Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1949 Aug 6 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Speech at rally addressed by Anthony Eden in Dartford

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Dartford Football Ground, Dartford, Kent
Source: Dartford Chronicle, 12 August 1949
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Afternoon.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 2824
Themes: Conservative Party (organization), Economy (general discussions), Privatized & state industries

‘IF WE ARE RETURNED’—Mr. ANTHONY EDEN

Kent County Conservative Rally at Dartford

‘A Halt to Nationalisation’

‘Doctrinaire Socialism has to have its way, whatever the cost’

Dartford's Prospective Candidate thanks Speaker

If the Conservative Party get back into power they will at once cry a halt to all further schemes of nationalisation. Where they cannot de-nationalise, they will de-centralise.

This was stated by Mr. Anthony Eden, M.C., M.P., who spoke at the Kent County Conservative Rally at Dartford Football Ground on Saturday.

When Miss Margaret Roberts, B.A., B.Sc., prospective candidate for Dartford Division, described Mr. Eden as “a great man, great not only in our time, but great in all time,” there was an outburst of cheering.

Mr. Charles Knight, hon. secretary, Kent County Organisation, and organiser of the rally, told the “Kentish Times” that he was pleased with the attendance, “when one considers that the rally was held in a most hostile part of the county.”

Community singing was led by Mr. Arthur Caiger, D.C.M., and music was played by Callender's Band.

Another serious crisis

The chairman, Mr. A. C. Bossom, M.P. (Maidstone) said he believed everyone in Great Britain to-day was a little worried. At the moment they were being placed in a very serious situation. They were being told by the Prime Minister that they were facing a serious crisis— “another serious crisis.” This time it was a financial and economic one. They were told they must work harder and produce more. Yet they found that the increased cost of living and taxes took away everything extra that they earned.

They were told they had to save. More money was being taken out of National Savings than was going in. The Government was spending money with a reckless lack of control that was quite abnormal.

“We are all tremendously proud of the officers and men of H.M.S. Amethyst,” said the chairman. “But this gallant effort would not have been needed if it had not been for the great onrush of the Communists through China. Month by month they are getting nearer to Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma—and even to India itself.”

The Government said, “More nationalisation.” Could any of those present buy coal as cheaply as before the Government took charge of it? Could they buy a railway ticket as cheaply?

It had been said that the Conservative Party had no leaders—what about Mr. Churchill? It was he, and others with him, who played a vital part in enabling us to win the greatest war of all time.

Mr. Bossom adjured his audience not to forget that whether the General Election came in autumn or Spring, it was coming swiftly upon the parties. The question to be decided was whether they wanted to continue under the direction of the present group or whether they wanted to be led by men of sound common sense.

Introducing Mr. Eden, the chairman said:

“We Conservatives have the most respected Deputy Leader we have ever had in this country. His vast ability has stood up to every test. He is a man who stands for all of Britain, and when he speaks he speaks for Britain. He is one of the finest men in the world.”

Tribute To Amethyst

Mr. Eden 's disgust at a newspaper comment

Mr. Eden prefaced his speech with a reference to the “gallant and brilliantly successful exploit” of the Amethyst and expressed his disgust at comments made in the “Daily Worker,” “who thought it necessary to dim the brilliance of this venture by publishing a report that the Amethyst fired on and sank a Chinese passenger liner, and while soldiers tried to rescue the drowning passengers, sailed away.”

No-one who knew the Royal Navy could believe it for a single instant. How base it was that anyone in this country could publish reports like that!

A fortnight ago (said Mr. Eden) the Conservative Party set out the view of the action which this country should take to meet its present and future difficulties. That policy was called “The Right Road for Britain,” and was introduced by Mr. Churchill at Wolverhampton. Wide interest among supporters and opponents had been aroused by the document.

The chief criticism brought against the Conservative Party by the Socialists was that their policy (they said) was dishonest. “By this, apparently, they mean that the improvement in our national affairs which we seek to bring about by our policies is unrealisable in view of the present state of the nation. Well, I will admit that if the present grave deterioration of our economic and financial affairs is allowed to continue unchecked at the present rate, no one can foresee what the future may hold.”

‘Facts As They Are’

“The Prime Minister accuses us of vote-catching. At least we have never attempted, either in our speeches or in this statement of policy, to belittle the gravity of our dangers. We have stated the stark facts as they are,” said the speaker.

Mr. Eden then quoted from the party's document: “First we must earn our own livelihood. Unless we can sell our products in foreign markets at competitive prices, we shall suffer unemployment and will not be able to sustain our standard of living or our social services. Until we re-establish once again our economic independence, our way of life and the possibility of defending it will remain precarious.”

