The futilities and the dangers of holding that "social reform can wait until after the war" are amply demonstrated by the present excitement in Britain over Sir William Beveridge's monumental report on social security. When the war began, Laborites were admitted to a Coalition Cabinet on condition that they refrain from raising "controversial" issues until after the war. Sir William, to put it mildly, has scattered many a cracker-crumb into the couch of Britain's political bedfellows. His ideas have won such widespread support that the Labor Party has decided to fight here and now for Parliamentary enactment of the new proposals.
Beveridge submits that all social insurance be placed in the hands of a single Ministry, and that the program of benefits be extended beyond anything ever before accepted as practical politics. His scheme will protect those it covers from every economics stress from childbirth to burial insurance: maternity benefits, unemployment insurance, accident payments, allowances for educating children, and a dozen or so others. These boons are not just gravy to be sopped up frm the public platter. Every pension is contributory, to be paid for largely from payroll taxes borne by the workers themselves. Beveridge cannot be accused of purveying bread and circuses.
All this has brought forth tremendous enthusiasm in the British Isles. For more than a week, news of the Beveridge Plan has monopolized space on the newsboys' placards, and every influential newspaper in the land has approved it at least in principle. Even in the Conservative "Times" war dispatches have been shoved back between the ads for Bovril and Player's Navy Cut. His Majesty's Stationery Office is swamped with requests for copies of the complex 300,000 word text Goebbel's propaganda mill has been forced by skillful B.B.C. publicity to ridicule rather than ignore.
Nevertheless, Goebbels may have something there, for it will be nearly impossible to force the new scheme through the present House of Commons. That House is controlled by the Conservatives, most of whom would scuttle the Coalition ship of state before approving so sudden a change in its course. The Liblabs (Liberals and Labourites) have given Beveridge's brain-child their unqualified support and seem determined to fight it out on this line all summer.
Now it's up to the Tories. If they persist in a "do-nothing" attitude, England may go through her most serious political crisis since 1911. British progressives have their first real domestic issue of the war, are determined to press it, and are solidly supported by the people. The Tory M.P.'s and their "two hundred percent fit" leader can either pass the Beveridge Plan and outrage their consciences, or reject it and anger their constituents.