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 PRACTICAL POLITICS


Heaw time slips o’er, for sure! Another Yelds Green Sing! Another milestone passed! It’s fifty years sin’ aw used to hearken th’ band rehearse‘ in a heause i’ Brunley Lone. Aw wur nobbut a little un then, but aw used to ceawer i’ th’ nook an’ watch thoose fiddlers saw their beautiful tunes eawt o’ their strange-lookin’ boxes. Aw remember heaw earnest thoose fiddlers wur. Their souls wur i’ their job. But there’s a new lot o’ fiddlers neaw. Aw reckon ’at o th’ owd uns an’ brokken their last strang. But th’ y’ung uns did very weel last Sunday. There’s nowt nobbut time an’ patience ’at’ll Inak’ ’em into good owd uns. As aw wur comin’ eawt o’ th’ chapel who should aw leet on but Sam o’ Ben’s. We wur lads together wur Sam an’ me, but aw hadn’t seen him for years. He’d come’n fro’ somewheer to’rd th’ Spinners’ Gardens o’ purpose to have a look at th’ owd place, an’ rare’n fain aw wur to see him.

“Theau mun come an’ ha’ thi baggin’ wi’ me,” aw said.

“Nay,” he onsert, “aw’m very mich obliged to thee, jammy, but aw promised eawr Sarah ’at aw’d be back i’ good time, so’s hoo could go to th’ chapel to-neet.”

“Well, theau’ll come an’ just have a drop o’ whoam brew’d wi’ me, wilt na?”

“Yi, aw will,” he said, “becose we’st be fulfillin’ th’ text ’at th’ parson’s bin praychin’ abeawt.”

“Heaw doesta meeon,” aw ax’d.

“Well, wurn’t his text summat like this? ‘If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me.’ So aw’ll just have a sup wi’ thee, jammy, an’ then aw’ll be makkin’ my road shorter.”

“Theau deserves a sup after that, Sam, for if it isn’t th’ exact text it’s a practical interpretation, an’ that’s moore nor we can say for a good deeol o’ sarmons neaw-a-days.”

“Theau’rt reet, Jammy,” said Sam, “an’ th’ same remark would apply to lots o’ things beside sarmons. Aw like practical religion, practical politics, practical eddication, practi—”

“Howd on theer,” aw said. “Theaw doesn’t meeon to say ’at we’re noan gettin’ practical eddication, doesta? It’s costin’ enoof, at ony rate.”

“So it is, Jammy, but th’ cost of a thing doesn’t awlus represent its true value. Aw believe if eawr eddication nobbut cost abeawt one hauve o’ what it does ’at it would be moore practical. It needs summat moore nor fine buildin’s an’ big salaries to give a practical eddication. Theaw remembers th’ Pigeon Cote i’ Henshaw Street, Jammy? It wur nobbut a garrett, an’ th’ taychers wur nobbut workin’ folks ’at gan their sarvices for th’ benefit o’ one another, but it turned eawt finer scholars i’ proportion to th’ number on th’ books nor ony board skoo i’ Owdham. It’s th’ same wi’ religion, Jammy. It doesn’t follow ‘at that Church which has cost th’ mooist brass is th’ best Church, or ’at that parson wi’ th’ biggest salary is th’ best parson. Aw dar’say there’s bin as mony souls touched i’ that little chapel ’at we’ve bin into this afternoon as there has been i’ Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral.”

“Aw’m fain to yer thee talk like that, Sam, becose theaw didn’t use to profess mich faith i’ religion,” aw said.

“Aw dunnot profess it, neaw,” replied Sam. “Aw’m noather a professor nor a professional. We’ve too mony professors professin’ to be owt obbut what they are. An’ we’ve too mony professionals livin’ on th’ enthusiasm o’ others. If we go to watch a cricket match we see a lot o’ men whose chief aim i’ life is to get a lot o’ runs. What they’ll do wi’ thoose runs when they’ve getten ’em, same as john Ruskin said, nob’dy knows. If we go to see a footbo’ match we gaze on a lot o’ professionals who get their livin’ by puncin’ goals. What good thoose goals are to onybody else nob’dy knows. If we go to a church or a co-op. congress we see a lot o’ professional Christians or co-operators, whose main object is to get their livin’ wi’ their jackets on. Nowe, nowe, Jammy, aw’ve nowt to do wi’ professions, an’ especially wi’ professional politicians.”

“We’, doesta think we’ve plenty o’ professional politicians?” I ax’d.

“Aw wouldn’t like to say ’at we’ve plenty, Jammy,” replied Sam, “but aw’m feart ’at th’ species is grooin’.”

“Heaw doesta mak’ that eawt, Sam, when th’ Labour Party is showin’ th’ mooist spreawts?”

“It’s becose o’ that, Jammy, ’at we’re i’ th’ greatest danger.”

“Aw dunnot understond thee, Sam. Theau’rt noane opposed to workin’ men bein’ i’ Parlyment, arto?”

“Far fro’ it, Jammy,” he onsert. “Aw wish we’d moore on ’em. But let ’em be worthy o’ th’ position. Aw wouldn’t vote for a workin’ mon simply becose he wur a workin’mon an’ had nowt else to recommend him. Mind thee, Jammy, a workin’ chap is no better for bein’ a workin’ chap, an’ he’s no worse; an’ a wealthy chap is no worse for bein’ a wealthy chap, an’ he’s no better.”

“But doestna think ’at th’ workin’ folks’ interest will be better look’d after by Labour members o’ Parlyment nor they would by members representin’ capital?”

