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Prophet in Battledress - 1942

Richard Acland 1942

Sir Richard Acland, M.P. for North-West Devon and now serving as a lance-bombardier in the Royal Artillery, is featured in a Christmastide interview by a special correspondent appearing in a current issue of the 'Methodist Recorder'. The article describes Sir Richard as a 'prophet of goodwill in battledress... bold enought to echo in the House of Commons the claim of the pulpit through many a year that only Christianity fearlessly and honestly applied can bring us peace and goodwill." Sir Richard is stated to be becoming known far beyond his native Westcountry. His books 'Unser Kampf' and its later development, 'The Forward March' are being widely read and discussed. England may yet have to listen to this politician, adds the writer, who classes Sir Richard as a fighter - a man who knows what he fights for and loves what he knows.

Three Hundred Years

For 300 years the Aclands have counted in the Westcountry, continues the writer. Sir Richard, the 15th holder of a baronetcy created in 1642 for services in the Royalist cause, is the ninth head of the family to sit in Parliament. His ancestors originally landlords of the old school, moved in their political faith in successive generations only one direction, to the Left. 'In the middle of the eighteenth century my family were good old Tories," Sir Richard said, 'but they came over to Liberalism in the nineteenth via Peel. Since then we have always been on the side of the people.' Sir Richard's
grandfather in Mr Gladstone's last Administration was President of the Board of Education, 'The Recorder' continues. His own entry into politics came in 1929, when he was the unsuccessful Liberal candidate for Torquay and Barnstaple. In 1931 he again contested, and again failed, but four years later was returned to Parliament. Sir Richard wanted a 'Popular front,' not as a political universale remedy but as the only effective form of fighting what he believed to be an utterly immoral foreign policy. He held the foreign policy immoral because it did not express what he insists is the heart of the Christian ethic - to love your neighbour as yourself.

The Core

Having found his bearings in modern politics, Sir Richard, from the time of the crisis which began at Munich and ended in the outbreak of war, realised the destination for which he had set out. The core of the matter - the really vital thing - was the private ownership of our great resources, he decided. He did not mean by this to challenge the right to 'property' but the right to own share certificates or other documents of title to the great mass of our national resources. 'Our cardinal error lies in creating an environment which inevitably brings the self-seeking element to the top,' he declared. Offering no guarantee of success if his ideas were adopted, Sir Richard said that if the nation decided to make the change in its economic structure they might or might not succeed. 'It would merely break the present guarantee of failure,' he added, 'a great deal will depend upon those who have been the leaders of the new movement. If it has been led by self-seeking and self-centred men it is likely to fail, but if we have been led upward by Christian ministers and layment of high character there will be some real hope of success.'


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