'Not a time for official whitewash'

[Editorial comment: Luton News, Thursday, July 31st, 1919]

The air is thick with explanation and apologia. They fall upon Luton like autumn leaves in Vallambrosa, but the general view appears to be that they are clever rather than convincing. To that delivered last week by Alderman Arnold is now added a statement at the Council meeting on Tuesday evening by the Town Clerk, who accepted responsibility jointly with the Chief Constable for the action of advising the Chief Magistrate of the town to leave his post and to remain away. The justification of this course, he says, was consideration of the public interest.

The Town Clerk has always practised saying exactly what he thinks, without prevarication or equivocation, but his observation that “we knew more than the wiseacres in the street” is hardly characteristic of his usual clarity of speech.

Without going at all deeply, as yet, into the question of responsibility, we repeat the view expressed in our last issue that the Council under Councillor Impey has lost the confidence of the people, and the time must come when the Mayor will be forced to consider his position in relation to the public life of the town.

So far there has been no sign whatever that the Corporation have properly or fully interpreted what are clearly the opinions held by the vast majority of ratepayers. Luton has become a byword up and down the country, a subject for jest in music hall and theatre; and this is no time for the application, in liberal doses, of official whitewash. We venture to believe that the people have seen such quantities of this used in regard to national affairs as to have made up their minds that it shall not be unloaded upon them in regard to their corporate problems.

This view, we think, received unexpected and exceedingly powerful support yesterday from Mr H. W. Lathom, in the course of the magisterial proceedings arising from the rioting.

“If the Corporation – which was a body without a soul to save or a body to be kicked – had shown,” said Mr Lathom, “the same admirable tact as had been displayed all through the trouble by the police, the outrage which had disfigured Luton would not have occurred.”

The Corporation must have known, he declared, that the whole town was seething for a month before the Peace Celebration took place and that trouble was expected. He also contended that nothing more self-accusatory could ever have been issued than the manifesto published after the events by the Town Council.

Mr Lathom, in his customary direct and pointed fashion, has in effect formulated the charge which the town as a whole alleges has not been answered by the Town Council. It is a charge which cannot properly be evaded; and the sooner it is faced in the fullest degree, the sooner will there be restored to the borough that measure of public confidence which is essential if the reputation of the town is to be regained.