Thursday, 14th February 1929

14th February, 1929


My dear Prime Minister,

A telegram from Canberra in this morning’s ‘Times’ indicates that your Government had an extraordinarily narrow majority on a snap division. The political situation must be such as to cause you considerable anxiety and to occupy a very great deal of your time and attention. [1]

My recent letters have been lengthy but this week there is little of major importance to report.


I enclose a copy of an article written by Mr. Philip Snowden which appeared in ‘John Bull’. It is entitled ‘Is the Empire bleeding Britain?’ [3] I do not imagine that Snowden was himself responsible for the title or for the cross headings. It is, however, a most misleading and mischievous article.

Amery [4] rang me up and asked me whether I would prepare some notes which would assist him in replying to Snowden’s article in a speech which he was going to deliver on Tuesday evening at Whitehaven. I did this and I enclose a copy of my letter but I pointed out to Amery that it was very difficult to make an effective reply at a meeting at Whitehaven, where it was almost certain he would not get anything like a proper report. I suggested that Snowden’s article was so misleading and illogical that the best chance for an effective reply would be in the House of Commons.

As a quite extraordinary comment on Philip Snowden’s article, I received by this morning’s post a letter from Snowden himself acknowledging a copy of a memorandum on the severity of American Competition, which I sent him. I enclose a copy of Snowden’s reply which I am sure will interest you. I should incidentally mention that this memorandum on the severity of American Competition is the only one of the sets of notes which I have produced in connection with the next Imperial Conference which I have felt to be in any way suitable for widespread distribution. In distributing it I, of course, excised all reference to the next Imperial Conference and merely had it duplicated as a note on American Competition. [5]


Having promised to speak at the Royal Institute of International Affairs on the subject of the Empire Marketing Board and agriculture, I made a study of the directions in which the Empire Marketing Board has promised financial assistance during the 2 1/2years in which the Board has been in existence. The result was very interesting. It shows that from the commencement of the Board’s work up to the 31st December 1928, it has either actually made or promised grants to the total value of 1,475,000 on the research side. of this total 937,000 will be expended in the United Kingdom and 538,000 overseas. I enclose a statement shewing the direction in which the grants have been made. of the grants promised, which are of special interest to the Dominions, practically 60% are for Australia. [6]

I have not yet prepared the notes for my address on this subject but will forward a copy to you by the next mail.

Today I had Mr. Brumwell [7], who is acting as Editor of the ‘Times’ during the absence of Geoffrey Dawson in India, to lunch.

As I think you know, I have always tried to maintain a fairly close touch with the ‘Times’ and I have always found Brumwell particularly interested in Empire development questions. Anyone holding down the position of Editor of the ‘Times’ has an unrivalled opportunity of obtaining a clear view of happenings in this country and I think you will be interested in Brumwell’s appreciation of the existing political situation. He is under the impression that most of the Tory Members of Parliament came back from the Christmas Holidays feeling considerable confidence as to the result of the General Election. Most of them have visited their constituencies, discussed matters with their Agents and felt cheered as a result.

Brumwell, however, thinks that the visit of the Prince of Wales to the coalfields of Northumberland and Durham will lose the Tories 30 or 40 seats. He feels that the Prince’s comments on conditions in the coal areas were so unguarded as to have a very serious effect upon public opinion. [8]

Brumwell does not anticipate that the Tories will get back with more than a majority of, say, 20 and he believes that during the next two or three years there will be a series of General Elections until the third Party i.e. the Liberals, have been eliminated. He expressed the view that under these circumstances the prospect of a successful Imperial Conference is rendered somewhat difficult. He seemed to think that two General Elections during 1929 were by no means impossible. In general he agrees with the idea that the next Imperial Conference should mainly be economic.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

_1 On 13 February, W. M. Hughes and two other Government M.P.s voted with the Opposition on an industrial relations question but the Government was saved by,the Speaker’s vote. See Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates 1929, vol. 120, pp. 189-97 In a letter dated 30 April, Bruce professed unconcern. The letter is on file AA:M111, 1929.

2 Labour M.P.; free trader; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1924.

3 John Bull, 9 February.

4 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs; Chairman of the Empire Marketing Board.

5 in the letter cited in note 1, Bruce commented that he had discussed widely the problem of American competition and doubted that the business community would object to harsh government action against American dumping of exports.

6 Bruce agreed: ‘Australia has got quite her fair share, and we will have to be a little careful to see that the impression that Australia is doing rather too well does not gain currency in the other Dominions’. See the letter cited in note 1.

7 G. M. Brumwell.

8 The Prince of Wales toured the depressed coalfields late in January and clearly demonstrated sympathy with the plight of unemployed miners.