“Look here!” said William. “Everyone’s talkin’ about better conditions an’ shorter hours an’ things, an’ what I want to know is what’s goin’ to happen to us?”
“What about?” said Henry.
“Well, everyone else is goin’ to get a jolly good time after the war, but no one’s thinkin’ of us. Jus’ ’cause we’ve not got a vote or anythin’ we’re not goin’ to come in for any of it. What about shorter hours an’ more money an’ all the rest of it for us? I bet we could do with a bit of freedom from want an’ fear, same as anyone else. I bet I wouldn’t feel free from want – not really, not honestly free from want – without six ice creams a day.”
- Number: 25.7
- Published: 1945 (1944 in magazine form)
- Book: William and the Brains Trust
- Synopsis: The Outlaws publish their agenda for social change.
The 1942 Beveridge Report was the manifesto in which William Beveridge identified five “Giant Evils” of society (squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease – he had clearly not met Hubert Lane) and recommended the creation of a public health service free at the point of delivery. (Eat your heart out, Donald Trump.)
The Outlaws feel left out of his grand plan. It seems as if it’s marketed purely for grown-ups. So, in the face of this radical and transformational document that took a team of economic experts 18 months to produce, the boys decide to produce their own agenda for social change, The Outlaws’ Report: “Let’s go to your house, Ginger. It’s the nearest.”
“We’d better not ask for too much,” said William, “or we may not get it. We’ll ask for as much holidays as term. That’s only fair. Well, it stands to reason that, when we’ve wore out our brains for, say, three months, we oughter have three months for our brains to grow back to their right size again. Well, you’ve only gotter think of trees an’ things,” vaguely. “They’ve got all winter to rest in. Their leaves come off at the end of summer an’ don’t come on again till the nex’ summer, an’ I bet our brains oughter be as important as a lot of ole leaves.”
The Outlaws, deeply impressed by the logic of this argument, assented vociferously.
The document is quickly drawn up on a piece of paper ripped out of Ginger’s Latin exercise book – and with commendable political nouse, as well: “We’d better not ask for too much, or we may not get it. We’ve gotter keep somethin’ for schoolmasters to teach. “Hist’ry isn’t bad,
an’ English isn’t bad, ’cause ole Sarky can’t see what you’re doin’ at the back.”
Then they confront the dilemma of how to put their policies before Parliament. “There’s only one Member of Parliament round here, and he’s been mad at us ever since we tried to turn his collie into a French poodle.”
They decide to slip it into the briefcase of Major Hamilton, a War Office official taking leave in the village, labelled “Pleese Give to Parlyment”. Sure enough, the Major’s car departs carrying the report, but unfortunately William is still clutching the papers he removed to make space for it.
The Outlaws are dismayed to learn that the briefcase containing their magnum opus was stolen (“I bet it was our Report they were after really!”), but Major Hamilton was surprisingly grateful to learn that William had abstracted some of the most sensitive and important papers first…
Appendix: The Outlaws’ Report
1. As much hollidays as term.
2. No afternoon school.
3. Sixpence a week pocket munny and not to be took off.
4. No Latin no French no Arithmetick.
5. As much ice creem and banarnas and creem buns as we like free.
6. No punnishments and stay up as late as we like.