J.C. Squire – now of course Sir John Squire – sets a competition in which you are to write as Queen Victoria to Lord Beaconsfield (Disraeli) about Lytton Strachey’s book about her. It’s an odd choice, given that Strachey is only a year or so dead – and also given that Squire had just been knighted by her grandson! Victoria’s letters had started to be released not long after her death (oddly so, in that one can’t imagine it now, even if they were heavily censored) and were striking for their use of emphasis. Published exchanges between Disraeli and Victoria existed, but the point is to satirise Victoria’s style.
The B competition, however, is far more modern and blatantly political-satirical in intent, in that it asks for twenty lines either about the Government front bench OR the Opposition front bench. The Government consisted of Macdonald, a few other Labour MPs, the Conservatives, and the ‘National Liberals’. The opposition was a Labour rump. Neither was much admired by the entrants, but then they were to be represented in the style of Pope. The prize-winners are Yury and Little Billee.
They were to hear Attlee’s name again …
The Prime Gyrator, is, of course, the hapless Macdonald. Faithless Philip is Snowden.
Here’s a picture of members of Macdonald’s extraordinary Cabinet taken after the 1931 election:
Left to right: Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister (Conservative), Neville Chamberlain (Conservative), Jimmy Thomas (Labour), Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading) (Liberal, replaced by Sir John Simon within two months), and Samuel Hoare (Viscount Templewood) (Conservative). Front row (left to right): Philip Snowden (Labour, by 1933 ennobled and resigned), Stanley Baldwin (Conservative), Ramsay MacDonald (Labour), Herbert Samuel (Liberal) and Lord (Edward) Stanley (Conservative). It’s quite a selective group: by no means all the Cabinet (and Stanley was not at this point a member).
A little disdainfully, Squire finishes thus:
‘Good enough, but Strube does better than either.’
Strube was the highly-paid Daily Express cartoonist – Sidney Conrad Strube (1892-1956) – there’s a good article about him here. He had in fact produced a calendar just before Christmas 1932, for 1933, that proves Squire’s point: