Let me say at once that this book can be read with both enjoyment and profit even by those who never heard before of its subject, Fred Jowett. This is not a biography intended merely for a small admiring circle. It deserves--and should find--a large public. We have at last a Labour Government in power with a massive majority. What is the history of the Labour Movement? What kind of men pleaded its cause and shaped its policy? What was it like to be one of the early Labour leaders and Members of Parliament? These and similar questions will be in many minds now. And this book supplies the answers. It is in fact a most timely work.
I wish I had known Fred Jowett intimately--and I have been calling myself a fool for not knowing him better, ever since I finished reading this biography--but truth compels me to declare that although we both knew a good deal about each other we were only acquaintances. To begin with, he was thirty years my senior, and was a tremendous local character, the firebrand of the Council, when I was still wearing sailor suits and whipping tops. Then again, although most people seem to imagine that if I do not still live in the West Riding then I can have left it only a few days ago, the fact is that I quitted Bradford early in September, 1914, when I joined Kitchener's Army, and apart from Cambridge vacations in 1919-20 and odd visits, I have never lived there since then; and have actually spent more of my life as a citizen of London than of Bradford. And I fancy that so far as our native city was concerned, Jowett and I played a sort of Box-and-Cox game. But I can remember him, out of my boyhood, in his early middleage, as a short, rather shock-headed, peering chap, who showed surprising confidence and strength as a public speaker; and I can remember him even better, in his last days, as a tiny, frail, but indomitable old man,
His life touched mine, years ago, in odd ways unknown to his biographer here. For instance, you will read how it was Jowett who first urged the feeding of ill-nourished Schoolchildren. Now my father, who knew Jowett well, was the headmaster of a large elementary school in Bradford. It was situated in a poorish neighbourhood, though called, with some irony, Green Lane School. And it was at my father's school that the first children in this country received school meals, and we knew all about it at home because this piece of social service, considered a revolutionary step then, attracted a good deal of attention in both the local and national Press, with the further result that photographs of my father weighing some children were widely published. So I owe to Jowett certain hours of excitement and . . .