4 MARCH 1949, Page 2

Hammersmith and Shanklin

Legitimately exhilarated by the South Hammersmith election result everybody who is anybody in the Labour Party converged on Shanklin last week-end to be copiously photographed, throw a tennis-ball very industriously and discuss the party programme at the next election. All this (except perhaps the photography) was very sensible, and the fact that there is " no row of any kind " (official : Mr. Morrison) may be taken to indicate that the conference was a success. That was due no doubt in part to the fact that no decisions were taken or meant to be taken, the main purpose being to set the stage for the ordinary Whitsuntide Party Conference. To secure amity there it was necessary to co-ordinate the ideas both of the trade union and the political sides of the Labour movement, and of those who cry forward and those who cry consolidate. There is obviously a via media in these things, and those who expect the Labour Party to split on either rock are likely to be disappointed. There are still two by-elections pending, and at Sowerby uncertainty about the Liberal vote leaves the result rather open, but South Hammersmith is certainly calculated to encourage Labour as much as it depresses the Conservatives. If the latter are to retain any hope of winning the General Election they must show themselves capable of gaining such a seat as South Hammersmith, which till 1945 had a sound Conservative tradition. The fact still is that Labour has more to offer than its rivals. It may be a specious offer, of benefits the country can by no means afford, and The Times may be right in saying that the Conservatives should follow the Churchillian precedent of " blood, sweat and tears" and preach salutary austerity. But as long as Sir Stafford Cripps remains where he is Labour can preach austerity for those who believe in that and benefits for those who like benefits. All of which undoubtedly makes life difficult for Tories.