“The Press also should be a prompt and vigilant alarm bell” But … an opinion

It’s probably fair to say that 1941 was a testing year for the UK and in a speech to the house in July Churchill addressed the issue of how (specifically production) news was put about. Quite a few echos in 2016 so without apology perhaps we should bend an ear ?


SUPPLY. (Hansard, 29 July 1941)

We are often told that “the House of Commons thinks this” or “feels that.” Newspapers write: “The general feeling was of grave uneasiness,” “There was much disquiet in the Lobby,” etc. All this is telegraphed all over the world and produces evil effects. No-one has a right to say what is the opinion of the House of Commons unless there has been a Division. We suffer now from not having Divisions. We have Debates, to which a very small minority of Members are able to contribute because of the time. They express their anxiety and grievances and make our affairs out as bad as they possibly can, and these bulk unduly in the reports which reach the public or are heard abroad. These Members do not represent the opinion of the House of Commons or of the nation, nor do their statements give a true picture of the prodigious war effort of the British people. Parliament should be an arena in which grievances and complaints become vocal. The Press also should be a prompt and vigilant alarm bell, ringing when things are not going right. But it is a very heavy burden added to the others we have to bear if, without a vote being cast, the idea should be spread at home and abroad that it is the opinion of the House of Commons that our affairs are being conducted in an incompetent and futile manner and that the whole gigantic drive of British industry is just one great muddle and flop.