Page 5, 27th December 1940

27th December 1940
Page 5
Page 5, 27th December 1940 — NOTES AND COMMENTS

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THE appointment of Lord Halifax as

our Ambassador to the U.S.A. is being treated as promotion, though the fact that there is no precedent for such a change hardly bears out the notion. It is true that the post is of exceptional importance at the moment, though the general indications are that America is ready to listen to any competent ambassador. But whether or not this is a polite way of getting rid of another " Man of Munich," we cannot but regret that the Government loses the services not only of an extremely able public servant, but of a man who has deeply impreassed the world—cspecially the Latin world—by the fact that he is also a Christian leader of courage and conviction. Without wishing to cast any reflection on his colleagues there is no doubt that Lord Halifax stood in the eyes of the Christian world on a plane above them all, and in these days when we profess to be fighting a Christian battle we cannot afford to lose the leadership of a Christian in deed as well as word.

The return of Mr. Eden to the Foreign Office naturally tends to make Lord Halifax's " promotion" more significant. Mr. Eden played a big part, though undoubtedly an honest one, in driving Italy into Germany's arms, but since those days the situation has radically changed. At the cost of a catastrophic war, which might have been avoided by more intelligent and skilful foreign policy, we can now afford to snap our fingers at Mussolini. An effective way of doing so is to bring Mr. Eden back to his old post. On the other hand the Italian people as a whole share the Fascist leaders' hatred of Eden, and this move will not make it easier for us to complete the process of Italian disillusionment.

All things considered, the two changes are very far from being to our advantage, either moral or diplomatic.


vER'Y little reliable information about either the state of feeling in Italy or the latest plans of Hitler is available. Nothing indicates better the general state of uncertainty than the flooding of Europe with such rumours as the arrival of German troops in Bari and Naples and their immediate official contradiction. Another possible sign of uninformed excitement is the revival of the invasion scare, though there is some official backing for this. Indeed its possibility has been constant. The feeling however that it may again be imminent— actual dates are being whispered about— is due to periods of relative quiet in the German air operations and the idea that Hitler must do something soon. Speculations about Franco-German relations ever since the dismissal of Laval are also legion, though here again what is definitely known amounts to extremely little.

We cannot doubt that Hitler will strike again and strike fairly soon, for he cannot afford to let Britain regain her prestige. If we tend to underrate the power of prestige, Hitler does not. He knows how much he owes to it ever since the occupation of the Rhineland. Already. British tenacity has cost him the failure of his prolonged diplomatic negotiations, the first real failure of his policy. He knows that he must crush us soon or see his empire, founded on glory and fear, disintegrate. But he will never allow us an inkling of the nature of his final assault, and it is for us " to watch and pray." He is no doubt content for the moment to hear of the spreading of scare rumours either by gossip or through press sensationalism. We hear less nowadays of Hitler's war on our nerves, but we 'must not imagine that he has given up this valuable tactic. As we have to go to press especially early in this holiday week, far more inay be known before these lines are read. But the probability is that. we shall still be guessing,


ITALY'S defeats will prove to be the a death knell not only of the Duce but even of Hitler if we hold out in this island. The loss of prestige to the Axis is tremendous, and, if Hitler is in the end forced to occupy Italy (however politely the occupation may be described), he loads himself with yet another tremendous task, for Italy at heart is no more a lover of Germany than are France, Poland,Belgium and Spain. But at the same time we must recognise that in the short run Hitler may actually gain through an Italian collapse. For the time being a German-occupied Italy would keep our fleet in the Mediterranean, frighten the Balkans and give pause to the healthier elements in France and Spain. That is why we must admit, as the Germans contend, that the real battle is against us. And for the moment the most crucial part of that battle is the attack on our Atlantic shipping. Just as everything depended on the Royal Air Force in the autumn, so everything depends to-day on the defence of our supply lino to and front the United States. The rate of sinkings may well at the moment be at their maximum, for Germany is probably using all her submarines, her bases may be further damaged and better weather would enable shipping to take a more Northernly route. But if Hitler cannot afford to rely on this attack alone, neither dare we bank on the menace abating of its own accord. And it is difficult to see how it can he countered without more active co-operation by the United States. If that country really feels that our victory is hers, she can use and convoy her own merchant shipping or loan us more warships. The one thing she need not unduly fear is that Germany will be in a hurry to declare war on her. For once the familiar technique of non-belligerency can Operate powerfully in our tavour.


