874. Harrod to Winston Churchill , 9 December 1938 [a]

[Follows on from 866 , answered by 876 R]

6 Beaumont Street, Oxford #

9 December 1938

Dear Mr. Churchill

Bombarding you again! The last column of this [1] was written for your benefit!

The more I think of it the more important do I think the point about an alternation of parties rather than perpetual re-shuffles within a so-called national government, anyhow in peace time. Good government means the presence of an alternative government on the opposition benches. Opposition speeches are of no avail unless the government thinks all the time that if it makes a false step it will be turned out at the next election. In war time the matter is different because there is a still more drastic punishment awaiting the false step. Surely the continued slackness of the Baldwin-Chamberlain regime may be partly attributable to their sense of secure tenure.

It has been put to me that E den is seeking to form a broader National Government skimming off the cream of the present Labour leadership. I believe that such a government would soon degenerate into lethargy--and for the same reason.

So far I have kept this letter impersonal. What I wish you could do is to take note of my last column and re-seek out our progressive elements with whom you worked successfully enough during one of the most distinguished parts of your career. After all you have about the best practical left-wing record of any active politician now in public life.

I see a Labour-Progressive government--it does not so very much matter who is P.M.--with you in the cabinet, put on its mettle because it has the conservative party machine against it. That is the only possibility I see of a return to efficiency save in the actual event of war.

But for this happy issue to come about, it is necessary before much more time has elapsed to abandon the idea of a cabinet re-shuffle leading to another so-called national government on a broader basis.

I am taking the chair to-morrow at a meeting of progressives from eleven constituencies round here to discuss plans for an undivided opposition in those constituencies. [2] I dont know whether anything will come out of it!

Yours very sicerely

Roy Harrod

  1. 1. Harrod had sent an offprint of his article for the Manchester Guardian on "The Opposition. An Electoral Pact needed" ( 1938:23 ), press item 30 . Churchill's copy is in CHAR 2/334/34.

    2. The Popular Front campaign was not discontinued after the Oxford by-election (on which see notes 1 and 6 to press item 28 ): the meeting mentioned by Harrod is part (or possibly the first) of a series of meetings, organized by Harrod and Lindsay, between Liberal and Labour representatives in the neighbouring constituencies. See, for further details, note 1 to essay 21 .

    1. a. ALS, three pages on two leaves, in CHAR 2/334/32-33.


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