854. E. H. J. N. Dalton to Harrod , 13 October 1938 [a]

[Replies to a letter and a telegram not found; the exchange continues at 861 ]

The House of Commons #

13 October 1938

Private and Confidential

Dear Harrod,

Thank you for your letter and telegram. [1] Even if I did not remember, which I well do, the once or twice when we have met personally, [2] I hear of you so often and, though no longer a professional economist, even part time, still occasionally read you with such pleasure, that you need not be elaborate in approaching me about practical politics.

I share all your gloom, and all your sense of urgency. I am prepared to look at any proposal designed to get rid of Chamberlain and stop the present fatal drift towards, not merely war, but complete and final British defeat, with all that this implies. The practical question in our home politics is what effective new combinations, if any, can be formed against Chamberlain? I stress "effective". It is no use drawing a few people in, e.g., Communists, at the cost of driving a much larger number away. [3] Similarly, it is no use planning to welcome Conservative guests, however eminent, if they are not disposed to sleep in your strange bed, even in a specially constructed Gothic annexe out of sight of the main building whose architecture they find too modernist. [4]

Personally, I am all for exploration, but with my eyes and ears open.

Now as to the particular case of the Oxford by-election. [5] I note in passing that the Liberals, having missed last time and let Gordon Walker [6] have a straight fight, have now produced a voluble little Welshman with an Edinburgh degree [7] --and this for Oxford! I have a great personal regard for Lindsay and should much like to see him in Parliament. I was not disposed to turn down, without careful examination, the proposal that he should have a straight fight in this by-election against Hogg; but yesterday, when our Elections Sub-Committee met and heard evidence from Gordon Walker and others, it became quite clear that we could not counsel Gordon Walker's withdrawal. [8] I hope, therefore, particularly having regard to the ridiculous character of the Liberal candidate, that you and all others at Oxford who feel as you and I do about Chamberlain will throw your full weight behind Gordon Walker in this contest.

Please treat this letter as private and confidential. If it would serve any good purpose, I should be glad sometime to come and have a private talk with a few people at Oxford who feel as you do.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh Dalton

Roy Harrod, Esq., Christ Church, Oxford.

  1. 1. The letter was not found, but its contents were similar to letter 851 (see [jump to page] ).

    2. Dalton and Harrod met at a New Fabian Research Bureau "Conference on Some Aspects of Socialist Planning", held at Maidstone on 4-5 November 1933: Harrod was a speaker at the first session on "Money and Prices", while Dalton spoke at the third session on "The Application of Such [Existing marketing and price fixing] Machinery to other Industries during Socialisation". Harrod took part in the discussion of Dalton's speech (the minutes of the Conference are in FS J 14/2/1-4). Later Dalton approached Harrod announcing that he was going to conduct a Summer School in Economics at Brighton during the first fortnight of August 1936, and asked if Harrod could suggest two young lecturers who could help (3 February 1936, in HPBL Add. 71191/184).

    3. The Labour Party executive consistently maintained since 1936 that Communists would drive away more votes than they could attract: D. Blaazer, The Popular Front and the Progressive Tradition. Socialists, Liberals, and the Quest for Unity, 1884-1939, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 181.

    4. This is the position held by the Labour Party since 14 May 1938: see the Labour pamphlet Labour and the Popular Front, cited in H. Dalton, The Fateful Years. Memoirs 1931-1945, London: Muller, 1957, p. 209.

    5. See notes 1 and 6 to press item 28 for context.

    6. Gordon Walker had unsuccessfully fought for the Oxford City parliamentary seat in 1935.

    7. Ivor R. M. Davies.

    8. The Labour Party actually seems to have expressly forbid Gordon Walker to withdraw: see A. S. Knight, "The Oxford City By-election: Appeasement and the Popular Front", Travelyan Thesis, mimeograph Ts, 15 pages, copy in HP VI-525, p. 4). Transport House, however, eventually reversed its decision: see letter 861 , and in particular note 1 .

    1. a. TLS, two pages on two leaves, marked "Private and Confidential" in Dalton's handwriting, in HP IV/253-268/1. © British Library of Political and Economic Science, Archives Division , London.

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