Monday, October 24, 2005

How terribly British

"The Northern Light was one of the most militant strike bulletins, and its distributors were often arrested. A touch of generosity, which would have been unthinkable in most countries, entered into relations between police and strikers here in Durham. When Stephenson [the editor] was fined £2 with the option of fourteen days' imprisonment, he chose to go to prison, but asked the police not to call at his home on the day he was due to go inside. They agreed, and he met them at the railway station. When Stephenson asked how they knew that he would keep his word, the constable was surprised. 'Funny thing, nobody ever thought of that'." -- The General Strike, Julian Symons.

Even more British was the end of the strike: the anway reluctant TUC leaders appear to have taken vague reassurances of goodwill from Baldwin as a promise of no reprisals. They awoke to employers imposing wage cuts and legislation that would broadly have satisfied Thatcher. If Baldwin had implied -- stopping scrupulously short of saying -- that he would meet you at the railway station, you would have needed police around his house at once.

[The General Strike, by Julian Symons (Cresset Press, 1957). Doubtless completely superseded account of great trade-union disaster; lots of great narrative colour, but the overall effect is more GCSE history than Strange Death of Liberal England.]

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