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Friday, 5 April 2013

A parliamentary occasion

Friday, April 5th., Yacht Club, London.

Yesterday I was at the House of Commons.
Lloyd George's introduction of Man Power Bill, for conscripting Ireland and raising military age etc. See also 'War Nerves' - March 27th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/war-nerves.html>

From early 1918, the British Army were dangerously short of troops for the Western Front. In addressing this grave military situation, Prime Minister David Lloyd George and his coalition Government decided to extend conscription to Ireland and to additional older men and workers in Britain, conscription in Great Britain having started in January 1916. The goal was to reach into an untapped reservoir of manpower through a new Military Service Bill. The intent was to connect the conscription legislation to a new Home Rule Bill. This had the effect of alienating both nationalists and unionists in Ireland. Despite opposition from the entire Irish Parliamentary Party, conscription for Ireland was voted through at Westminster. Though large numbers of Irishmen had willingly joined Irish regiments and divisions of the New British Army at the outbreak of war in 1914, the likelihood of enforced conscription created a backlash. The linking of conscription and Home Rule outraged the Irish nationalist parties at Westminster, who walked out in protest and returned to Ireland to organise opposition. Although the crisis was unique in Ireland at the time, it followed similar campaigns in Australia (1916–17) and Canada (1917)

Policeman looks at card outside. Then you go up in a lift. Through an outer room with one or two journalists, hat pegs, etc. Then an inner room, with two Morse instruments tapping, and then into Gallery, at entrance of which your ticket is looked at again by an official (very friendly with all reporters, and doing their little errands etc.) in evening dress with large insignia on his breast.
Two rows of seats with narrow desk all round. A few standing at either corner, including Spender, (see also 'Writing for Victory - Sept. 3rd. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/writing-for-victory.html and 'Writers for Peace - Feb. 11th. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/monday-february-11th.html ) Gardiner and me. Reporters passing in and out all the time, crushing past; a horrible lack of space. No light in House of Commons except through glass roof. No repose in Press Gallery. Sharp corner of elaborate wood carving against which you knock your head if sit or lean in corners. Glimpse of Ladies' Gallery above, with glimpse of a smart woman, past first youth, with complexion soigne but going.

Lloyd George and Churchill

Looking from left, I could just see Ll. G., Churchill, Bonar Law, Cecil, Balfour etc., on right. House full. 12 or so standing between cross benches. (Gallery opposite full. Side galleries half full.) Two M.P.s wearing hats. As the M.P.s left they bowed awkwardly to Speaker in getting up if in front rows or on reaching central space if not; and on coming in they bowed either on entering, or on reaching open space. Speaker under a canopy.

Cheap effects of Ll. G. looking round as if challenging; trick of dropping his voice for last, rather important word of sentence. Unpleasant Noncomformist voice. He did not know his case, and having made a muddle deliberately left the muddle. Truisms about values and will-to-win cheered. Proposal to conscript Ireland loudly cheered a long time by Tories. No applause as he sat down.

Herbert Asquith

The whole thing a vast make-believe, with an audience of which a large part was obviously quite unintelligent and content with the usual hollow rot. Ll. G.'s oratorical effects very poor - like a Lyceum melodrama. Asquith with long hair very dignified, at home, persuasive.

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