Daily Express, Thursday, October 29, 1903
(By P. G. Wodehouse)
Freed from Ministerial fetters,
Writing contradictory letters,
I observed the ducal Parrot,
And a worried look he wore. 1
And to every well-meant query,
Looking sore perplexed and weary
He returned the same old answer,
That “Your food will cost you more.”
I said: “This vacillating
Is extremely aggravating;
Is it Liberal or Tory
You’re supporting in the war?
Do you think the Free Food Leaguer
Will for long be with you, 2 eager
To back up your shifty tactics,
Shouting, ‘Food will cost you more’?
his moral Joseph teaches
In inimitable speeches,
You are fluttering round in circles,
Asking which side you are for.
Cease these mystifying reelings:
Have you no decided feelings?”
“Food,” said he, “I think most likely
“Will, I fancy, cost you more.”
The “ducal parrot” is the Duke of Devonshire (pictured) and the “contradictory letters” are two letters from the Duke that were published on 20 and 28 October. In the first letter, which was read out at a Liberal Unionist meeting at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Duke stated it as his opinion that, insofar as the Prime Minister had said that particular opinions on economic matters should not be made a test of party loyalty, “it would be unwise to attempt prematurely to define the position of the party organisations in regard to fiscal policy”.
In spite of the Duke’s letter, the Newcastle meeting passed a resolution supporting the proposals of Joseph Chamberlain. This prompted the Duke’s second letter, in which he replied to a correspondent who had asked whether it would be desirable for Free Trade Unionists to rejoin the Liberal party. The Duke’s reply stated that “having regard to the proceedings at the conference at Newcastle, it may be necessary to reconsider the position of Liberal Unionists towards the question referred to.”2
The Daily Express, reporting on what it described as an “amazing letter”, asked what would become of the Unionist Free Food League, of which Devonshire had recently been elected president, if the Liberals and Liberal Unionists were to be reunited.