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Showing posts from June, 2017

Britain Leads the World in Emergency Phone Service

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The long agony of Léon Blum’s Front Populaire government came to an end when the Senate refused it drastic powers to tackle France’s near-permanent financial crisis. The determined opposition of France’s great political veteran Joseph Caillaux was the main force behind the defeat but in reality Blum was caught between ever-more distant and treacherous support from the Communists and his far from radical allies of the Radical Party. Blum was replaced as prime minister by Camille Chautemps of the Radicals, still under the Front Populaire banner but essentially centrist. After threatening the abandonment of a fixed Franc parity to gold, his new finance minister Georges Bonnet won approval for a package of revenue raising measures after epic struggles both within the collation and in parliament. The Chautemps government did not look any more secure than its predecessor.
Just as worker support for the prolonged and bitter strike in the US steel industry appeared to be softening, militants o…

Mussolini Denounces British Press as Whisky Swilling Hyenas

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Writing in the Popolo d’Italia Mussolini launched a furious attack on the way that the British press had reported the Battle of Brihuega in March. Quite why he should have chosen this moment is obscure, but clearly it had rankled that the defeat of Italian forces should have been reported at all. A Nationalist offensive against Madrid had begun well but had been forced to retreat by a republic counter-attack that included the International Brigade. It was a severe, but far from decisive, setback. Mussolini conjured up an erroneous retreat order to a single battalion as the origin of the report. He contrasted British accounts of the battle with reports of Italian participation (as Britain’s ally) in the First World War; “These hyenas in human form threw themselves on the pure blood of Italian youth as if it had been whisky, losing all trace of shame…”
As propaganda it merely served to remind the world of the large-scale presence of Italian troops in Spain at the very moment that Italy …

New style of Governmnent in London, old muddle drags on in India

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Neville Chamberlain the new British Prime Minister was clearly setting his mark on policy. His Physical Training Bill received an unopposed second reading in the Commons. The poor physical condition of British working class men had oppressed him since his days as Health Minister and he had long nourished the idea that state-sponsored PT was the solution. He also gave evidence of another enthusiasm which turned out less happily and which has rather blighted his reputation in history: the belief that constructive dialogue with Nazi Germany was the correct way to avoid war. The German Foreign Minister Baron von Neurath was invited to London by way of demonstration that the British government did not see that conversation with a dictator state necessarily produced some evil result. The Germans were gratified but surprised and stumped for an immediate goal; the best they came up with was the impossible notion of a four or five power group that would in practice take over from the League of…

Denouement to the Love Affair of the Century

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What had been billed as the “greatest love affair of the twentieth Century” culminated in marriage but, at least in terms of scale, it would not be the marriage of the century. The journalists lurking outside the venue vastly outnumbered the dozen or so guests brave the disapproval of Britain’s powers-that-be to attend the wedding of the ex-King. Randolph Churchill flitted between the two camps. Even the Anglican clergyman officiating at the religious ceremony had defied the instructions of his bishop to do so. Otherwise no expense had been spared: the celebrated organist Marcel Dupré had been engaged to play at the ceremony the inherent design of the Skinner organ at the Chateau de Candé meant that anyone who was mildly competent could play it just as well.[1] The bride was famous around the globe but went by a barely familiar name. The future Duchess of Windsor had adopted her maiden name for a few days adding a touch of the surreal as though becoming once again Wallis Warfield wou…

The Old Order Makes Way for a Decidedly Familiar New Order

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With the new King safely crowned, Stanley Baldwin formally resigned as Prime Minister. The Coronation date had long been flagged as a watershed in political leadership even when Edward VIII was still King. His younger brother had inherited his diary as well as his crown. It had been a rather bumpier ride than expected but the ex-King’s quiescence in the run up to the ceremony suggested that the risks were dwindling and the country would be ripe for what Baldwin’s successor, Neville Chamberlain, privately labelled “a new kind of P.M.” Chamberlain was manifestly committed to a far more activist approach to policy than the laid-back and largely reactive Baldwin but this was not apparent in his choice of Cabinet. Chamberlain’s ministers were barely changed from the previous crop. Two of Chamberlain’s close allies were promoted to fill gaps: Sir John Simon as Chancellor of the Exchequer, with Sir Samuel Hoare stepping into his shoes at the Home Office.

Putting Simon into nominal charge of t…