Tuesday, December 9, 2014


By DR. EMERY BARCS  1947-8-28

THE trouble with 68-year old "Nancy" Astor of Cliveden fame is thai she always blurts out aloud what her more discreet Tory friends think but keep to themselves. Her latest indiscretion is to tell Americans that she doesn't care how many Jews are killed in Palestine; her only interest is the number of innocent British who are slaughtered. For that, Representative Emanuel Celler wants to bar her entry into the United States. (Lady Astor has since returned to London.)

In August, 1942, she shocked even Right-wing Commons members by stating: "I'm grateful to the Russians, but they are not fighting for us. They are fighting for themselves." Which was, of course, perfectly true, but very unpolitical to say publicly five years ago.

Nancy Witcher Langhorne, as she was born 68 years ago in Virginia, U.S.A., has never troubled to sugar-coat her opinions, has always thought it beneath her dignity. As a girl and as the wife of a certain Robert Shaw, she was an American aristocrat. She divorced Shaw in 1906, and married Waldorf Astor, the great-grandson of a German pedlar, who made millions out of furs, and real estate in America. Then, like her husband, became an English aristocrat. Her father-in-law was made a peer during the war, and her husband inherited the title. Her brother-in-law, Colonel John Jacob Astor, is the chief proprietor of the London Times.

She was the first woman to become a member of the House of Commons. Back in 1919, Plymouth (where the Astors have large steel interests) sent her into Parliament with a Conservative programme. She held her seat uninterruptedly for 25 years, and retired from active politics before the 1945 elections, which gave Labour a landslide victory.

Lady Astor's name will be mainly remembered in association with the Cliveden Set, a circle of reactionary, ultra-conservative, pro-Hitler-Mussolini-Franco appeasers and red baiters. On March 28, 1938, Sir Stafford Cripps said in the Commons: "The Cliveden Set is driving the Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain) into an international Fascist alliance."

Cliveden is a huge Thames-side mansion. Viscount Astor's father gave it to his son as a wedding present when he married Nancy 31 years ago.  The place needs a domestic staff of 100 to look after it. In 1942, when manpower troubles became acute, the Astors presented it to the nation. Important people in British and Foreign politics were invited there for week-ends. Lady Astor has always indignantly denied that her "Set" had a sinister influence on pre-war politics. She said that Communists invented the term Cliveden Set.

She was even more indignant when von Ribbentrop asked at the Nuremberg trials that Lady Astor and several of her closest friends should give evidence in his defence. Personally she is charming, courageous. In 1941, when Nazi bombs showered Plymouth, she fought the fires with complete disregard of her personal safety. One of her greatest admirers and most astute political opponents is Bernard Shaw.   Although retired from active politics, she is still considered one of the major forces in the British Conservative Party.

No comments:

Post a Comment