80 years ago, the burial of a symbolic Front Populaire social measure, the perils of espionage in Nazi Vienna and the social whirl of Prague
As the Front Populaire government in France faded into memory, the Daladier government set about removing symbolic vestiges of what it had attempted to achieve in improving the lot of workers. The most famous of these were paid holidays and the a 40 hour week. The law mandating the latter had been passed in 1936 but it had never been properly implemented but remained on the statute book. Predictably it was highly unpopular with employers. Daladier did not abolish it but drove through a package of measures that undermined its provisions, notably giving employers the power to ompose poorly-paid supplementary hours on their employees. Two ministers resigned in protest but they were swifly replaced. One of the new ministers was Anatole de Monzie, a distinguished writer with a far right agenda, who served as a minister in the Vichy government. The 40 hour week was not to be a reality until the 1980s. Paid holidays, however, survived.
The Gestapo arrested the British passport control officer in Vienna Captain Thomas Kenrick for espionage. Kenrick was indeed the Secret Service’s man in Vienna but his status as PCO did not give himthe protection that an accredited diplomat would have enjoyed. He had also worked very hard to provide large numbers of Austrian Jews with visas to allow them to escape the Nazis after the Anschluß. In the midst of the Sudeten crisis the British government did not appear to make major attempts to free him, but he was eventually released.
Lord Runciman continued his exhaustive efforts at shuttle negotiation between the various conflicting parties in Czechoslovakia without any notable success. The newspaper reports of his doings came to resemble a society colum covering the doings of Runciman’s family who had accompanied him on the mission, notably his glamorous aviatrix daughter Margaret who flew herself to Prague.
The British Association meeting in Cambridge was especially eventful. A prototype automatic transmission car was driven around the town to the wonder of onlookers. Arguably the most distinguished archaeologist of the day, Professor Gordon Childe, launched a savage attack on the BBC for giving a platform to what he labelled as crank theories on the subject. Childe was a proponent of a rigorously theoretical school of archaeological interpretatation known as diffusionism as well as being a commited Marxist so his views might not have been entirely unbiased.