and his bad days. Tuesday was unquestionably one of his best. He declared, of course, for a Socialist programme. But he substituted realism for hot air. A committee presided over by one of the Bevanite group, Mr. Harold Wilson, had talked of an annual capital investment of ten billion dollars for the benefit of the under-developed areas. Unless by dollars the committee meant dollars contributed by the United States (conciliated by the adjectives favoured by Mr. Bevan and Mr. Crossman) the sug- gestion is obviously what Mr. Morrison calls it—a pipe-dream; but the allocation of other people's money is always an attrac- tive recreation. Nationalisation ? More and more, says Mr. Bevan. There is no way to Socialism except through what ha calls, rather strangely, " the old, hard agony of public owner- ship." Very well. But how necessary is Mr. Morrison's warning that it is no use suggesting that Britain's financial problems can be automatically solved by the simple transfer- ence of industries from private to public ownership. What matters is that the industries should be efficient. On Tuesday the new executive was instructed to compile a further list of industries that would be the better for being nationalised. Mr. Bevan and his five intellectuals will fortunately not form a quarter of the body commissioned to take this task in hand.
The initial emotions which the constituency vote has stimulated will no doubt become less turbid. The quintette ranged behind Mr. Bevan are not individually very impressive; Mr. Wilson is the only one to have been considered of calibre for office in a Labour Government. The harder heads in the constitu- encies and in the trade union movement are quite capable of taking their measure. Resentment at the • summary dismissal of Mr. Morrison, the architect of victory in 1945 and by far the ablest and shrewdest election organiser in the party, will grow. If Mr. Bevan feels his section to be now entitled to places on the Parliamentary Labour Party Committee, as he very reasonably may, any attempt to paper over the cracks will have to be deferred. They are more likely to yawn wider. Meanwhile where in all this does Mr. Attlee stand ? It will not do to doodle and nothing more. It was natural that, moving a resolution on rTuesday after the declaration of the constituency parties poll, he should avoid saying anything that would exacerbate feeling, but not quite natural that he should remain completely silent about the defeat of his immediate Parliamentary colleague, to whom he personally and the Party have owed so much. Now, if ever, is the time for leadership. Mr. Attlee will always be respected. His handling of the difficult situation which confronts him will indicate how far to respect is to be added admiration. But the situation has larger aspects. Mr. Bevan gives every indication of being primarily concerned with the party, and his particular section of it. Mr. Attlee and Mr. Morrison and Mr. Earnshaw, who has given evidence of capacity to play a part in the political as well as the industrial field, are thinking primarily of the nation. The nation on its part, that is to say electors who are habitually Conservative or habitually Liberal, and still more the marginal voter, need to do soma, thinking about the position of the Labour Party. The vast majority of them would rightly view with deep apprehension the return of a party in which Mr. Bevan and his group predominated. Liberals, in particular, will have some difficult decisions to make. Will they serve the country's interests better, in a constituency where an avowed Bevanite is standing, by running a candidate of their own to split the moderate vote, . or by supporting the Conservative candidate, if he holds reasonably progressive views ? It seems likely that many Liberals will, in fact, take the latter course, though as a policy it would no doubt be repudiated by Liberal leaders. A situation could easily arise in which understandings between Conserva- tives and Liberals (as at Huddersfield West in 1951) would become more numerous; and that might be no bad thing. .Bui it is too soon to read the omens, too soon, certainly, to assume that Mr. Bevan has advanced himself substantially on the roac to Downing Street. The reverse may as easily be the case The Labour Party has had a shock. Shocks sometimes have salutary effects. The principal immediate business of the House' of Commons is the Government's plans for the denationalisation of road transport and iron and steel. Hostility to these will necessarily pull the whole Labour Party together That may undo some of the Morecambe mischief.