Showing posts from January, 2018

The ironies of fellow-travelling with Nazi Germany

The Nazi German policy of economic autarky received an unexpected endorsement in the house journal of Goering’s five-year plan, the keystone of the programme. It was written by Sir Josiah Stamp, arguably the forgotten figure of British sympathy for Nazi Germany. Stamp supported inter alia “reasonable counter-action of Jewish domination.” Stamp began as a tax inspector, taught himself economics and became a senior figure in the British industrial and financial world, chairing the London, Midland and Scottish Railways. He went on to become an adviser to Neville Chamberlain’s government, championing with some perversity Chamberlain’s rigid sound money policies, which were diametrically opposed to the Nazi economic strategy. Astoundingly he was seriously considered as a replacement Chancellor of the Exchequer when Downing Street sought to take revenge on Sir John Simon for leading the Cabinet revolt that forced the declaration of war. By multiple ironies Stamp (by then a peer) was

Rearmament by intrigue

Sir Charles Bruce-Gardner (as his name had officially been since the New Years Honours list) was appointed as Chairman of the Society of British Aircraft Manufacturers. The ostensible reason for his appointment was that the growing complexity of aircraft manufacture as a slew of technological innovations transformed aircraft utterly and the expansion of the Royal Air Force meant that it was no longer feasible for the post to be occupied by a senior executive from the industry who would also have his own business to superintend. Quite how Bruce-Gardner’s previous career in the coal and iron industries made him an appropriate candidate was not explained. The clue to the true explanation lay in the statement that the Air Minister Lord Swinton had been told of the appointment, by implication and in fact after it had been decided. The government had been under public pressure in Parliament for the slow pace of rearmament and privately the aircraft companies were complaining bitte

Isolationists aim to clip Roosevelt's foreign policy wings

The strength of isolationist sentiment in the USA can but gauged from the fact that, when it finally came to a vote in Congress, a well-worn isolationist proposal was only narrowly defeated. Senator Louis Ludlow had proposed that the Constitution should be amended so that the USA could only declare war if this was approved by a national referendum unless it had actually been attacked. In the aftermath of the Japanese sinking of the USS Panay fears of war rose to a point that the Ludlow Amendment was brought forward. Ludlow himself was a nonentity who achieved nothing else but spoke for a powerful section of politicians and the public. President Roosevelt is supposed to have swung the Irish American vote away from its traditional isolationist stance and the “discharge petition” which would have made for a full-scale debate was only defeated by 209 votes to 188. Whilst this support was well short of the two-thirds majority that would have been needed to amend the Constitution the

Diplomatic and military preparations: wrong and right steps, wrong and right reasons

The professional head (Permanent Under Secretary) of the British Foreign Office Sir Robert Vansittart was moved to the newly created post of Chief Diplomatic Adviser. This was spun as a promotion but in reality he had been dismissed; all he could do was to write the prolix and rambling minutes that were his trade mark. He had benefited from the mis-placed support of Sir Warren Fisher, Head of the Civil Service, and had arguably been over-promoted. He was obsessively anti-German but was unable to persuade his political masters of the dangers posed by Hitler. His place was taken by Sir Alexander Cadogan who was far more professional and pragmatic but did little to resist Neville Chamberlain’s policy of positive engagement with Germany, now more usually called appeasement. The British government finally announced that the new naval base in Singapore would open the following month after £9m of expenditure. It had been a political football for a number of years, but had finally