From International Socialism (1st series), No.17, Summer 1964, pp.29-30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Patronage in British Government
Peter G. Richards
Allen & Unwin, 35s.
Patronage is one of the underworld regions of British politics. Often discussed perfunctorily, it is rarely written about: until his book appeared, there had been no serious study of the subject. Besides rectifying this omission. Mr Richards provides much useful information. For many years to come, his book is likely to be the standard work of reference.
In an interesting chapter on Honours, he discusses how they are used to fill party coffers. The practice started in 1891, and by 1911 the Liberal Party was netting £120,000 to £140,000 a year from this source, and, of course, this figure was doubtlessly exceeded in the heyday of Lloyd George and Maundy Gregory after the First World War. As for the present position, Mr. Richards makes an interesting speculation:
‘Conservative Honour Lists still contain baronetcies and knighthoods awarded “for political services” of an unspecified nature. No details are published about the sources of Conservative Party income ... The Party has a Central Board of Finance which is responsible to the chairman of the party organisation. According to McKenzie’s “reasonably informed speculation” this body is used to approach more wealthy supporters of the party for contributions of at least moderate size go direct to the central funds of the party. As the chairman of the Party organisation is well placed to recommend honours, suspicions may still remain.’
The basic criticism to be levelled at this book arises from the author’s basically uncritical approach. He sees that patronage is used to bolster the powers-that-be, he supports the present patronage system. Mr. Richards never considers the cast against hereditary rights and privileges. Yet, a growing section of political opinion is against retaining these trappings of Feudalism. I take it. for instance, that all readers of this journal would like to dump The Establishment and their Lordships in the Thames.
Last updated: 10 April 2010