14 JULY 1961, Page 6

Westminster Commentary

Storm Warning

By JULIAN CRITCHLEY. MP rr HE glass is falling. Mr. Butler, echoing an I earlier speech by Lord Home, said last week that the next six months were going to be one of the most difficult and dangerous periods in foreign affairs since the war. Mr. Selwyn Lloyd is to announce measures before the recess to combat a renewed wage-cost inflation and yet another run on our gold and dollar reserves. Over Berlin, both sides are noisily lowering them- selves into their fixed positions, raising the temperature now by taking up extreme positions in order (it is to be hoped) to enable them to make the concessions that will be necessary if some sort of agreement is to be reached. At home some familiar, and some not so familiar, short- term palliatives to our biennial economic crises will soon be applied. The coming crises will not be without effect upon the two issues that are now dividing the Conservative Party. The threat of war over Berlin will divert attention away from the Common Market, and from Africa, and thus will allow the Government to make progress both with regard to the intense bargaining that is necessary before we will sign the Treaty of Rome, and to continue its more liberal policies towards both Kenya and the Federation.

The nature of the Government's policy to- wards Europe and Africa is not always properly appreciated. After all, it is acting in a most `unconservative' way over both the Common Market and Africa. The accepted role of the Conservative Party is to move slowly forward, adapting and absorbing the policies of others. For it to sponsor and then implement new policies that are both liberal and internationalist is to put a great strain on the loyalty of many of its traditional members. They were elected, some in 1945 and the others in the early and mid 1950s, to put an end to Socialist extravagance and adventure and perhaps restore, if it were at all possible, the status quo ante helium. Not for them the `new frontiers' of Hallstein and Nkrumah.

It is unlikely that there will be any further statements from the Government on Europe this session, a silence that will be masked by debate over the measures that are to be introduced to overcome the economic crisis. Not till early October, when the party meets at Brighton for its annual conference, will the question of Europe once again be posed. This year the party conference will be an exercise in public relations, with the Common Market the product to be sold and the party activist the consumer. The plat- form will demand unity in the face of Soviet threats over Berlin, and will, having received it, blanket the objections of the Empire lobby. For once it should be a conference worth attending.

The situation over Africa is as delicate. Some- time, either in the late summer or early autumn, Jomo Kenyatta will be released. For several weeks now Conservative MPs have trooped up- stairs to the committee floor to listen to Blundell, Cavendish-Bentinek and Ngala, Tom Mboya and Sir Patrick Renison. It has been as if all Nairobi has been to Westminster.

There is much opposition within the Tory Party to the release of Kenyatta. Many Mem- bers have strong sympathies with the settlers, many more have received angry letters from them and from their constituents. Kenyatta is mis- trusted, far more than Archbishop Makarios ever was, and Sir Patrick Renison's view that Kenyatta is `the leader towards darkness and death' is one that is widely shared. Nevertheless the misdeeds of Kenyatta, real or imagined, are not the real point at issue. The question posed should not be, `Is it a good thing to release Kenyatta?' but, 'What is the best time to release him?' For independence for Kenya is at most five years away and, at the very least, two years off. So his release is inevitable. It is no longer a matter of principle, it is a question of timing.

One thing that is certain is that the amount of opposition within the Conservative Party to his release will be nothing like as great as it would have been had he been released earlier this year. There are two immediate reasons for this. First, there is now a perceptible boredom with African affairs. Mr. Macleod's recent constitution for Northern Rhodesia has left the Tory Right feel- ing strangely satisfied, even replete, and as Ken- yatta is not likely to be released between now and August 12, only the grouse will be made to suffer. The second reason is perhaps more important. Blundell, in particular, has argued that it would be better to release Kenyatta now when both the army and police remain under the control of the Governor, than to wait until inde- pendence when they will not—an argument that has proved, so far. to be unanswerable.

There are signs that Ronald Ngala, the leader of the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) and now 'head of Government business' in the legislature, is regarded by the Governor as he man to back. KADU may have only won one-third of the votes of KANU (Kenya African National Union) at the election, but it did decide to form a government. The new administration is both a coalition and a minority government, and its support is derived mainly from the smaller tribes. KANU, on the other hand, is mainly based upon the Luo and Kikuyu. The three European ministers, one of whom is Michael Blundell, also represent only a minority of their own community. KADU has neither the majority of Africans nor the more able of the nationalist leaders. Nevertheless it has one great advantage :1 the blessing and the co-operation of the Gover- nor.

It would seem, therefore, that Ngala's demands will be met, so as to allow him to keep the initia- tive in making progress towards self-government and finally independence. He has called for the re- lease of Kenyatta, and it is in response to this that Kenyatta is to be brought from Maralal to a house that is being built for him some twelve miles from Nairobi. And that is not all. Land resettlement and consolidation for Africans is proceeding apace, the Africanisation of the civil service continues, and the date of the next constitutional conference may soon be fixed. What is now needed is a joint declaration of both the African parties giving guarantees to the European farmers. It must be a joint declaration, for a statement of land policy by one of the parties might well be contradicted by the other. Such a statement is likely to be the signal for Kenyatta's release. A second aim is to bring KANU, or to be more accurate some of KANO, into the Government, and it is reported that this has the support of Kenyatta. This could result hi a government led by Kenyatta and including Mboya, Ngala and Blundell, but isolating the extremists in KANU, such as Odinga, with hts Communist backing.

It is not unreasonable to think that events in Kenya will follow such a course, for it would seem to be'in the interests of all communities tO do so. Given this basis, independence should not be long delayed.