Since the document was in proof, Sir Stafford Cripps had said that the estimates of his own White Paper, published only four months before, had been falsified, and that the drain on our gold and dollar reserves in the first half of this year, which had been estimated at £195,000,000, had in fact amounted to £237,000,000, reducing our total gold reserves to a little over £100,000,000.

In the course of the debate he (Mr. Eden) told the Chancellor that his summing-up of the situation had been too optimistie. Whatever charges could be levelled against the Conservatives nobody could pretend that they had not uttered repeated warnings of the dangers that confronted us, he claimed.

“The Government are very difficult to please in this respect,” said Mr. Eden. “If we paint the picture in the dark colours in which we see it, we are accused of being gloomy prophets of woe. If we show, as we have done in ‘The Right Road for Britain,’ the goal towards which we want to work then we are told that we are vote-catching.”

Not Paying Our Way

As a nation they were not to-day living within their means. Nor were they paying their way. In two world wars they spent the greater part of the savings which their ancestors had accumulated and invested overseas. To meet their immediate difficulties, their American friends were assisting them with loans and with Marshall Aid Nothing could surpass the generosity shown to them by Canada and other overseas Dominions. They could not continue indefinitely to live on the help of others. They had to stand on their own feet—and do so soon. Moreover, this Marshall Aid from America was scheduled to diminish year by year until 1952.

The expectation was that in the meanwhile their overseas balance of payments would gradually be rectified, so that when Marshall Aid was exhausted they could stand on their own feet. Their gold reserves were continuing to melt away, despite Marshall Aid.

“What is so disturbing,” said Mr. Eden, “is that we are now confronted with a situation where even Marshall Aid has not stopped or checked the drain on our gold reserves upon which our solvency depends, and in the meanwhile we know that we have urgently to make ready for a day when we shall have to do without it. I fear that we may be further away from that position than we were a year ago.”

Results of Nationalisation

It was impossible to deny that the consequences of nationalisation had nearly every time been higher costs. Was it not remarkable that coal prices had risen much more sharply than steel prices? It was a fact that they were still producing steel in this country under free enterprise—and having to pay increased coal prices—more cheaply than anywhere else in Europe or America. Did it not seem extraordinary that in the light of that successful record the Government should still persist? “Doctrinaire Socialism has to have its way whatever the cost,” commented Mr. Eden.

On the new proposals by the Socialists to nationalise insurance companies Mr. Eden said the whole of the activities of companies would be taken over. Figures had been given which shewed that overseas earnings from insurance business in an average year exceeded £30,000,000. The industry brought to them a nett gain of dollars. What folly it was to jeopardise any part of these earnings at a time when overseas connections formed an important part of their business.

“Once a part of our insurance industry is nationalised, a blow will undoubtedly be struck at the earning capacity in foreign lands of that industry as a whole,” declared the speaker.

Social Services

In a recent reply to Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister had claimed that the social services of this country, if not in all cases directly due to the Labour Party, had come about as a result of Labour Party pressure. “We all know that is not true,” said Mr. Eden. “Everybody knows that the process has been a progressive one for the last 50 years at least. It is a process in which Liberal and Conservative Parliaments have both played a part.”

Everyone sincerely wished to maintain the bighest possible standard of social services for our people. Unless they were able to sell abroad in competition with other countries, unless they were able to balance their accounts, sooner or later the day of reckoning had to come. They had been consuming their capital assets at a great rate ( “We have sold the Argentine Railways, and we are eating them!” ) Very high taxation meant that the Government's revenue would flually be subjected to the law of diminishing returns.

The Prime Minister (said Mr. Eden) had also spoken of the progress made in respect of agricultural production. No bouquets could be extended to the Government. On the contrary, there was only too much reason to fear that the Government had failed to strike a proper and practical balance in the programme of agricultural expansion to meet the country's urgent needs. They had declined to spend any dollars on feeding stuffs. Half the pigsties were empty and people were still confined to a miserably small meat ration, so exignous as to be almost invisible. Certainly their present circumstances demanded that they should grow more grain than before the war, but any practical man could have told the Government that a proper balance had to be kept between livestock and corn-growing. But, of course, the Government was always too late in listening to practical men.

Horticultural Position

In their policy the Conservative Party had given considerable attention to the horticultural position. They considered that “the market gardener and fruit grower have to bear the same additional costs for wages and equipment as does the farmer who gets a guaranteed price, and they are entitled to stability and safe-guards against unfair competition.”

