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Showing posts from April, 2017

Evil Portents for Europe and Windsor Family Harmony

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The bombing of the Basque market town Guernica by the German Condor Legion operating in support of General Franco’s Nationalist forces is arguably the best known event in the Spanish Civil War. It held far wider significance and has deservedly gone down in history. There was no military justification for the murderous attack on a defenceless town on market, which killed a large proportion of the inhabitants. It displayed Franco’s ruthless methods and gave the world a foretaste of the horrors of aerial warfare. Despite feeble denials, Guernica proved the extent of German involvement in the war. It was commemorated in a surge of artistic work, most famously Picasso’s huge painting.

The meeting between Mussolini and the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg at Venice produced an unpleasant surprise for the Austrians. The reception was superficially amicable with the Duce accompanying Schuschnigg personally on a motor launch trip to the Lido where the Austrian leader was able to indulge his pass…

British Empire Proves Easier to Celebrate and Fight for than to Finance

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Neville Chamberlain presented his sixth (and last) consecutive Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Whilst he still fell well short of Lloyd George’s record of eight Budgets, he had superintended Britain’s slow and painful recovery from the worst of the world slump. His task had not, though, got any easier. Above all the cost of rearming Britain had pushed government spending up to the unheard of level of £855m, £57m more than in the previous year. Military spending accounted for almost one quarter of the total. Chamberlain made an uncharacteristic error in determining how to finance this. Assuming that financial and business circles would share his loathing of deficit finance, he proposed the introduction of an extra level of corporate taxation under the name “National Defence Contribution”. It was modelled on the old Excess Profits Duty, designed to capture business profiteering during the First World War. The details had been poorly thought out: taxing increases in profits would …

British Policy In Spain Rings Hollow, Front Populaire's Hollower Yet

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The Labour Party at last found a convenient tool to belabour the government's policy on the Spanish Civil War without adopting the potentially embarrassing position of actually coming out in outright support of the Spanish Republic and incurring the dread risk of seeming to endorse anything like military action. The flashpoint was the Nationalist blockade of the port of Bilbao in the Basque region, aimed at throttling Republican resistance there. Despite the government having made a great show of dispatching a whole battle-cruiser - H.M.S. Hood, pride of the Royal Navy, sunk by Bismark four years later - to the station, the Labour Party felt it could safely introduce a motion of censure saying that insufficient steps were being taken to protect British merchant shipping. the motion was, inevitably, defeated heavily.
The Blum Front Populaire government in France was also being castigated for its Spanish policy, with its numerous right-wing opponents happily taking up breathtakingl…

Competitive Modernity

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The latest announcements of plans for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and related festivities displayed a blend of the ancient and modern. The old custom of progressing down the Thames by a Royal Barge was to be revived. The Royal couple would travel from Westminster to Greenwich on the Thames accompanied by the professional and political heads of the Royal Navy to open the National Maritime Museum. The boat itself was a newly built, entirely modern craft on the pattern of admirals' barges in the Royal Navy. As a complete innovation, the BBC said it would broadcast the coronation on television. Less radically, but still significantly the King would also make a radio broadcast to the Empire on the day of the ceremony. He had not resumed his father's practice of Christmas Day broadcasts, partly because of his stammer. As his elder brother had broadcast early in his brief reign, it might have been seen as telling if he had completely abstained from broadcast…