Strong and Stable

Today’s Guardian has a letter from Dr David Blazey of Newcastle pointing out that Teresa May’s slogan ‘strong and stable’ is a cliche referenced by Galsworthy in The Forsyte Saga. The Guardian website illustrates the letter with a pretty picture of late Victorian poshness, but the quotation is in fact from a later instalment of the Forsytes, The Silver Spoon of 1926. It’s worth quoting at greater length:

Michael and Mr. Blythe sought the Mother of Parliaments and found her in commotion. Liberalism had refused, and Labour was falling from its back. A considerable number of people were in Parliament Square contemplating Big Ben and hoping for sensation.

“I’m not going in,” said Michael. “There won’t be a division to-night. General Election’s a foregone conclusion, now. I want to think.”

“One will go up for a bit,” said Mr. Blythe; and they parted, Michael returning to the streets. The night was clear, and he had a longing to hear the voice of his country. But–where? For his countrymen would be discussing this pro and that con, would be mentioning each his personal ‘grief’–here the Income Tax, there the dole, the names of leaders, the word Communism. Nowhere would he catch the echo of the uneasiness in the hearts of all. The Tories–as Fleur had predicted–would come in now. The country would catch at the anodyne of ‘strong stable government.’ But could strong stable government remove the inherent canker, the lack of balance in the top-heavy realm? Could it still the gnawing ache which everybody felt, and nobody would express?

‘Spoiled,’ thought Michael, ‘by our past prosperity. We shall never admit it,’ he thought, ‘never! And yet in our bones we feel it!’

England with the silver spoon in her mouth and no longer the teeth to hold it there, or the will to part with it! And her very qualities–the latent ‘grit,’ the power to take things smiling, the lack of nerves and imagination! Almost vices, now, perpetuating the rash belief that England could still ‘muddle through’ without special effort, although with every year there was less chance of recovering from shock, less time in which to exercise the British ‘virtues.’ ‘Slow in the uptak’,’ thought Michael, ‘it’s a bad fault in 1924.’

For a writer often dismissed as dated, Galsworthy has a disconcerting knack of being topically resonant

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