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Norwich Gazette
October 1904.

Sunrise: 7:20 AM
Sunset: 6:00 PM
Temperature: 65F

Bright and warm, with a refreshing breeze; clouding over later. Small chance of light showers in the evening.

National Issues & Events

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National Issues & Events

Post  God on Wed Mar 16, 2016 5:19 pm

1900

Imperial Jitters.
It is starting to become obvious that the Empire isn't an irresistible force. British industry is losing it's edge; other industrial powers have come close to equalling the 'workshop of the world'. The chill wind of competition has made some question the keystone to the previous centuries' economic growth – free trade. While currently feint, there are calls for greater autonomy for the white Dominions.

The current war in South Africa has made her military weakness obvious; abysmal leadership, outdated equipment and a shockingly poor level of physical fitness in would-be soldiers. The very fact that a few thousand Boer farmers are holding their own against the Empires' 'finest' is a source of national shame and worries many that rival powers may feel emboldened to attack.

A resurgent France, Britannia's old enemy? An expansionist Russia, moving through Central Asia and take the 'Jewel of the Empire', India? Perhaps the German Kaiser, with his modern factories, grey-coated ranks and declared desire for 'a place in the sun'. The United States may be a future threat; she has recently seized ailing Spain's remaining colonies. Even those Japanese need to be watched; they may be mere Orientals, but her modernisation has been most rapid...

Rising Democracy.

While there have been some reforms, the system of government still works as it did a generation ago; small cliques of peers, financiers and wealthy merchants making decisions in smoky clubs, on the grouse moor or around country house dining-tables. The media and 'public opinion' was essentially considered irrelevant.

However, there are signs of future conflict. The electorate is larger than ever, and increasingly literate and educated. New newspapers such as the Daily Mail attempt to persuade, not just inform. Politicians are increasingly feeling the need to actually talk to their voters; some do this grudgingly, while others embrace it, open to the new possibilities this offers. Increasing amounts of people are less willing to kowtow to peers, which means their position as rulers of the nation is starting to be threatened.

It is not a foregone conclusion that the country will evolve to a full democracy. The peers still have control, and with deft adaptation to these developments, could remain so for the foreseeable future...

Socialism.

The 'reds' are on the rise. Trade unions are growing in numbers and power, with skilled manual workers as it's backbone. Their agitation has gained some reforms; exceedingly timid by our standards, but outrageous curbs on 'freedom' from the viewpoint of the laissez-faire businessmen.

The squalid living conditions of the working class is getting increasing attention; there has been little improvement since Engels wrote of them in the 1850's. Once again, eyes look to the rising Germany and her system of worker's protection, which makes the British ad-hoc biased charity look mean indeed.

More dangerous is the threat from revolutionary groups. The country has long been a refuge for political exiles from Europe; their extreme views are gaining a hold on some. At the moment, they do little more than call for violent revolution, commit a few small-scale terrorist acts, then fall to police or soldier's bullets when cornered.

But to most, the biggest threat is the Labour Party. Recently founded by trade unions with a fully socialist platform, it has won a few seats in the most recent election. While many openly scoff at this, the wiser heads recall that Christianity had an equally modest start. At this point, it is not much more than a flea in the ear of the ruling class. But only time will tell if it will grow...


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Re: National Issues & Events

Post  God on Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:40 am

1904

General Election, 1900.
Nicknamed 'the Khaki Election' due to the fact it was held just after the defeat of the main Boer conventional forces [resistance would continue for another two years], the Party grandees perhaps feeling they could cash in on the surge of patriotism. This did not really materialise; the ruling Conservative - Liberal Unionist coalition lost a few seats, but still maintains a large majority and the Opposition is split. A notable 'first' is the election of two 'Labour' MP's - something which has naturally alarmed the Establishment.

Regionally, every local MP is from the two Government parties, with the exception of one from Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

Results:
Conservative - Liberal Unionist: 402 [-9]
Liberal: 183 [+6]
Irish Nationalist : 77 [-5]
Labour: 2 [+2]
Other: 6 [+1]

'Changing of the Guard'
It had to happen, eventually - logic stated this. Common sense should have prepared people for this conclusion. There were a few coded warnings in the press in the previous weeks. Yet, the very idea seemed to most to be... unimaginable. This contradiction came to a head for the population of Norwich on a sleet-ridden January night in 1901 when the Chief Clerk stood outside the Dragon Hall to announce - in traditional fashion - the death of Queen Victoria, aged eighty-one.

Usually, monumental events in history only show themselves to be monumental long after the event; but not this one. The people instinctively grasped that this was the end of an era; one which had taken a strong, prosperous nation and granted her dominion over a third of the globe, dominance of the seas and wealth beyond the wildest of dreams. Many Kine are lost, confused by this; almost like children shorn of their dominating, but caring mother. As the days and weeks pass, several can be seen looking at the printed photographs of their new monarch with puzzled frowns, occasionally muttering "The King" in uncertain tones - for almost none alive even remember a time which Victoria was not Queen.

Just over a year later, the elderly Lord Salisbury finally decides to retire as Prime Minister, succeeded by his nephew Arthur Balfour. An act of ultimate nepotism, opponents cry. Yet, 'Bloody Balfour' has shown to have mettle; staring down the opposition in the Commons, Irish Nationalists and the Boers alike. Perhaps too bloody; the Irish are becoming increasingly restive and many of the Boer War's mistakes are strongly linked to him.