A CONSIDERABLE effort is being 4-1 made in certain sections of the press to take advantage of the disorganisation necessarily created by concentrated raids in order to bring in socialist administration by stealth. We are told that local governments and municipalities are totally unable todeal with the chaos caused by these raids, and it is suggested that central authorities should take over.

It is certainly true that extensive help from outside is needed and that some authority should he empowered to take at once vitally necessary decisions, involving other local authorities. Hungry and homeless people cannot wait for the disentangling of the red tape which is characteristic of every existing body, including the Horne Office. And nothing should stand in the way of necessary eeasures for the prevention and !malls g of disease.

In the past we criticised the way in tich Coventry's government found its ver and its prestige torn from it, at we have since learnt indicates, .ever, that Coventry, thanks to the tge of one of its aldermen who 'ad the chairmanship of its tat Emergency Committee, came mparatively well in this respect, deed set a precedent that should owed elsewhere. An ad hoc body ie widest powers, presided over by iher of the local government, but

enjoying the co-operation of other relieving and organising bodies, regionally or centrally directed, should deal with the emergency. In this way the resources of the whole country can be put at the disposal of the place that needs them, and yet the local authority can maintain its all-important rights.


Tot IE mammoth press circulation * enables the moods and prejudices of any one completely unimportant person to be conveyed to hundreds of thousands of people. And the solemnity of print together with the anonymity of papers give serious authority to these irresponsible prejudices. It is impossible to calculate the harm done daily in this way.

Here is an example. In the " Londoner's Diary" of the London Evening Standard the irresponsible arid anonymous writer tells the world that " General de Gaulle regards neither MM. Laval and Elandin, nor even the mttch more abused MM. Bonnet and Baudoin, as being the real authors of France's collaboration with Germany. To the General the real guilty men of France are Marshal Main, General Weygand and Admiral Darien,"

In present circumstances what General de Gaulle thinks of the different French leaders is a matter of considerable importance. It is not too much to say that the lives and fates of people may depend in some measure on his views. Hundreds of thousands of readers learn what he thinks from a column like this, and they pass it on.

And yet what authority has the writer for telling us the views of de Gaulle? We have taken the trouble to ascertain from the very best authority in the circumstances that neither by word. writing nor in any other way has anyone on the Evening Standard received authority for interpreting General de Gaulle's mind, nor been given any sort of reason for coming to such conclusions about it.

We bluntly say that journalistic behaviour of this kind in papers that pass themselves off as serious and responsible organs is little short of criminal, and that in any decent State it should not be tolerated.


THE following is an extract from a letter written by a soldier. "The thing that causes more trouble than anything is the absolutely indefensible commission system. Despite all that is said very little has actually been done to alter the racket which is responsible for the high standard of inefficiency that undoubtedly characterises our army when compared with the German one. I applied for a commission and was duly interviewed and recommended, but was plainly told that my main qualifications were my three years in the O.T.C. and the fact that my father had been a Civil Servant. In any case only those with university degrees are at the moment actually taken from our regiment, and as those who go to the universities comprise only la per cent. of the population, all of whom are drawn practically from the upper classes one can make up one's own mind about the democracy in the Forces one hears so much about."

In contrast with this one sees a picture in the papers of Canadian cadets march ing past a general. " The men," the caption states, " were all in the ranks and were elected by their comrades to take the training course to become officers."

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