Dictators (II)

Vernon Bartlett was three years away from his independent triumph at the 1938 Bridgwater by-election when he wrote his contribution to the If I Were Dictator series. His approach differed from that of the other participants - he wrote it as the dying words of a dictator, shot on the orders of his hardline rival ("Lamont").

The tone is insidiously reasonable: "I have tried to make my country safe for democracy." And the coup was quite welcome: "The members of the cabinet were only too glad to resign." Great public works were effected and only a few people were jailed: "Do you remember all the struggles with vested interests?" He was against censorship but could not allow "parasites" to "fill the papers with criticism".

Labour camps were helpful: "There's not a doctor or a magistrate . . . who is not the better for his six months." And elections were allowed, with voters chosen "by a much better trained board of selection"

This article first appeared in the 20 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Catholicism in crisis