Government policy has in effect not changed from the Salisbury era; it could be said Balfour's general policy is 'stately inaction'. More politically savvy people note his lack of activity may be due to Chamberlain and his Liberal Unionists; the Coalition is split on the issue of Tariff Reform, and the Prime Minister is desperately attempting to keep the factions from causing the government to fall.

A Great War?
Earlier in the year, tensions between Russia and Japan reached critical levels. The casus belli was a simple one: possession of the rich Chinese province of Manchuria. The Russians behaved in an imperious manner towards the Japanese, believing that as a 'yellow race' they wouldn't dare to resist a European power, and if they did - out of stupidity, obviously - they would not stand up to white soldiers.

They were wrong on both counts. Schooled in modern war and equipped by the best of what Europe had to offer; the Japanese weighed the Russian's threat on it's merits - and called the Czar's bluff. Millions of armed men clash over the hills and in the forests of Northern China; the Russians shocked to learn that 'mere Orientals' were more than a match.

The diplomatic headache was that both sides possessed allies: Japan's was the British, Russia's was the French. Truth be told, neither Paris or London wants war; relations between the two had finally become more cordial over the last few years. Both have prevailed on their allies not to request assistance, and so far this is holding. Then, two nights ago the Russians committed an act of sheer stupidity.

The Russian Baltic Fleet, en route to the Pacific, attacked 'elements of the Japanese Navy' in the North Sea. Several ships reported dodging torpedoes, or being fired upon. The question on how such a fleet could exist on the opposite side of the world was not apparently asked. The 'enemy fleet' turned out to in fact be the British fishing flotilla from Hull, a threat only to cod and herring.

As Britons seethed with indignation, the Russian Ambassador poured oil on the flames by suggesting the innocent fishermen were Japanese spies and covertly armed with torpedoes. Unfortunately, said comments ended up in all the evening newspapers. Anger has shifted into jingoistic fury; the Government today has mobilised the Army and have sent the Royal Navy to intercept the offending fleet.

It is now a question of 'who blinks first'. Will St. Petersburg grovel sufficiently to mollify wounded British pride? Will London let the Russians slip away, fearing French intervention? Or will both sides refuse to lose face, and start a war which could engulf the world?..

Poverty.
Occasionally, just occasionally a single book can change the political debate completely. In this case, it was titled simply 'Poverty'. Within, it described the atrocious living conditions for the working class in York in the final months of the last century. This was nothing new; the likes of Engels, Owen and Dickens had described them with far better skill than Mr Rowntree. What he did that was new was to tear to shreds with logical precision every trite excuse offered for their existence.

He showed with statistics that poverty was widespread and persistent, not mere temporary pockets. That it was not a product of drunkenness, laziness or moral failure from individuals. A welter of figures and charts, laying out the bare minimum income a family needed to merely physically survive - and more, showing that half of manual workers failed this lowest of standards. War Office statistics, showing that a third of working class recruits for the Boer War were rejected due to chronic malnutrition or disease, and that they were several inches shorter than their upper-class brothers. And Mr Rowntree showed on every step his data, painstakingly collected using the most modern scientific methods. It was damming - and irrefutable.

Truly, a bomb of paper and ink. Read by politicians, businessmen, reformers of all stripes; it ripped at the morals of the Liberal, the paternalism of the Conservative. A significant number now accept something has to be done. But what?..

Tariff Reform.
One answer was economic nationalism. The argument ran that while the Empire was open to all, the rest of the world was not. That foreigners were undercutting British business with unfair economic policies, such as quotas, subsidies, tariffs and dumping. It was this - the argument ran - which was causing the poverty described by Mr Rowntree. The solution, he said was easy; for a vast tariff wall to be erected around the Empire - one which took in a quarter of the globe and could produce everything it needed. Not only would this provide more, and better jobs to Britons, the tariff income could also be used in improving living standards for the poor and encouraging business by cutting taxes.

A heady brew, tempting to many - not least, the electorate. The agitator-in-chief was Joseph Chamberlain; wealthy industrialist, former Mayor of Birmingham, charismatic Unionist MP and perhaps the most famous politician in the land. Running a populist campaign against 'The Establishment' who were dead-set against both him and his cause. Joe's opponents retort that tariffs would hurt business and prosperity, by cutting the country from the major export markets and cheap sources of foodstuffs. That to retreat behind walls, away from the world was not only folly but distinctly unBritish.

Eugenics.
The most eminent scientist in the land, Francis Galton had another answer - eugenics. Inspired by his cousin Charles Darwin, Galton stated that it was not only possible - but preferable - to improve the human race through selective breeding. Normally, nature would weed out the 'unfit', but humans had the problem - in Galton's view - of our habit of 'protecting' such people; who end up letting loose similarly 'unfit' offspring into the world. His solution was to consciously encouraging the healthy, active and intelligent to breed more, while discouraging the weak, sickly and foolish to breed less. It would take time, he said; but could - and should - be done.

Galton's stature was both a bonus and a hindrance. The former because the public were now talking, thinking about science; 'Eugenic Clubs' and university chairs are springing up across the country - and beyond. The latter because other, less famous scientists are finding it difficult to question such a eminent man who had been right so many times before in his long life. At very least, he has managed - in a roundabout way - so crack, just a little the Victorian priggishness about the affairs of the bedroom. But who knows where this movement will lead...

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