Government Double Standards on Demonstrations

Wednesday 14th October 1936

Baldwin chaired his first Cabinet meeting since he left on his prolonged convalescent leave at the end of the Parliamentary session. The most urgent topic was how to deal with the provocative demonstrations organized by Sir Oswald Mosley’s Fascists, which had triggered the Battle of Cable Street just over a week before. The idea was advanced that a law against wearing military-style uniforms – aimed squarely at the Blackshirts – might be passed. This was not universally acclaimed. The disturbances were blamed on conflict between Fascists and Communists, rather than on one side alone. The question was presented as one of public order only.

Silence on the on legitimacy of Fascist demonstrations stood in sharp contrast to the stance taken towards demonstrations by the left. The Cabinet also announced the surprising decision not to receive any deputation from the hunger marchers, who had set off from Jarrow a few days before and were soon expected in London. This was accompanied by a pompous and otiose statement that the government believed such marches harmed the causes they aimed to promote and were “liable to cause unnecessary hardship” to those taking part. The idea was emphatically rejected that the marches had any constitutional validity as a means of influencing policy.


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