Page 5, 6th June 1941

6th June 1941
Page 5
Page 5, 6th June 1941 — THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
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THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION

GRUMBLING at the Ministry of In formation is becoming one of the accepted features of the present war. and the debate on this subject in the House last week produced in the main little that had not been said before. We think, however, that Mr. Granville got at the root of the trouble when he complained that the Minister of Information was not a full member of the War Cabinet, for this really implies a failure to recognize the impcirtance of the fourth arm. The faults of the Ministry derive from an honourable cause, namely the passionate determination of those in charge of it to give "the truth and nothing but the truth " and we sincerely believe " the whole truth." They have. however, pursued this exalted aim by confining themselves to the role of correctors and editors. But what we desire and what our American friends desire is something positive and not something purely negative. We desire not to have the truth seep through to us but to be told it coherently, intelligibly and with as much detail as we have time to take in. To tell the truth in this manner is a positive and creative function which must to a large extent he directed by a single in telligence. During the course of the debate Mr. Nicolson revealed to what extent the official bulletins were made up of announcements from different government departments, the Ministry doing little more than act as a loudspeaker for those authorized to use it. This surely is just about as unsatisfactory an arrangement as one could imagine. By all means let the Service Departments supply the facts but the business of presenting the facts in their correct relation to one another, and of interpreting their significance should be performed by an authority extraneous to them. We believe, therefore, that the suggestion that Mr. Duff Cooper should be made a full member of the War Cabinet is a good one. He should be able to do his important and very positive job as the full peer of the Service Chiefs and, where occasion demands, in personal collaboration with them and not, as at present, as the office boy of their publicity departments.

CLOTHES RATIONING

THE secret was well kept and the "1announcement showed a 'simplicity and directness which is very satisfactory. It is hard to foresee any just criticism likely to be levelled against the scheme. It has already been suggested that it will result in stocks being accumulated in danger of enemy action but the answer is that they should be moved to reasonable safety. It is not sound to suggest that we are entitled to consume whatever we have available in this country lest it he bombed. The scheme is presented with the direct motive of limiting consumption rather than with the emphasis upon securing equal distribution or of controlling prices and this is the right approach to these problems. It is more effective to legislate for what is immediately required—namely preventing over-consumption and waste—leaving the resultant saving of goods to benefit the whole community, equally and naturally. Other good features of the scheme are that the family is recognised as a unit, and that the provision for retailers to restock during the next month without coupons will benefit the small firms hecause the multiple stores are to be treated as only one unit.

THE VEIL OVER HESS

IT is easy to be critical of our propa ganda for having failed to make more capital out of the Hess affair, and such criticism may yet prove to be justified. But the Prime Minister's wishes on this subject are now perfectly clear, that Hess is to be treated as an ordinary prisoner of war, to whom therefore access can only be had by the Government. The essential fact of his flight from Germany to this country has been adequately published and no implication favourable to Germany can be drawn from this fact alone. Directly the causes or purposes of his action become the subject of any official statement on our part, then the way is opened for enemy propaganda to fasten upon that statement and, without necessarily accepting or denying it, to attach to it such implications as may be convenient. Such a statement would also tend to disclose to the enemy something of our own reaction to the published motives. In all this' we merely labour tinder the worthy handicap of having credit and responsibility, with which Dr. Goebbels is not saddled. The most important sphere of influence of the whole affair is America, and that country is by now well accustomed to our somewhat ponderous methods of propaganda. We do not therefore join in the demand in certain circles for "more Hess" though we think it well that the English-speaking and sympathising world should be reminded from time to time that he is still here.

GENERAL FRANCO'S MIRACLE

WHEN the declaration of war by this country came through on a tape machine two Diplomats were reading it side by side, one a Rumanian and the other a Spaniard. The former turned sympathetically to his confrere: " I am deeply sorry for you my friend. your country will inevitably be drawn in, you have accepted German help, you are ruled by the Phalange, nothing can save you." " And what about your country'!" asked the Spaniard. " We," said the Rumanian " will observe strict neutrality until we can intervene on the British side." That conversation was a perfectly natural one at that time, and it is well worth remembering to-day. General Franco has performed something very like a miracle in keeping Spain out of the war on the side of Germany so far. How long he can continue to do so is unknown but his will to remain neutral has surely been sufficiently proved.

