From the Founders: Hope for the GOP
photograph by Bob Capazzo
The following is a communication from Geoffrey Simmonds to fellow members of a small luncheon group founded here in 1991 that meets monthly to discuss politics, economics and world affairs. Simmonds is a native of Great Britain and educated at Harrow and Cambridge. He came to the U.S. in 1949 and became a citizen in 1954. A resident of Greenwich for forty-three years, he had been a trustee of both Brunswick and Greenwich Academy. He currently resides in Fairfield.
At our last luncheon, we talked to-gether about what the Republicans must do to stand any chance of becoming the governing party again. Some of you may have recently seen David Brooks on his usual Friday evening PBS spot, and also on PBS, Governor Bobby Jindall of Louisiana, recently elected Chair of the Republican Governors Conference. Both were extremely critical of Romney’s remarks about the “gifts” that Obama gave to certain constituencies shortly before the election. They both said the Republicans must get rid of the idea that many in the safety net are there by choice and are deliberately sponging off the system. Their attitude towards the electorate has to change.
Please go back with me to 1945 and the period thereafter in the UK. Britain had decided in 1940, when the five-year Parliament had expired, that they could not have an election in wartime and formed a coalition government made up of Conservatives and Liberals, which Labour refused to join saying it was a capitalist war they could not support. They did join after Churchill became prime minister in May 1940. After the European war ended in the spring of 1945, an election was called for July 5th. Churchill campaigned all over the country and was hailed as a national hero. But the electorate tossed him out, giving Labour a majority of 282 seats over the Conservatives.
Churchill moved out of Downing Street and went to his London home to lick his wounds and try to figure out what happened. This was the time when Mrs. Churchill suggested his defeat was a blessing in disguise. Churchill replied that if it was, it was certainly very well disguised! He asked Lord Beaverbrook to come and see him. A personal friend of Winston Churchill, he owned the Daily Express newspaper and had served the country well in 1940 as minister of aircraft production, when he ruthlessly swept away all barriers to fighter production. At this moment Beaverbrook was chairman of the Conservative Party. Churchill asked him to go and tour the country and visit all the major cities, and come back and tell him what the party had to do to regain office. Beaverbrook returned and told Churchill the party must do two main things: First, it must politically take two sharp steps to the left, and second, it must recapture the youth vote. He also advised the Conservatives they should not threaten to dismantle all that the Socialists had done, particularly their cradle-to-grave Health System, which had become the third rail of British politics. “Touch it at your peril!” he said.
In 1950, at the next general election, the Conservatives reduced Labour’s majority to eighteen seats. The electorate had had enough of Socialism and continuing rationing. After a year Labour decided their majority was too small with which to govern and went to the country again. The Conservatives were returned in 1951 with a twenty-six-seat majority. Churchill immediately abolished all rationing. In 1955 they won with a sixty-seven-seat majority and again in 1959, with a majority of 107 seats. They were in power for thirteen years. My father, who was swept aside in the 1945 election, told me that every so often the electorate will send one party or the other into the political wilderness to rethink its objectives, policies, etc. He said to me that when one party is in power too long, it ceases to lead and can’t even manage. It merely administers and becomes accident prone. At that point, he said, that party must go.
History, in most democratic countries, shows that one party never stays in power indefinitely, and that being sent into the political wilderness every so often is a purifying process. I feel confident the Republicans will reemerge in not too many years with fresh ideas that will appeal to a majority of the American electorate.
Simmonds spent twenty-five years in the aerospace defense business, was president and CEO, as well as chairman of Simmonds Precision Products, whose high-tech products were used in most aircraft built in the free world. His father was for many years a conservative member of Parliament. In 1948, when the Socialists threatened to nationalize industry, his father emigrated to the Bahamas and established his business there.