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GREAT BRITAIN: Business of Government

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First elections for municipal councillors “since Munich” were held last week throughout England and Wales. There was no landslide either way but the Conservative Party made a quiet net gain of 20 seats, mainly at the expense of the Labor Party which suffered a net loss of 17 seats. The Liberals lost two seats, Independents one.

In London the closing session of the House of Commons, which was about to rise and reconvene for a new session with the Speech from the Throne on November 8, last week brimmed with historic interest. The Prime Minister asked a vote of confidence on his foreign policy to date and won it, 345-to-138, after plainly intimating to the House that what must now be expected is an almost unlimited extension of Japanese influence in East Asia and of German influence in East Europe. The shades of British Imperialists from Good Queen Bess to Rudyard Kipling must have paled perceptively. But an optimist to pessimists, and others, Neville Chamberlain said: “China cannot be developed into a real market without the influx of a great deal of capital, and the fact that so much capital is being destroyed during the war means that even more will have to be introduced after the war is over. It is quite certain that it cannot be supplied by Japan.

“Therefore, when any one appears to contemplate a future in which Japan has a monopoly of the Chinese trade and we shall be excluded from it, I think it is flying in the face of facts. It is quite certain that when the war is over and the reconstruction of China begins she cannot be reconstructed without some help from this country.”

Bold Businessman. It was unquestionably the businessman—the trader—in Neville Chamberlain which caused the Prime Minister to speak thus, and he went on to speak of Germany in the vein of a bold British businessman who fears no competition: “Geographically Germany must occupy the predominating position in relation to the States of central and southeastern Europe. I do not see any reason why we should expect a fundamental change to take place in these regions.

“Far from this country being concerned, we have no wish to block Germany out of these countries or encircle her economically. True, we have certain trade interests there ourselves and we need to maintain those interests. In that respect, we shall have the good will of the countries themselves because although it is true that their international market will be found chiefly in Germany, nevertheless they can as a rule only obtain payment from Germany either in the form of goods, by barter arrangements or by blocked marks.

“Don’t let us suppose that necessarily there must be economic warfare between Germany and ourselves. There may be some competition, but competition is a thing on which we have thrived in the past. In my view, there is room both for Germany and ourselves in the trade with these countries and neither of us ought to try to obtain an exclusive position there.”

Spain and Ethiopia. The vote of confidence secured by Neville Chamberlain specifically covered his announced intention to declare in force the Italo-British treaty of last April. This instrument recognizes the Ethiopian conquest on the condition that “substantial” numbers of Italian troops are withdrawn from Spain. Spain recently said good-by to 10,000 Italians. There are still some 40,000 Italians fighting for General Franco, but Mr. Chamberlain told the House last week:

“The propriety of recognition seems to me to weigh heavily, although uncertainly, on certain minds. … In the first place the Council of the League of Nations by a large majority expressed the unqualified view that it was for each nation to decide for itself whether it should or should not afford this form of recognition.

“Further, of all the countries of Europe there are only two, namely, ourselves and the Government of Soviet Russia, which have restricted themselves to de facto recognition. The latest country to recognize formally Italian sovereignty in Ethiopia is France, and her new ambassador will be accredited to the King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia. We propose to follow the same course as France.”

Of Spain the Prime Minister said: “When I was at Munich I spoke on the subject of the future of Spain with both Chancellor Hitler and Premier Mussolini. Both of them assured me most definitely that they had no territorial ambitions whatever in Spain, and I would remind you that when we were apparently faced with the prospect of a new major war, General Franco made a declaration of neutrality and said he would not violate the French frontier unless he were attacked from that quarter.

“It seems to us that the events which took place in September have put the whole Spanish conflict into a new perspective. If the nations of Europe escaped the great catastrophe in the acute Czechoslovak crisis, surely nobody can make out with that recollection in their minds that they are going to knock their heads together over Spain.

“To my mind it is perfectly clear that the Spanish question is no longer a menace to the peace of Europe. In international affairs one thing continually leads to another, and if any justification is required for the policy of the British Government in closing our differences with Italy it surely can be found in the action of Signor Mussolini when, at my request, he used his influence with Herr Hitler in order to give time for the discussion which led up to the Munich agreement. By that action the peace of Europe was saved.”

“Easiest Victories.” Most journalists who covered the historic House of Commons session at which these policies were nailed to the Empire mast agreed with New York Times London Bureau Manager Ferdinand Kuhn Jr. that “Mr. Chamberlain won one of his easiest victories. . . . [His] majority of 207 tonight was far bigger than his margin of 162 in the vote of confidence that followed Mr. Eden’s resignation eight months ago.”

Young Conservative Anthony Eden said last week it is the “honest truth” that not so many Italians have been withdrawn from Spain as had been required when the treaty of last April was drawn. The specified number was never made public. Old Liberal David Lloyd George snorted: “The Prime Minister seems to me to be acquiring the dictatorial airs of his associates.” For the Labor Party, scathing-tongued Arthur Greenwood said that Neville Chamberlain “has a peculiar genius for friendship with the wrong sort of people.” But neither inside Parliament nor outside were there signs of popular British discontent with the Peace of Munich, or the way in which one thing is leading to another.

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