March 14th 1898
Chamberlain Returns For A Third Prime Ministerial Term
Addresses the Empire with the Queen. Speaks on Social and Foreign Policy at Westminster.
Words by Arthur Lambert
Joseph Chamberlain, leader of the Radical-Liberal Party took up the office of Prime Minister for the third time yesterday following a landslide victory against his Conservative opponent, Lord Salisbury. Despite a surprisingly strong showing in the Overseas States, particularly in South Africa and British America, managing to sweep Ontario for the first time, the Conservatives secured only 41% of the vote. The Rad-Libs swept Australia, Wales and Scotland clean while only the staunch Tory and Whig strongholds of the Southeast, East Anglia and the Midlands were denied in England. Also of note were the Rad-Lib victories in North England and Greater London, were their alliance with the Independent Labour Party proved vital to success. Shortly after the result was announced, Lord Salisbury revealed his intentions to retire from public life... [see more, pages 2,3,4,6]
Mr. Chamberlain, after visiting Buckingham Palace to request the forming of a government, joined Her Royal and Imperial Highness Queen-Empress Victoria, in addressing the entire Empire simultaneously via a Wireless Radio broadcast! The seminal speech, heard by over two hundred million people was the first of its kind. The nation’s two leaders praised the marvels of modern technology that allowed them to speak, as Her Majesty put it, “To every subject from the bankers of London to the Bushmen of Zululand”. They also praised the British ingenuity behind the technology, giving particular praise to Sir Donald Percival-Smith and his groundbreaking heavier-than-air flight in February at Dover… [broadcast story continued, page 5]
Later in the afternoon, the new Prime Minister made a far less grandiose speech at Westminster to journalists, discussing his party’ intended policies for the coming term. Chamberlain mostly rounded up his campaign speeches, declaring that his vision for the country had been “vindicated at the ballot box”. He paid particular attention to social and foreign policy, attacking what he called the “twin evils of the Tory-Whig alliance [the Conservative Party]” that of “olive branch social reform to placate the masses” and “Lord Salisbury’s so-called ‘splendid isolation’”. He revealed future plans for social reform, including a massive building programme to give the working-class cheap, affordable housing, improved state pensions and medical insurance, and the re-initiation of the Colonial Education Programme, cut short by Salisbury’s government in 1895. Chamberlain said on the matter “This Empire, this global United Kingdom that we proudly call home should be an example to all, as a civilising hand across dark lands, that does not exploit but nurtures and teaches the savages of this world. Lord Salisbury twisted this aim, laid down by my predecessor Lord Byron, father of my party and this Empire, to nothing but jingoist gain, no better than Monsieur Napoleon’s enslavement of Indochina or King Leopold’s rape of the Congo… The people have once again chosen the Radical-Liberal Party because they know we demand the best of the Empire, and shun petty, selfish gains in the name of enlightenment”.
The Prime Minister then went on to discuss foreign policy, reasserting Britain’s role as head of the Commonwealth of Nations. “The Commonwealth”, said Chamberlain “unlike Napoleon’s Latin Monetary Union which stands only for French economic gain, is a true fellowship of free nations, united together in the duty of prosperity and international peace”. He went on to denounce what he saw as Conservative dereliction of duty, sighting the conquest of Abyssinia, a Commonwealth member at the time, by French and Italian forces last year as the perfect example. “Our friend, the Emperor of Abyssinia, a fellow Christian and dedicated moderniser, who fought for years to bring his nation into the civilised world is now an exile here in London because our isolation was so splendid. His people are persecuted and forced to convert to Catholicism by Papal agents, little better than Medieval Inquisitors. His people are worked to death for Italian gain, backed by French arms and we have done nothing! This so-called Italian Federation, little more than the Vatican’s puppet, which in turn is Napoleon’s puppet, is the bread and butter of France’s Latin Union; if Britain, as the head of the Commonwealth does not oppose this insidious force at every turn, then who will? A crippled United States? Napoleon’s bedfellow in Vienna? The statelettes of Germany? Even Russia, the sleeping the giant does not stir as the French carry out their whims. No, it must be the Empire and the Commonwealth, we must take up our place as a world leader in the name of both Imperial and international interests”.
Prime Minister Chamberlain also issued public support for President Lee on his stance towards Spain following the suspected sabotage of CSS Alabama in February at Havana Harbour. He again mentioned France, Spain’s ally, warning them not to intervene in “Caribbean matters”, possibly hinting at British military support for the Confederacy in the event of war.