Corporation 'out of touch with the people'

As the impasse between Luton Town Council and the local branch of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation came to a head over the use of Wardown Park for a drumhead memorial service, The Luton News (July 17th, 1919) made its observations on the situation. In an editorial comment it said:

Luton will join with the greater part of the country on Saturday in celebrating peace, and if the weather gods are kind there is every prospect of a day which will leave its mark on the minds of the people and the history of the town. It is, therefore, regrettable that the merest shadow should fall across an unprecedented festival, and it is deplorable that the shadow should be caused by the non-representation in the official rejoicings of the men who in the main rendered possible the attainment of peace.

We have refrained from comment on this matter hitherto in a desire not to prejudice the possibilities of a reconciliation even at the last moment, but there appears to be, unfortunately, not the least likelihood of this. In so far as the celebrations will be depleted of representatives of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation in pursuance of a mandate from its national conference on such questions as unemployment and inadequate pensions, the borough is in no sense chargeable with the responsibility.

Luton, by and through its various organisations, has shown a true desire to study to the utmost the claims of the men who bore the brunt of the fray or of the dependents whom they left behind to mourn, and no complaint has been levied on that score. But to the extent that the situation has been worsened by the eleventh hour withdrawal of the Comrades of the Great War, in protest at the treatment meted out to the DS&S, no such satisfactory claim can be registered.

There can be no question that the Corporation, in refusing the use of Wardown Park to the Federation for the purposes of a sacred memorial service in tribute to their comrades who have fallen in the Empire's cause, have aroused an intense wave of sympathy with the organisation affected. Precedent was not, in our opinion, a safeguard for such a decision on such an occasion, for the returned servicemen are on a sound basis when they contend that the function which they are arranging has no precedent in history.

The Federation may be, as the Council's letters claimed, a sectional body, but circumstances alter cases – and they altered this one. The men who have sacrificed their all in defence of liberty were drawn from all sections; and it has further to be remembered that in this service the Federation were anticipating the cordial co-operation of the churches as they had already secured that of the clergy of the town. The broad outlook of the gentlemen of the churches is in refreshing contrast to the attitude of the civic authority.

Lady Wernher has come to the rescue and has offered a way out of an unpleasant impasse by the offer of Luton Hoo for the memorial service. It is an action on the part of Luton's Lady of the Manor at once characteristic in its broad-mindedness and typical of her tact and sympathy.

Pope's Meadow, offered by the Council as an alternative, has facilities in its sloping banks which are not equalled by any other town site; but in the glorious setting provided by Luton Hoo Park, with kindly Nature supreme and stately, the tribute to those whose names are entered on the scroll of fame will gain in grandeur and solemnity.

We venture that Sunday's demonstration will provide the surest of evidence to the Corporation that in their decision not to allow the use of Wardown they were sadly out of touch with the people whom they are assumed to represent.