The Liveliest Meeting Of The Election
Three Candidates On The Platform
Uproar, Cheers and Laughs at Church End
What has since been agreed the liveliest and most entertaining of all the meetings held in the constituency during the pre-election period was the one held at Victoria Hall, Church End, organised by the Finchley Council of Christian Congregations, at which, for the first time for some years, all three Parliamentary candidates appeared together on the same platform.
During the meeting there was uproar and prolonged shouting, heckling and heated argument. But there were also plenty of good humour and laughter and—as one of the audience said as he emerged afterwards, “We could do with one of those every week!”
A very able Chairman—who on one occasion gave the terse order to a heckler “Shut up and sit down!” was the Bishop of Willesden, the Rev. George Ingle.
The three candidates: Mrs. M. Thatcher (Cons.); Mr. Eric Deakins (Lab), and Mr. I. Spence (Lib), were introduced to the packed audience by the Bishop, who nominated Mr. Deakins to speak first. The uproar got away to an early start when he said: “Suez is still a blot on the record of this country” .
“Shame on You”
Undeterred by groans he went on: “Secondly there is the blot of Hola. If eleven men had been killed in a British prison camp what an outcry there would have been.
“Shame on you all for laughing at this. Is that moral?, Is that justice?, is that Christian?”
Amidst mounting cheers and cries of “No, No” from many in the audience, which was divided against itself, he went on in an impassioned voice: “Good heavens! Have you all looked into your consciences? I am surprised to hear ordinary Christian people laughing when I mention Hola” .
Referring to the Devlin Report he added: “We no longer have morality” especially as the report was commissioned and not accepted. “There is no further justice or morality left if we cannot erase this from our record.
“I appeal to you regardless of what you think of the Labour Party's record in home affairs. Remember this: you will be voting for the policy of Suez, Hola and the Devlin Report” (if they voted Conservative) Shame on you.”
In his address Cr. Deakins said it gave him great pleasure to be at the meeting, and on the platform with Mrs. Thatcher the Conservative candidate, for the first time. Mr. Spence and he had already met. It was the first time they had been all together.
He thought politics were dull at the moment. He personally would try to liven up them a little. A little more humour among politicians, and they would get very much better meetings in this country.
Politicians as a rule took themselves too seriously and he hoped for lively questioning—to which he would reply with as much humour as possible.
As he was fairly young he thought politics was something to be enjoyed.
Morality in politics was an important issue. It was related to the Labour Party programme, and it would appeal to Christians.
When one thought about morality one realised the divisions between the three major parties in this country were more of “mind and approach” than in detail.
Pensions were a vital issue, and all three parties had pension programmes. Labour's programme was to bring morality into the whole scheme. Up to now there had been two kinds of pension—the flat rate and the super-annuation pension on top of flat rate.
This he thought, was unfair and the reason why people had private schemes. The Labour Party believed there should be one major pension scheme embracing everyone. It would be all-embracing and would have no distinction between rich and poor sections of the community. No “Means Test” .
Referring to education, he and the Labour Party rejected the idea of the treble standard in education. They thought there should be an equal opportunity in educational facilities than there was.
It was perfectly possible for an 11 year old child to pass the test in Finchley and to fail it in Tottenham, simply because the number of grammar school places was less in Tottenham.
On housing, he said, there were two standards. Private income houses and council house types. They wanted to end this distinction. The Labour Party would help people buy their own homes.
‘Have A Fear’
Next to speak was Liberal Mr. Ivan Spence, who told the audience they should fear the terrible and powerful weapons that Russia and America were brandishing in the world today.
As Christian people, and they “pretended” to be such, surely the first issue they should put their mind to was that of right and wrong.
One could not expect our country to be great unless our people put their minds to this issue. By all means let politicians come before them saying “our party will give you more money” but they should not allow themselves to be “bribed” .
We gave independence to people in West Africa, not because we had wanted to, but because there were a great many people there. There was no gold, no steel and no copper or diamonds. They produced goods. You could not do business with people who were threatened.
How wonderful it was for the City that it was not responsible for the policy of South Africa—but it provided millions from the diamond mines.
