Some political issues never get resolved, it seems, and those we consider urgent may be a lot older than we think. Britain and Europe? The author and journalist Stephen Graham has something to say; a surprisingly long time ago:
“England is a democracy, but what is the virtue of a democracy which languishes in ignorance? Of all countries Britain has now the broadest basis of franchise. We can vote, but what is the use of voting when you know nothing of the issues at stake, and when even the candidates are ignorant of affairs and try to win by making sentimental popular appeals to varying prejudices? England is low. It is a humiliating platitude. England stands far lower to-day than the level of her national sacrifices.
The civil service and army and police are carrying on the administration of Great Britain and Ireland, and foreign and imperial policy. Politicians and statesmen seem to be inferior in mind and training to the civil servants who keep the machine going. The gifts requisite for getting into power in England are not the same gifts which are needed for wise government. What the undistinguished have learned painfully at school our leaders somehow have missed. One could forgive the politician if he understood the elements of political economy. But the unforgiveable confronts us, and our new system of government has admitted to power people capable of abrogating penny post and abolishing penny-a-mile railway travel, and of raising telephone charges because the more the subscribers the more the expense. If they are capable of these elementary mistakes it is not surprising that they should have failed to ward off the great trade depression, and failed to help Europe to get together. The accessibility of markets in Europe does not interest politicians except in the most casual way.”
Stephen Graham. Europe – whither bound? Being Letters of Travel from the capitals of Europe in the Year 1921. Ch 16 London. Toronto, 1922
Courtesy of Project Gutenberg