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FRANCE: 99th Resignation

4 minute read

Astute and worldly Pierre Laval took one look last week at the impossible situation created for his Cabinet by the resignation of its Radical Socialist members for internal party reasons and refused to go before the Chamber of Deputies.

“I have won two games and a rubber,” he jested, referring to the four successive votes of confidence with which his seven months of political tightrope balancing were crowned recently. “I have been a sportsman. They can ask no more of me. I resign.”

Since M. Laval is of the Moderate Right, the Socialists & Communists exulted. Cried Socialist Leader Leon Blum: “We shook the Radical Socialist plum tree until Laval fell out!”

Actually, events were shaping themselves like the opening moves of a new chess game. This must shortly be played when a new Chamber of Deputies is elected. To sad-eyed President Albert Lebrun last week Premier Laval handed the 99th Cabinet resignation under the Third Republic, the eleventh since the present Chamber was elected in 1932. He refused M. le President’s urgent request that he attempt to form a new Cabinet. Obviously his best opening gambit was to facilitate the immediate formation of a Radical Socialist Cabinet and hope that it would, as in 1924 and 1925, make the traditional mess of French monetary affairs the Left has so often made in France, thus enraging the populace and strengthening the Right on the Rebound. Elder leaders of the Radical Socialists, such as famed “Edouard I” Herriot, who was made the goat of France’s currency debacle in 1925 and 1926, have tried vainly to restrain the younger Radical Socialists led by the Party’s irascible new President “Edouard II” Daladier.

For the immediate job of attending King George’s funeral this week, France required a “Funeral Cabinet.” The post of Premier, after M. Herriot and others had refused to touch it, was hastily palmed off by President Lebrun upon a man who is always handy at the scene of accidents. Target of two clumsy would-be assassins, survivor of two duels, a railway bridge wreck and several motoring mishaps; the statesman who was the responsible Minister of Interior when scandalously inadequate police protection made possible the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia on French soil, M. Albert Sarraut is an otherwise colorless Radical Socialist wheelhorse whose favorite mot is: “I only need twelve days to recover from anything.”

The new Cabinet Premier Sarraut assembled last week was distinctly a French house of political cards, this time teetering somewhat further toward the Left. It contained as Minister of Public Works the Radical Socialist who was forced out as Premier by the Stavisky scandal, M. Camille Chautemps. Although a parliamentary commission has cleared him, Chautemps’ return to Cabinet rank so soon “stank of Staviskery.” Appointment of onetime Premier Pierre Etienne Flandin, widely considered an Anthony Edenophile, was hailed as an anti-Fascist victory not only by Communists and Socialists, but also by Mme Geneviève Tabouis and her entourage of Leaguophile correspondents at Geneva. They were speechless with rage when Foreign Minister Flandin unexpectedly pledged himself to follow “the same policy as Laval in foreign affairs.”

M. Flandin accompanied President Lebrun to the funeral of King George this week in London. There, discreetly behind the scenes, international diplomatic chaffering and haggling occurred on a scale not witnessed since the funeral of Queen Victoria which, behind the scenes, was a diplomatic battle royal over issues arising from the Boer War. This week a new subject of diplomatic discord in London was a secret military alliance between Britain and Greece discovered last week in Athens to have been signed by restored King George II early in December but not registered at Geneva as required by the League Covenant. Into Mr. Eden’s lap was dumped not only this but charges that Germany is now violating the Treaty of Versailles afresh by militarizing the “demililtarized” Rhineland, plus demands that Britain do something in support of what Mr. Eden calls “Collective Security” by France and her allies against the new German thrust.

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