Mr. Attlee had been very indignant at Mr. Churchill 's comparison between the recovery they had made in this country and the recovery made by other countries of Western Europe. It was the constant boast of the Socialist Government that they were the best Government in Europe. Others would perhaps be forgiven if they did not take quite the same view.

Comparing industrial production to-day with that of 1937, Norway, Holland and Denmark had all forged further ahead than we had while France was on a par with us.

If a fair balance were taken, it was true (continued Mr. Eden) that these countries had reached a point at least equal to ours in the restoration of pre-war production. In face of these facts how could the Prime Minister claim that we led those countries in production increase, or accuse Mr. Churchill of misrepresentation?

Nobody could wish to belittle the efforts of all engaged in British industry. The record of the export industries in particular had been remarkable. And let it be noted that nine-tenths of it or more was the record of free enterprise industry.

“Cheap Music Hall Joke”

“I have only one other comment to make on the Prime Minister's speech,” said Mr. Eden. “The Times and other newspapers report that he caused much amusement by imitating Mr. Churchill 's method of delivery. I am sorry the Prime Minister should have done that. On reflection, I expect the Prime Minister will be rather sorry, too. It was rather a cheap joke. don't you think?

“After all, that voice has been an inspiration to millions in our country's darkest and finest hour. And not in our country only. Throughout occupied Europe during all those war years whole nations listened for that voice. It gave them hope and strength where there was no hope otherwise, and they will never forget it. All that is part of recorded history which no man can change. It seems a pity that Mr. Churchill 's successor as Prime Minister should try to reduce it all to the level of a rather cheap music hall joke.”

“The Wrong Road”

Mr. Eden continued: “Socialism. I am sure, is the wrong road. Nationalisation, yet more nationalisation—that is the Socialist Party's constant remedy for all ills. More Government control, higher costs, heavier taxation—that way disaster lies.

“We are often asked what we will do if we get back into power. We will at once cry a halt to all further schemes of nationalisation. If the Iron and Steel Bill is then on the Statute Book, we will repeal it and set that industry free. Where we cannot de-nationalise, we will de-centralise.”

Mr. Eden asked for the voters' endorsement of the party's opinions, because the party believed that only those opinions could make and keep the country safe. They lived in serious times. In some measure the real seriousness was veiled by Marshall Aid.

“If we return to power,” the Deputy Leader concluded, “we shall do everything we can to help to build up the prosperity and strength of this country and the Empire which we are proud to serve.”

After Mr. Eden 's speech, which ended in waves of applause, it was announced that £445 13s. 6d. had been collected from the audience in the ground. (Later, this was made up to £500.)

Vote Of Thanks

Proposing a vote of thanks, Miss Margaret Roberts said: “We are proud and happy to welcome a great man, great not only in our time, but great in all time.”

The audience that afternoon had come there to learn, quite seriously about the policy of the party, not for any frivolous reason, such as the hope of seeing a helicopter land out of the sky (Laughter). The issues facing the voters were these: “Do you or do you not want any more nationalisation?” and “Do you want our finances put on a sound basis or to go downhill to bankruptcy?”

Mr. John Brooks, prospective candidate for Faversham, seconded the vote of thanks.

Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith, prospective candidate for Chislehurst, said how proud she was that the rally was being held on the bounds of Chislehurst territory.

The Platform

On the platform, in addition to those mentioned, were Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, V.C. (joint hon. treasurer of the Party). Viscount Allenby (vice-chairman of South Eastern Provincial Area), Sir Waldron Smithers, J.P., M.P. (Orpington), Mr. J. Baker White, M.P. (Canterbury), Brigadier H. R. Mackeson, M.P. (Hythe), the Hon. Edward Carson, M.P. (Isle of Thanet), Mr. E. P. Smith, M.P. (Ashford). Mr. W. F. Deedes, M.C. (prospective candidate for Ashford). Mr. E. R. G. Heath, M.B.E. (prospective candidate for Bexley). Mr. R. Mathew (prospective candidate for Rochester and Chatham), Mr. John Lowe (prospective candidate for Gravesend). Mr. John Rodgers (prospective candidate for Sevenoaks). Colonel A. Keevil, C.B.E., M.C., D.L. (hon. treasurer, South Eastern Provincial Area), Mrs. John Warde (chairman, Central Women's Advisory Committee). Mr. L. Parkin (Ashford, chairman, Rally Sub-committee), and Mr. Robert Beldam (hon. treasurer, Surrey County Association).