The view from across the Channel

Until 20th July, the Daily Mail Historical Archive is free to access (  I’ve been having a look through it for articles on French events during the 1930s.  It’s been interesting to get a British view on these events and how happenings in France were used to push a political agenda in Britain.  Here’s the Mail’s editorial following the riot of 6 February 1934 in Paris:

Democracy in Difficulties, Daily Mail, 8 February 1934 [emphases in original]

Events in both London and Paris during the last two days must strengthen the impression that parliamentary democracy has failed.  It is ceasing to work satisfactorily in the two countries which have had most experience of it, and its breakdown is now hardly to be concealed.

            In France, parliamentary democracy has brought government to an impasse.  Ministry after Ministry has collapsed because of the multitude of groups in the Chamber.  In Great Britain democracy entered the twilight two years ago.  Our demagogues all but ran the ship of State on the rocks in 1931 and the country was only saved at the last minute by the formation of the National Government.

            But now this very National Government has lost its sense of reality, and as the last two days have shown s bemusing itself with attempts to force disarmament upon Europe.  It ought to be taking such steps as would give Great Britain that security from foreign attack which she as lost through the progress of aviation.

            It is tempting to deny that the regimes in Rome and Berlin find their justification in what is happening in London and Paris.  In both Rome and Berlin totalitarian Administrations are in authority, and these act swiftly, economically and decisively.  In London words reign, accompanied by waste and delay.  The two debates on Disarmament and National Defence in the last two days have yielded nothing but futile orations and confused excuses from the politicians.

            Before Europe could disarm as our Government wants, Great Britain would ave to undertake vast and indefinite liabilities in the direction of armed intervention against any Power that transgresses the limitations which are to be placed on its forces.

Vast liabilities

But for these vast liabilities on the Continent Great Britain is totally unprepared.  There is even some reason to believe, in the light of certain figures given in the House of Commons on Tuesday by a Socialist, that by next May Germany will have a very marked superiority in aircraft to this country.

            No steps have been taken to meet this grave state of affairs, though Sir John Simon on Tuesday gave a vague promise that at some future date we may strengthen our armaments.  The attempt yesterday to obtain a clear and definite pledge from the Government on this subject failed.  The country is continually put off with the excuse that nothing can be done while the Disarmament Conference is sitting.  But this is sheer nonsense, as the United States, Japan, France, Russia, Italy, and even Switzerland and Belgium are all fast expanding their air forces in spite of the conference.

            In Paris, we see the uprising of an indignant middle-class, supported by a strong working-class element, against a Radical-Socialist Government.  The demonstrators of Tuesday night were bitter because, after they had been called upon to bear what is for them unusually heavy taxation, they found that their country was not one whit better for their sacrifices.

            Their indignation against the politicians was deepened by the belief that what is known in the United States as “graft” prevails in parliamentary quarters.  They therefore proceeded to tactics which, in moments of great popular excitement, have been traditional in France since the Fronde.  They have triumphed for the time being, since M. Daladier resigned yesterday, and efforts are being made to secure a strong Ministry which will cleanse the parliamentary stables.  But deep in the minds of a growing multitude of Frenchmen is the feeling that democracy is becoming a danger to the State.


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