Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Postcard Of The Week : Balfour And Protectionism

I always think it is a pity that they don't have political postcards any more. Back in the early days of the twentieth century, if you wanted to make a political point to your Uncle Fred, you could seek out an appropriate postcard, pen a suitable curt message on the back and consign it to the post. One hundred years ago, there were a whole range of postcards representing a whole range of political viewpoints : you just plucked your argument off the display stand, stamped it and sent it. Over the decades, the practice fell out of fashion (although in the 1960s I do recall a particularly eccentric Professor of Philosophy who would send me postcards with his latest counter-arguments to my perfectly rational radical views). I suppose the modern equivalent is to post a YouTube video, but it just doesn't seem the same to me.

The postcard featured above comes from my collection and was postally used in 1904. It relates to the argument which, at the time, was destroying the Conservative Government led by Arthur Balfour. The Conservative Party was being torn apart by the clash between free trade and tariff reform. Balfour tried to be clever by allowing the chief proponent of tariff reform in his Cabinet, Joseph Chamberlain, to tour the country speaking in favour of protectionism whilst he and the rest of the Cabinet sat on the fence and waited to see what the electoral response would be (is there nothing new in politics?). The postcard shows Chamberlain in the water whilst Balfour and the rest look on undecided.

Balfour's attempt to stand back whilst others tested the political water ended in one of the biggest ever landslide victories for the Liberals in the 1906 election. Perhaps the moral of the story is it is better to be decisive and loose than to vacillate and be routed. Now, are you listening Gordon?

THE THOUGHTS OF CHAIRMAN BILL : Vacillation is not part of the vocabulary of my blogging friend Chairman Bill. 100 years ago he would be sending postcards out every day, his twenty first century equivalent is a blog well worth visiting.
RAMSEY MACDONALD AND A BOTTLE OF BEER : From the News From Nowhere Archives - more adventures in the land of the political postcard.



  1. I think Gordon would see treading water as a victory at the moment. It would be interesting to look at the way postcards, advertising and a whole raft of things that were done at that time, have changed since TV, computers, YouTube etc. And then there's that damned Twitter. Tried it, but it all seemed so inane. Lasted there only a couple of days longer than my toe-dip into Facebook. Must be generational.

  2. In agreement with John, I wonder what the heck I'm doing on Facebook. I'd have a lot more time to write if I weren't there reading about who had what for dinner. As for political postcards, I'm thinking the US Postal Service would frown on X-Rated language on cards to some of our politicians here. ;o)

    Also - it used to be pretty inexpensive to send a postcard - thus, the "penny postcard" name. Not so now. But I thoroughly enjoy Alan's collection. His post today reminds me of a postcard I found online of the Florida city in which I was born umpty-leven years ago. Sometimes it's just nice to remember...

  3. I love that idea- although my family's political views are so different we'd be sending each other post cards every week!

  4. The first two commenters here offer good points. I've no interest in Facebook, and as for Twitter, where one is limited to so few characters, it is no wonder the offerings appear inane. I did find a concern that is attempting to bring the short story back into vogue courtesy of Twitter...I'm not sure exactly how that works yet, but post cards can last whereas Tweets (we would not want to refer to them as Twits, would we?) are ephemeral...

  5. You should start your own line of political postcards, Alan. I'm sure there's an artist in our coterie who would be willing to assist with the drawings?

    @AngelMay - I find Facebook is good for relieving an overworked mind. Creativity needs respite and FB and other such social network sites serve that purpose. Though I must say, Twitter doesn't really hold my attention.

  6. Poetikat : I agree with you in relation to both Facebook and Twitter (the first I don't mind too much, the second I can't understand). As for my own range of political postcards - now that's an idea.

  7. Not quite political but in the inner city there are lots of places that have 'free' postcards usually made by interest groups on community, gay rights, freedom of speech etc. The closest we get these days I guess and a lot more interesting than pictures of the harbour bridge!

  8. I've been seeing a few political postcards at gas stations here in the US lately... they're usually ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, but they're often funny.

    I'll see if I can find some good ones and scan them for you.

  9. some groups still mount postcard campaigns - they aren't really probably of the same ilk as what you are revering to, and the postcards aren't nearly as interesting looking as this example.

    as for facebook, I was once quite resistant to the whole idea, but then my sister-in-law talked me into signing up, other than the time sink it does have a place and not to mention I love facebook scrabble (talking about time sink!!) twitter, don't get it, and don't want to!

    I prefer my tweets to come from those feathered friends flitting about!

  10. I am delighted to be receiving an ongoing education in history from Alan and my son (courtesy of the GCSE system).
    Personally I have found facebook ideal for following the gossip and ramblings of a few, select, friends. I also use it to play chess against a cunning and devious opponent.
    More recently I have sampled and begun to see the potential of twitter (it has been most beneficial during dull meetings at work and helped me with my avowed ambition to become tolerant of stupidity - a talent of inestimable benefit when dealing with edicts from above).
    Change is not to be feared but embraced?

  11. My mother-in-law was an avid postcard collector. I loved looking through them. She had many great politcal cards. She passed away nearly 10 years ago but this post brought back her memory, clear and close.

    I vote decisive and lose.

  12. Great postcard & history. As for FB & Twitter--I enjoy the former, have only a minimal relationship with the latter. I do think a lot of this is generational, & I suspect a fair amount of the content on Twitter actually does serve networking purposes--the fact that I don't quite get it shouldn't condemn it, because in my cursory exposure, I do see folks doing things that look interesting. Of course, there's inanity too, on Twitter for sure & on FB--& in books, blogs, magazines, on the radio etc. & I'm for sure with Mouse on FB Scrabble!

  13. Martin Says : "I also use it to play chess against a cunning and devious opponent".
    Not cunning nor devious enough as I am about to fall victim to the said Martin yet again.


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