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Road Speed Classic

David Low (1891-1963)



Pen and ink

12 ¼ x 18 ¾ inches

Manchester Guardian, 28 April 1953

The Illustrators. The British Art of Illustration 1900-2018', November 2018-January 2019, No 104

In this cartoon, published in the Manchester Guardian, the Conservative government celebrates the passing of its contentious Transport Bill, which would receive Royal Assent on 6 May 1953, with a victory lap of the House of Commons. The Transport Bill was successfully piloted through the House by the Minister for Transport, Alan Lennox-Boyd, pictured here behind the wheel. Beside him sits Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his robe of the Order of the Garter, for which he was nominated just 4 days before this cartoon was published, flowing behind him. The Transport Bill of 1953 was a response to the Transport Act passed in 1947 by Clement Attlee’s Labour government as part of a wider agenda of nationalisation. Attlee can be seen here as a reluctant passenger in Lennox-Boyd’s speeding Transport Bill. Under the terms of the 1947 Act, the railway network, long-distance road haulage and various other types of transport, such as canals, sea and shipping ports and bus companies, were nationalised and handed over to the newly created British Transport Commission. When the Conservatives returned to government in 1951, they set about the reversion of much of Labour’s nationalisation. The 1953 Transport Bill abolished the Railways Executive Committee and established autonomous area boards. These boards were empowered to set fares and seek the maximum charge. The Act also re-privatised much of the road-haulage industry and abolished the 25-mile limit imposed by the 1947 Act on the operation of goods vehicles by private hauliers. The Bill had faced considerable opposition, not least from the Labour politicians who were influential in the creation of the 1947 Bill. Pictured in this cartoon are two such objectors, Herbert Morrison, who had served as Deputy Prime Minister under Clement Attlee, and James Callaghan, who had served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport during the passing of the 1947 Transport Act. His term had seen important improvements in road safety, notably the introduction of zebra crossings, and an extension in the use of cat’s eyes. Looking on from the Speaker’s Chair is William Morrison, Speaker of the House from 1951 to 1959.

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