Sunday, May 16, 2010

And who is Augustus Stryver?

As a coda to my last post, I have just been reminded of a little satire about the Liberal Nationals.

The Right Honourable Gentleman: A Satire was a book written in 1945 by Roger Fulford. It tells the story of Augustus Stryver, a young politician who is elected to parliament as a Liberal in 1929 but rapidly ditches his staunchly expressed views, especially on free trade, in favour of political advancement. In the events of 1931 he deviously repositions himself and secures his seat, then subsequently when the Samuelites left Stryver enters the government in the all important post of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Waterways and Bridges. The height of his career comes when his Minister dies and Stryver is chosen to succeed him, becoming The Right Honourable Gentleman. And then within a few months he is forced to resign after having an affair with his married secretary.

The novel is little remembered today, but The Word Cloud: best sellers of the past. 1946 suggests it was one of the better selling books of the year. It is biting but this is unsurprising. Fulford was no casual observer but a Liberal Party activist, standing several times for Parliament and later serving as Party President. Attacking the Liberal Nationals as unprincipled opportunists was a standard part of the Liberal attacks by this stage.

Stryver was in part based on Edgar Granville, MP for Eye from 1929 until 1951. (For confirmation see The Independent: Obituary: Lord Granville of Eye.) Interestingly the latter part of Granville's career followed a very different trajectory from Stryver's - he returned to the Liberals in 1942 and became one of the party's more left-wing MPs. He lost his seat in 1951 and joined the Labour Party, unsuccessfully standing for his seat again and later becoming a life peer.

Will this coalition produce such satires? Perhaps not because there are far fewer political satire novels written and read these days. But could there be an Augustus Stryver lurking on the government benches, preparing to discredit both parties involved?

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