[“Agriculture is crippled. Education, where is it? The unemployed are a blot on our social system. We do not want fiscal reform; we want commercial repose.”—Lord Rosebery at Leicester. 1]


I observed the Parrot dozing,
And his manner of reposing
Proved he’d read the speech at Leicester
By the Public Orator. 2
Yet his beak kept softly swaying
Just as if the bird were saying,
In his sleep, his ancient motto
That “Your food will cost you more!

“When the Yanks”, I cried, “are hustling,
When the German firms are bustling,
When we’re putting up our shutters
And they’re closing up each door,
When the clatter of their dumping
Sets our British workmen mumping,
Is it right to plunge in slumber,
Dreaming ‘Food will cost you more’?

“We have heard his lordship’s wailings
Over education’s failings,
Over poverty and squalor—
All the evils we deplore.
It were better now he gave us
Some solution that will save us
Than to go on vaguely talking
That ‘Your food will cost you more’.”

But the Parrot, without waking,
In my views no interest taking,
Only answered my suggestions
By a solitary snore.
Like the Earl, he wouldn’t worry,
Wouldn’t toil and work and hurry;
For by making any changes
Food”, he thought, “will cost us more.”


On 7 November 1903, Lord Rosebery addressed a meeting of 5,000 Liberals in the Palace Theatre, Leicester. He devoted much of his speech to discussing whether Chamberlain’s proposals were necessary and argued that there were more pressing needs than protective tariffs:

The second objection which Mr Chamberlain says is one of the only two that are urged against his scheme is that everything is very well as it is. No one, that I know, has ever said anything of the kind. No one has said so, and nobody thinks so. [. . .] How can we say that all is well? Agriculture, I admit, is in a crippled condition, though, perhaps, not much worse than agriculture in other parts of Europe. Education, where is that? When are we going to have a national system? Can any of us be blind to the hideous curse of intemperance which hinders our progress as a nation far more than any hostile tariffs? Are we so blind as not to see almost annually the great procession of the unemployed, due, I think, very largely to the almost insane migration from the country into the towns, but, nevertheless, a blot on our social system which will prevent the most animated optimist in the world from saying all is well.

And he argued that there was no need for the approach that Chamberlain had taken:

If he had come before the House of Commons last year and had announced that he had come to the conclusion that our fiscal condition demanded inquiry, more especially with respect to the prospective unity of our Empire, does any one suppose for one moment he would have been refused that inquiry? He might have achieved his object without all the discussion and the passion and the political pilgrimages that have occurred. I say he could well have done that. He had his mandate already, and I think it is to be deplored in the interests both of our commercial position and our Empire that he should have chosen to take the step he has taken. What was it we wanted? We did not want fiscal reform; we wanted commercial repose. We wanted to be allowed time to bind the wounds of the Empire [resulting from the Boer War] and to recover our commercial equilibrium . . .

Rosebery used ‘repose’ in the sense of ‘calm, stability’, but the Daily Express chose to use it in the sense of ‘sleep’.


See poem 14 fn 06.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict Valid CSS!