[Sir H “C.-B.” 1 at Bolton gave no serious arguments, no facts and figures, but attacked Mr Chamberlain’s proposals with such phrases as “Most reckless states­manship—a wicked slander—a monstrous assertion—the depth of political profligacy—a game of bluff.” 2]


Once again the Parrot waited
On the fence that he vacated,
Just to startle folks at Bolton
With ill prophecies galore.
He seemed confident of nothing,
Save that somebody was bluffing,
And that somehow it would happen
That “Your food will cost you more.”

He was reasonably certain
We were ringing down the curtain
On the Empire, and that trouble
Most unpleasant was in store:
While his personal opinions
On our oversea dominions
Were displayed in his assertion
That “Your food will cost you more.”

Said I, “Pardon the suggestion,
But when speaking on a question,
Do you think that it’s convincing
Facts and figures to ignore? 3
Language largely adjectival
Will not aid in the revival
Of the fast-decaying libel
That ‘Your food will cost you more.’

“If your fence you must abandon,
Find some firmer ground to stand on,
For a string of strong invective
Will not win the fiscal war. 4
And the man who starts abusing
Is the man who feels he’s losing.”
But the bird so stodgy-podgy
Said “Your food will cost you more.”


Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908) (pictured) was a Liberal politician and future British Prime Minister.


Campbell-Bannerman addressed a meeting of Liberal supporters in the Grand Theatre, Bolton, on 15 October 1903. The Government, he told his audience, had been in power for eight years, with an overwhelming Parliamentary majority,

and yet the result is this, as declared by their principal spokesman [. . .] that the Empire is on the verge of dissolution. It is on the point of going to pieces, and if you do not work a great revolution in the accepted fiscal policy of the country its unity cannot be maintained. A most monstrous assertion [. . .] If it was true it was the most reckless statesmanship to have proclaimed it [. . .] If it was not true [. . .] It was a wicked slander on the mother country and the Colonies alike. [. . .] this assertion remains as a record of the depth to which political profligacy can fall.



I do not propose to recite to you to-night the figures by which this happy condition of our trade is proved. They have been given freely, and are accessible to all. [. . .] I do not intend to overwhelm you with statistics. Statistics have been given abundantly and effectively, and I think the country has begun to digest them.


The Times’s editorial opened:

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman has been a long time in public life, but he has not learned the elementary lesson that the violent expression of private prejudices and antipathies is not quite the same thing as argument. He lost his temper yesterday somewhere on the way to Bolton, and a large part of his speech consisted of ranting and scolding.

As an example of Campbell-Bannerman’s oratorical style, after asserting that Balfour’s proposals for a retaliatory tariff were not a cure for slackening trade, but a palliative, he concluded, to cheers from his audience:

Therefore we may take it that “retaliator” rhymes with “palliator”.

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