“Perhaps they would,” said Sam, “but, in principle, a chap representin’ only labour is as bad as a chap representin’ only capital. One’s as bad, or as good, as th’ other. Aw’d raythur have a chap who would honestly try to represent th’ whole community. Aw dunnot want to say out again th’ Labour members, Jammy, but aw connot help wonderin’ sometimes whether they’re anxious to be i’ Parlyment for their own benefit or for mine.”

“Well, but look at their programme,” aw said. “Theau munnot judge pa party by some o’ its members.”

“That’s quite reet, Jammy. But if aw judged ’em by their programmes aw’m afraid aw should do some on ’em an injustice”

“Heaw doesta mak’ that eawt, Sam?”

Helds Green "Old Sing"
Helds
Green Old Sing, August 7th, 1927.

“Becose aw think ’at some on ’em are better nor their programme. For instance, th’ mooist on ’em are Free Traders individually, but they’re Protectionists an’ hard task mesthurs i’ their public capacity. There’s a chap at th’ side o’ eawr heause ’at’s a strung trade unionist an’ as member o’ th’ I.L.P. He’s a very daycent, thrifty sort of a chap. He built a heause for hissel’ eawt o’ th’ store some years sin’, an’ aw dar’say it’s nearly paid for neaw. Th’ mooist o’ th’ repairs he does hissel’ unless summat on th’ slates is eawt o’ flunter. Then he engages somebody else. He gets this chap to do it for as little as he con an’ never bothers abeawt th’ standard rate o’ wages. In his public capacity as a trade unionist he’d object to onybody doin’ ony repairs except thoose ’at wur i’ th’ trade, an’ thoose must have th’ trade union rate o’ wages. As a member o’ th’ Labour party he believes i’ somebody else findin’ wark for th’ unemployed, but he does as mich of his own as he con. As members o’ their party they objected to a fair recognition o’ Lord Cromer’s valuable sarvices, but individually they dunnot object to a mon bein’ a member o’ Parliament, a secretary o’ one or more organisations, a journalist, an’ a public lecturer, an’ bein’ paid for o th’ lot.

“Individually they believe i’ liberty o’ conscience an’ perfect freedom of action, but collectively they compel men, women, an’ childer to become members o’ trade unions whether they want to do or not. Individually they believe i’ mendin’ their own clogs an’ solin’ their own shoon, but collectively they demand that Parlyment shall find work for th’ unemployed. Heaw are they goin’ to do it, an’ who’s goin’ to find th’ brass to pay for wark ’at isn’t useful or isn’t wanted? Aw say, let us ha’ practical politics an’ practical religion, Jammy.

”There’s a good deeol o’ talk neaw abeawt owd-age pensions. These Socialists are goin’ to give everybody an owd-age pension, whether they need it or not. But who’s goin’ to pay for it? Aw reckon it’ll ha’ to come eawto’ th’ taxes. An’ who pays th’ bulk o’ th’ taxes? They say ’at they’ll get it by graduated taxation. Everybody’s i’ favour o’ graduated taxation, if it con be so graduated as to miss them. Aw notice ’at th’ Labour party are agitatin’ for moore facthry inspectors. It appears ’at th’ trade unions con force th’ mesthurs to give moore wages for less heawers’ wark, they con force ’em to put a certain quality o’ cotton through, they con ‘force ’em to shop nob’dy but trade unionists, but they’ve no peawer to stop ’em runnin’ five minutes ’o’er time. So they want moore inspectors. Of course they’ll get ‘em, an’ it will be worth while watchin’ who get th’ shops. But who’ll ha’ to pay for these extra gentlemen walkin’ abeawt producin’ nowt?”

“Aw think aw con tell,” aw said, as he stopped for a reply.

“An’ who are they?” he ax’d.

“They’re th’ same folks as pay for eawr army an’ navy, an’ eawr Dreadnowts, an’ good for nowts; they’re th’ same folks as maintain th’ extravagance o’ eawr Civil Service an’ replace th’ waste o’ society. They’re th’ same folks as pay o th’ pensions an’ keep o th’ parsons an’ paupers. They’re th’ same folks ’at have to pay for everythin’ becose they’re th’ workin’ folks an’ sooner or later labour has to pay for everythin’.”

“That is so,” agreed Sam, “an’ it’s th’ knowledge o’ that what mak’s ’em sich ready followers o’ these professional politicians what are goin’ to cure every political disease by waggin’ their magic tongues. But we needn’t get excited abeawt ’em. Men have a habit o’ findin’ their own level. There’s a bit o’ grumblin’, aw know, becose th’ Government hasn’t reformed everythin’ an’ swept th’ Heawse o’ Lords away like a cobweb before neaw, but these grumblers forget ’at an army connot move faster nor th’ baggage van. Neaw this Government has a lot o’ baggage vans, an’ they’ll need a lot o’ pooin’ up, but there’s no casion for hurry. There’s no very pressin’ political grievance, an’ aw believe ’at th’ Government is tryin’ to deal fairly an’ squarely wi’ social reforms. Folks ’at are axin’ for surnmat ’at isn’t fair an’ square to everybody else desarve to be disappointed.”

“Hear, hear,” aw said. “If Socialism meeons owt ony moore nor what’s fair an’ square to everybody else, rich or poor, aw’m no Socialist.”

Wi’ that we shook honds, an’ Sam went his road up Brunley Lone an’ aw returned to Yelds Green.

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