Not quite yesterday, but in April 1912, the British Labour Party leader Keir Hardie proposed in the House of Commons that soldiers should be excused action that would pit themselves against trade unionists in dispute with employers.
THE TIMES next day poured scorn on the idea that soldiers could pick and choose between which orders they should obey and those they might ignore.The paper rejoiced in the fact that not one of Hardie’s comrades on the Labour benches seconded his proposal
Two years later when British Officers threatened to resign their commissions rather than come into conflict with Ulster Unionists and their co-partisans in Britain, THE TIMES changed its tune for the occasion.
(There are still knaves or fools who would have you believe that John Redmond secured Home Rule in 1914. The ultra right-wing MORNING POST declared, in March 1914 that “the Curragh Mutiny” had killed Home Rule, a verdict shared by Lenin, whom I think was then in Zurich.)
Coinciding with Hardie’s proposal, RMS TITANIC was on its maiden voyage and it is possible that THE TIMES, with its Editorial was delivered to the ship at Cobh, and earned approving chuckles from some of its First Class passengers.
For that was a time when Officers’ Wives got Puddin’s and Pies, while Soldier’s Wives got Skilly. .. There were not enough lifeboats for
Steerage Passengers, who died in disproportionate numbers.
(J Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the Titanic’s owners, the White Star Line, got away on a lifeboat and survived another twenty five and a half years. The Times published an Obituary, without mentioning the ship or The White Star Line.)
I am told that during the Coal Strike of 1984-1985 soldiers in uniform, covered by police greatcoats laid into striking miners, and that cavalry horses and riders similarly disguised used Cossack tactics.
The current leader of Britain’s Labour Party claims that he was named after Keir Hardie. He is clearly not a disciple of his predecessor. He is a Knight of the Bath, like the renegade Socialist Benito Mussolini. And indeed like Nicola Ceaucescu.
I leave you to speculate what will become of Keir tomorrow.