The Cabinet Secretaries' Notebooks (CAB 195/7)

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The General Election

The General Election

P.M. 

V. diff. sitn - unprecedented.
Elimd odds & ends.  Major Parties face to face.  V. slight majority.
Remember 2 Chairmen of Cttees.  V. vulnerable posn.  Ministers abroad on f. affairs.  Exposed to snap decns.
Tories in minority.  No ques. of Coaln.
K.'s Govt. must go on.  I propose to carry on.
Can't do this for long.
Another Electn.  After Budget.  Summer or Autumn.
Favour decln:  intend carry on:  job carry Budget & carry on affairs of country:  but will have to be another appeal to country.
(Wrong to suppress that because effect on f. policy etc.)
M'while call for economic effort by all.
No statement about legn until K. Speech considered.
Avoid controversial legn.
All Ministers shd. place portfolios at my disposal, but carry on m'while.

H.M. 

Agree, in general.
Doubt wtr. at this stage we shd. mention election - wait for debate on Address.  Chance to consult Party executive.  Party mtg.
Wed.:  cd. consider it then & announce in debate on Address.
No declns by Ministers on Govt. policy m'while.

E.B. 

Don't like to decide at this small mtg. in favour of announcg. early election.
Agree futile to try legn.
But worried because we've taken over so much (natn) & have so little to show.  A little more time & we cd. have better story.  I was rattled in Electn over coal & housing.
Spiteful attitude twds. people who own their houses - alleged v. M/H. in Election.  Shows lack of common-sense.
Gas, electricity, transport.  All natd industries have made a bad showing.  Can we expect a better answer in a few months' time?

R.S.C. 

V. diff. fin. & econ. situation.
Hoped for firm authority.  Haven't got it.  Back in a pre-election temper.  Will be pressed to relax all round - & can't, for Budgetary posn is worse.
Must be Election in autumn.  Ques:  shd. we say it now?

A. 

Sympathise with E.B.  This feeling has created hostility.
Also resentment at declns of some Ministers.
Doubtful re wisdom of announcg. now early election.
Wd perpetuate Election need.
At least want opportunity to reflect.
Parly. business = Budget.  Gt. help if Ch. of Exch. can make it more pleasant.  Cd we not have some talks about its content before R.S.C. frames it.  V. desirable tht. R.S.C.  shd. know our views on genl. principles.  At least avoid a provocative Budget.
Problems:  abate middle-class hostility.
                  continue quietly Govt. of the country.

H.D. 

Must carry on.  But imposs. to do so for long.  Parly. arithmetic.
Ministers will be chained to H/C.  Wears down efficiency of Govt.
This Parlt. can't last more than few months.
Don't contemplate going on beyond summer.  Plan for Election as soon as poss. after Budget.
Agree with H.M., - we shd. have a word with the other governing bodies.
Don't drift on, pretending we are a Govt. when we aren't.

A.V.A. 

Symp. with E.B:  but you can't avoid Electoral atmosphere in H/C.
R.S.C. has to get Suppl. Estimates & Vote on A/C.

R.S.C. 

Also fix farmers' prices.

A.V.A. 

Iron & steel?

P.M. 

Vesting date not until after summer.

A.V.A.

Can't therefore avoid a fairly early announcement. Support P.M.

J. 

P.M. must carry on.  Wtr. you announce early election or merely say it's inevitable before long, that is the fact.
We shall be doing right thing by carrying on King's Govt. Leave Tories to end it, if they like. We can get credit for that.

C.E. 

Carry on pro tem. Don't expect to last long. Election in summer better than autumn.
Seeking report of Postal & Proxy Vote:  believe Tories organised that better than we did.
Agree with E.B. on grumbles.

G.A.I. 

Bad quality coal:  housing - "in spite of that" we will vote Labour.
Wage freeze.  Can defend it as policy to get prices down.  Easier if prices cd. be forced down.  Downward move in c/living index.
Better for P.M. to take initiative by saying we intend to go to country again soon - rather than risk adverse vote in H/C.
Housing:  so much more remains to be done.

P.M. 

Commiseration to Creech Jones.  (Hear hear!)

C.J. 

Tories exploited past statements of some Ministers.
Diffies of getting our long-term aims across.  Lack of positive policies. These were special handicaps in my middle class constituency.
Budget will be specially diff. And many electoral issues will arise on  that. Wd. like E.B.'s period of consolidation, but see no chance of getting it. Period of gt. pol. instability.
Against early announcement.

N.B. 

Announcement.  Delay decision for a time.
Wd. like period of prepn.  Cdn't mount same effort in Midlands w'in  a few months.
Liberal Vote.  More chance of moving them to Left if we had time because they don't want Tories.  I shd. have liked to wait until  summer of '51.

G.T. 

Won't rest with us to determine date.  Work for Tories turning us out  on indefensible issue.
I didn't experience in Lancs. grumbles mentioned by others this morning.

H.W. 

Agree - no hurry to announce another Election.  Wait a few days.
Housing, c/living, dirty coal were damaging issues.
Wd. like to see improvemts. before we go to country again.
Worried re c/living.

R.S.C. 

Bound to go up.

H.W. 

Clothing:  I shd. have increased it 2 mos. ago.

P.M. 

Carry on pro tem.
Announcement.  Much to be said for taking initiative.
But admit it shd. be p'poned to debate on Address.
Support A.'s suggn of discn on principles of Budget before R.S.C. frames his proposals. (R.S.C. agreed.)
Don't start big controversial issues, fr. Manifesto.
   (This needn't prevent Bill on Developmt. Areas)

P.M. 

Want Speaker to stand again.  I will write, asking him.
Mover:  Rhys Davies has longest service.
   Agreed:  Better a member who hasn't bn. Minister.
                  Try David Kirkwood.  Ch. Whip to get Tories to to put up a seconder.

Chairmen of Cttees.
Shd. we offer one to Tories.  Has bn. done before, with minority Govt.
   Agreed:   Offer one to Tories.
                    If they decline, try a Liberal.
All Ministers to carry on in office.  Get on with decisions.
No formal announcemt.  Let it be known P.M. is re-constructg. Govt.

Taken from C.M. 5(50) - Meeting held on 25 February 1950.