Book Review: A Life of Dissent by Christopher J. Walker

Tom McGuire

Copyright The National Archives UK`s photostream

A biography of Oliver Baldwin, 2nd Earl Baldwin and the elder son of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; a socialist Labour MP, and Governer General of the Leeward Islands. His was a complicated and full life of contradictions and colour, told in full for the first time by Christopher Walker.

Born into the traditional British establishment Oliver Baldwin went to Eton before the First World War broke out when he joined up and fought with great distinction at the age of eighteen. Following the war he was sent to Armenia as a military advisor, captured and imprisoned by the Soviets and then the Turks: by the age of twenty-one he had seen more from life than many Brits back then saw in a lifetime. At this point Baldwin takes a very different path to that of his upper class peers. He left Britain to travel the world, supplementing his jaunts with work as a travel writer; he returned to Britain the gay (at a time when homosexuality remained illegal in Britain) and Marxist son of the Prime Minister. In the years that followed Baldwin continued his journalism and became a Labour MP (sitting opposite his father in the Commons), a playwright, novelist, and eventually returned to military duty when the Second World War came calling.

After the war the Labour government (that he had been part of until the death of his father meant he had to move to the Lords) sent him to the Caribbean as Governor General of the Leeward Islands where he caused trouble by supporting the natives in calls for greater economic freedom from the British businessmen who owned the sugar plantations and was eventually recalled. Read more of this post

The PM Himself is a Product of a “Something for Nothing” Culture

Nicholas Pentney 

Image © DFID

In a recent speech, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of his desire to overhaul the benefit system and to see an end to the “something for nothing” culture. The speech likely forms part of a political strategy that aims to tap into widespread public resentment at the current benefit system and to, as The Guardian described it: “protect those at the top smarting from Nadine Dorries’s ‘posh boy’ charge.”

As a fierce advocate of the concept of working-class dignity, I understand the resentment felt towards those who exploit the welfare state but we must be wary of an attack on these people when it comes from someone like David Cameron. The PM’s speech failed to make any mention of the scroungers at the other end of the class spectrum and omitted the fact that he himself is the product of a something for nothing culture.

There can be little doubt that Cameron works hard as our PM or that he worked to get where he is today. However, being born into immense wealth meant that he has enjoyed huge advantages that helped him immensely to get to the position he holds today. What did Cameron do to deserve these benefits? The answer is of course nothing; he merely had the good fortune to be born into that particular family. It is from that nothing that Cameron has been able to get something, but Cameron never passes judgement on himself or his mates who benefit from the inherited-wealth system and he doesn’t discuss the need to reform it.

If Cameron had been born into an impoverished family and grew up on an inner-city estate, would he have had the opportunity to work for Tim Rathborne MP or study at Eton and Oxford? Would he not feel the status frustration that comes with being subscribed to goals that his economic circumstances won’t ever allow him to achieve? Would he find himself at odds with the inherited-wealth benefit system that favours only those at the other end of the class spectrum? Believing this to be an unjust state of affairs, would he have perhaps a few less qualms about signing on to the state’s welfare system himself?  Read more of this post