There is no need to abuse those who favoured the " Republicans" in the Spanish War and who continue to do so. We know that they were misinformed but many of them do not yet know it. But what is contrary to justice, truth, and every interest of Britain is the attitude which seeks to draw Nationalist Spain into the War against us, to-day. The most obvious and contemptible motive is the advantages which will accrue to certain Spanish so-called leaders who might be thereby enabled to set themselves up as representatives of Free Spain. A subtler but none the less mischievous motive is a longing on the part of so-called idealists to get their hands upon the throat of another Dictator. Exactly how these people propose to join hands in the process with Stalin remains to be explained.

This attitude is wholly contrary to the Government's policy, and receives no official support whatever. There is, however, reason to fear that it not only has ninny supporters but that a certain amount of concrete activity and planning is going on to further these aims.

ECONOMY AND JUSTICE

OUR contemporary, the Financial News, recently published an important leading article under the title " Only a Little One " in which it drew attention to the waste occasioned by such matters

as failure to tighten up petrol restrictions,

the evasion of rationing by people who can afford to live in restaurants and

similar loopholes in the framework of civilian discipline. " Whenever action is suggested to stop the more obvious

varieties of waste " said our contemporary "the answer is always returned that the waste is really very small and that, anyway, it is administratively impos sible to do anything about it." We might be more impressed if we had not heard the same arguments from the same sort of people in peace-time. In those days there ' was not very much " unemployment. There " was nothing that could be done" with the depressed areas. It "was no use" to build a reserve of feeding stuffs against war. " All that was possible was being done " to rearm the country. Our contemporary might have added that this habit of easy going tolerance is generally most in evidence when it is a question of some privilege or convenience of the well-to-do, but undergoes a miraculous sea change when it is a question not of comfort but of simple justice to the poor. Thus we have in a previous issue discussed the cryptic principles (or lack of them) on which the Assistance Board performs its functions, principles which have one invariable result—that those who have to depend on that organization never by any chance receive sufficient to enable them to live. Here there is no question of the disbursement of any staggering sum. It is the missing halfcrown that makes all the difference. But because the victims of this niggardliness are poor and uninfluentiel, the flickering consciousness of the need for economy suddenly becomes a consuming. flame. It is, moreover, extremely odd that the authorities do not realize that the material waste occasioned by unnecessary spending on the part of the well-to-do is the least part of the evil. The real damage is psychological and moral, and the fact that the rich pay prohibitive prices for certain comparatively trilling concessions does not make the matter better, It makes it a great deal worse. A poor mother seeing a member of the moneyed classes paying fantastic bums, shall we say, for smoked salmon or plovere' eggs does not say " Here we see the operation of a slightly excessive demand on a restricted supply which if distributed on a national scale would work out a fraction of a farthing's worth per head." She says " There you are! You can get out of anything so long as you've got money" —and we must reluctantly admit that we are beginning to think her right.

THE POSITION OF SWEDEN THE position of remaining neutrals in Europe is highly unenviable. They are practically, if not completely, surrounded and live a miserable existence, as it were, on sufferance, without knowing when the final blow will fall. Sweden is the most important among the surviving genuinely democratic countries. Her traditional policy was anti-Russian and to counterbalance the Soviet threat Germany was regarded as a natural ally. But after the rise of Hitlerism the relations between the two countries began steadily to deteriorate and the natural opposition of the social structures has led to increasing animosity. The Swedes, proud of their democratic traditions and institutions, regarded the Nazi regime with disgust. The GermanRussian pact was a coup-de-grace for any surviving pro-German attitude among them and the invasion of Norway placed the two countries in direct opposition. If the Swedes did not intervene, it was due to two reasons: insufficient military strength of Sweden herself and the strong doubts as to the effectiveness of the Allied help. Since then Sweden has made a splendid rearmament effort and re-equipped her army with the most modern weapons of war, expanded her air force and further strengthened the quite powerful fleet by the purchase of four Italian destroyers, At present these forces are practically fully mobilised and stationed on the frontiers to meet any sudden emergency.

Stockholm felt confident that the developments in the Near East would create an opportunity for Great Britain (and possibly America) to attempt the reconquest of the Norwegian seaboard, and the extensive reinforcements sent by the Germans to North Norway and the minefields recently laid along Norwegian coasts would indicate that similar expectations are shared by the Nazi High Command.

Also the peaceful Nazi penetration of Finland, though it may be directed against Russia, is quite certainly a threat to

Sweden's back door, should she in case of an Allied landing in Norway abandon

her neutrality and join the Democratic camp. This possibility is being openly discussed among the Swedes, though the Press is partly muzzled not to irritate the Nazis under the Defence of the Kingdom regulations and is forced to express in

mild words its lack of appreciation for the Nazis and sympathy for Britain. Quisling, however, enjoys little or no such immunity and is doubtless the most hated personality throughout Scandinavia.




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