THROUGHOUT their terms of office during the 1930's, neither the National Government nor the Conservative Government had given any indication that they were capable of finding any solution to the unemployment problem. Indeed, until war came, no solution was found. Even as late as the autumn of 1939, three years after the Jarrow marchers had brought home just what it meant to be out of work without hope, Wigan, where the picture on the left was taken, was still left with 10 of its 40 pits idle. In a town of 85,000 people, some 9,500 employable men and women11 per cent were out of work. But for the war, and its demands for manpower and womanpower, they would probably have remained so.
The General Council, powerless though they were to implant Keynes's ideas in the minds that made the vital decisions, vigorously used the time honoured methods of mass meetings as well as trying in talks with Government to get top level action on the unemployment problem.
Early in 1933 they organised a massive national demonstration on unemployment in 21 major cities up and down the country and in London's Hyde Park. However, their main task in these years was to convince the Government that it was responsible for the level of economic activity in the country. In July 1939, for example, the General Council met the Prime Minister after a decade of unparalleled unemployment to argue the case for a National Planning Board which would have the continuing function of "making a careful and detailed investigation of the unemployment situation in all its aspects, and of drawing up and submitting proposals for dealing with the situation as revealed by its investigations". The Prime Minister accepted that there might be a case for a purely advisory body indeed, it had been in his mind for some time, but the reason he had not yet put it into effect "was due to very heavy pressure of other business". He hoped the meeting with the deputation would serve to remind him of the importance of the matter.
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printed 24 May 2013 at 09:02 hrs by 184.108.40.206