20 OCTOBER 1939, Page 3

An Astonishing Appointment

IT lays no ordinary strain on the country's fortitude to hay,: to face within 24 hours two such blows as the loss of the Royal Oak' and the appointment of Sir John Gilmour as Minister of Shipping. It is deplorable that in the very week in which the Prime Minister showed himself at his best in one field—his reply to Herr Hitler—he should show himself at his worst in another, that of the choice of Alinisters. What truth there may be in the attribution of decisive influence in such matters to the Chief Government Whip is not precisely determined, but what is quite certain is that the Prime Minister is not going to win the war by putting anything but first-rate men in key posts like the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Economic Warfare, presided over by Mr. Ronald Cross on the basis of a brief, blameless but entirely undistinguished Under-Secretaryship. Sir John Gilmour is a good Conservative—none better." He has been Secretary for Scotland, Minister for Agriculture and Home Secretary, in none of which posts did he make any special mark for good or ill. The seriousness of such appointments lies in the fact that they make the maintenance of national unity impossible, since the Opposition, and many Govern- ment supporters equally, are bound to subject them to the sharpest challenge. What a succession to the only other Minister of Shipping the country has known—Lord Maclay!