By iHumphry Berkeley
-6AM GLAD to have this opportunity to write as a Catholic, about my resignation from the Conservative Party in April of last year, and my subsequent return to the party last week. I resigned from the party over its attitude to the question of race relations, although I remained at heart a Conservative, and returned to the party when it was clear that my difference with it on this issue was at an end.
I .do not regret my resignation, for it was important to demonstrate a belief in the fundamental principle, that is both Catholic and Conservative. of the one-ness of all men, a belief in Disraeli's "one nation."
I feel that my resignation may have prevented a slide towards a bigoted stand by the party over race relations, for I resigned on Thursday. April 18 last year. while on Saturday, April 20, Enoch Powell made his infamous speech in Birmingham, which included a reference to the m"River Tiber foaming with uch blood." The following day. I issued a statement describing Mr. Powell's speech as "the most disgraceful public utterance since the days of Sir Oswald Mosley" and going on to say. "I hope Mr. Heath will take steps immediately to dismiss Mr. Powell from the Shadow Cabinet," which perhaps sounded a trifle presumptuous coming from someone who had just left the party. That evening. however, Mr. Powell was indeed dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet. and began his lonely vigil on the back benches.
The specific issue over which I resigned was the decision by the Shadow Cabinet to oppose the Race Relations Bill by means of a reasoned amendment on its second reading. Subsequently the Conservative party abstained on the Third Reading of the Bill and said at the time that it would agree to work the Act. Two prominent Conservatives have since been appointed to the Community Relations Commission with the knowledge and approval of Mr. Heath. The establishment of the Commission was. of course. one of the main provisions of the Race Relations Act 1968.
In my letter of resignation to Mr. Heath I also expressed my belief that no honourable settlement could be negotiated with the Smith regime in Rhodesia. Time has vindicated this judgment. The illegal constitution which Mr. Smith is piloting through his Parliament is racialist in concept and will complete the process of turning Rhodesia into a police state. I feared in 1968 that a Con s e r vative government might conclude an agreement which would be less than fair to the African majority in Rhodesia. I therefore welcome the recent statement of Sir Alec Douglas-Home that the Conservative party could not possibly commend Mr. Smith's illegal new constitution to our Parliament as a basis for a settlement of the Rhodesian problem.
My difference with the leadership of the Conservative party is therefore now at an end, while I have made my position on the issue of race entirely clear. I am happy to be back.
Race appears to me to be an issue of fundamental importance that confronts the whole world. Different peoples can no longer, politically or economically, survive independently of each other. Different races have a stark choice, they either choose to live together or they do not. From the second decision there can come only disaster.
Most men realise this and I believe that in England today the true reason why Mr. Powell has any following and the grudging attitude of his followers towards good race relations is that we have changed in twenty years from being a firstto a secondclass world Power.
This is a truth that many find hard to accept, and instead of helping to streng then our economy and find a new national purpose. they are despondent and seem to vent their frustration upon foreign immigrants. It is among such people that Mr.
Powell finds his most loyal adherents, which is a dismal reflection upon his ultimate prospects as a constructive political leader.
The historic role of the Conservative party is quite different. It is to accept the organic growth of society, and to bind people into one nation by mutual interdepen dence, while supporting freedom and the protection of minorities. I find it difficult to connect Mr. Powell's views with this concept, and doubt that they can be associated with it.
Mr. Powell may purport to preach a fundamentalist or Disraelian kind of Conserva tism but I fear that he would, had he lived in the last cen tury. have had some harsh things to say about Jews. and no doubt about Disraeli in particular.
Catholic teaching emphasises the need for the races to live together and perhaps my particular concern with this matter stems in part from my Catholic faith. Christ himself came from what is now the Middle East and He founded the universal church as the very name Catholic states.
This belief in the necessity of nations consciously trying to work together prompted me in 1966 to accept the chairmanship of the United Nations Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I work for about five hours a day at the Association's London offices and feel that this is a body to which all Catholics really ought to belong.
We are an all party body our joint Presidents are the Prime Minister, Mr. Heath and Mr. Thorpe—and we have almost 50,000 members in 500 branches all over the country. At the moment we are engaged upon a drive to recruit new members, and my hope is that one day the Association will have as many, half a million, as the League of Nations Union had before the war.
We carry out a great deal of practical work through our International Service De partment, which every year sends abroad about 200 long term volunteers under the auspices of the British Volunteer Programme, as doctors, nurses, teachers, etc., to 38 different countries, mainly in Francophone Africa and Latin America, as well as a thousand short-term volunteers.
In addition our Schools movement. the Council for Education in World Citizen ship, to which 1,300 schools are affiliated, provides litera ture and speakers, and every year holds the famous Christmas holiday lectures at Cen tral Hall, Westminster. attended by 3.000 sixth-formers from all over the country. All this is work which, as a Catholic, I find stimulating and satisfying. I am glad that I am now again able to find it so also as a Conservative.