The most important thing in this world of increasing and closer methods of communication was that we should win the battle of ideas in the under-developed world.
“Pig Stye” Policy
Liberals wanted to work for people, and, as people to help people help themselves. We must be finished with the policy of the pig-stye. People did not want to be treated as good stock animals, well fed, and with more clothes. They wanted to be treated as human beings with dignity.
There was the ‘division’ between capital and labour. The Conservatives had given lip-service to the Liberal plan of co-ownership and co-partnership. They had done nothing about it. They wanted status in the trade unions. The Conservatives were frightened of them. The Liberals wanted responsibility and they would see that there was a secret ballot.
In her address, Mrs. Thatcher told her audience that the effects of the fundamental Conservative approach could be seen in the last eight years and, they hoped, in the next five years.
Conservatives believed first in individual liberty in people leading their own lives in their own way, and thus being more likely to develop their personalities and become responsible citizens, than if made to do what they were told by legislation.
Wealth had to be made before it could be spent. It did not just happen. It had to be made by individual effort, which could be stimulated by reducing taxation—which the Conservatives had done. They had done what they had promised.
Just look at the contrast between the Labour and the Conservatives pension policies. The Labour Party had given 2/6 when in office, and the Conservatives had increased it three times.
She was probably one of the few people who had read the report of the Nyasaland Commission from cover to cover, and did not quite understand why Mr. Spence grumbled about South Africa being free—and the Federation not. What was the alternative for Nyasaland?
Only the Saturday before, she had met a Nyasaland District Commissioner who had said that in the Nyasa language, which Dr. Hastings Banda could not speak by the way, there was no distinction at all between federation and amalgamation. A decision had had to be made.
If people had read the Report and knew what the type of news that the Governor had been receiving before the uprising—and yet delayed and delayed till it was quite certain—people would think differently. Europeans would have been killed. The Devlin Report found the Governor's decision justified. [end p10]
What had happened should be held up against the vast amount of good work that had been done by this country throughout the whole world. Things should be put in their proper perspective.
A questioner asked Mrs. Thatcher how could she reconcile the fact that Middlesex, with one twentieth of the school population in the country, should have its education programme slashed when £800,000,000 had been wasted on Suez.
Mrs. Thatcher said she could not accept the premises of the question. She did not know where the questioner got his figures from but they were certainly wrong. Around £33,000,000 was the figure for Suez.
As for the education programme for Middlesex, the figure of £8,000,000 had been four times as much as they had previously had in the two-year programme. There were other counties as well, and the overall picture must be seen. Even so, Middlesex had received more than it usually did.
Both Mr. Spence and Mr. Deakins condemned the action of the Government in cutting the estimates.
Mrs. Thatcher was asked if she shared the views of certain Conservative women over flogging.
She replied that flogging had been abolished in 1948, and when it had been used was only brought into action in about 2 per cent. of cases. Few crimes had been punished with it. But she was appalled by the increase in violent crimes, and was one of those who thought that a sharp, short birching might be carried out.
Mr. Spence replying to the question said: “Has the retaliation of violence for violence ever brought justice anywhere.”
There were cries from the audience at this remark. He thought flogging had not done any good at all. He was opposed to it.
Mr. Deakins replied that he was opposed to flogging and he was also opposed to the death-penalty. When he returned to Parliament, he would always vote against the re-introduction of flogging and birching, and for the abolishion of the death penalty.
The candidates were next asked their individual opinions—as distinct from party policy—on “H-Bomb” war.
Cr. Deakins said he was in favour of total disarmament. He was totally against war.
Mr. Spence said that Mr. Kruschev 's proposals should have been taken up. If war happened at this moment, we would be totally destroyed. There would have to be inspection when it came to disarmament. Everything should be done to implement this.
Mrs. Thatcher said she hoped there would not be another war. She was not prepared to disarm unless it was universal on all sides with safeguards. They had security at the moment. If they did disarm without safeguards, they would be taking security away from the whole world. People should remember the war of 1939–45.
Many other questions relating to schooling, foreign policy, Christian conscience, and pensions were asked—before the meeting ended with applause.
The Bishop of Willesden thanked the three candidates for attending the meeting, and so ably answering the questions put to them.