Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) - Chapter LVI

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Chapter LVI. A National Party

If one could heartily sing—

Sound the loud timbrel
O’er the Fiscal’s dark sea;
Truth it has triumphed,
And England is free —

then our troubles would be over, and our people would breathe more easily through every isle and every land where proudly floats our flag of liberty.

The first chapter was the opening of the subject, showing the rocks of the situation, the flooded rivers, and the boisterous seas — all terribly disturbing the political arena, and made far more difficult to deal with by the breaking up of parties.

It will have been seen that the writer in the previous notes had almost come to the conclusion in this time of a political chaos that none of the three parties named would be able to do justice to the present revolution of public thought and national sentiment.

Where the Conservatives fail is in that want of cohesion which they once so splendidly possessed. They have now a number of older and younger men of the Churchill class, who are too clever by half. They have not patience to wait. Office is their goal, and anyone standing in their way is a bitter enemy. This is not patriotism, but selfishness of the lowest order. What can Mr. Balfour do with such a following, and how is he to show fight with such a backing? More than this, some day soon it will be found that the Unionists can-not have two policies — one of the Government and one of Mr. Chamberlain. A man cannot serve two masters; neither can a party. Then, my readers may ask, what about the Liberal prospects? The answer is ready enough. Unionist differences have opened the road to office for them; lint what will they do with it when they have got it? Will it be Lord Rosebery or Mr. Campbell-Bannerman? Which policy shall it be — that of the noble lord and the greater England, or shall it be that of the latter and the lesser kingdom, with maybe a joining of the enemies of this country, and, ultimately, granting Home Rule? This country cannot and must not be broken up; therefore it will not do to let the latter have power. If one were assured that Roseberyites would predominate, one might have some hope; but where does it come in, for political promises are like pie-crusts — they are made to be broken.

Then some say trust the Labour — they are the coming men. This is not so plain. Besides, they have much to learn, and their leaders too often fall out, and too many of them are most anxious to get into Parliament at the workers’ expense. True, they have very good men amongst ‘them, prone to giving shows, and a little less ability than they imagine, who might learn something from those they are apt to despise — they are getting on, let them learn wisdom by experience; they have a noble mission, but until they are able to fulfil it we must have some one to govern. Who shall it be? The most likely seems to be a National party, who would at once refer the fiscal problem to a Royal Commission of experts, from whom alone can we expect an unbiassed opinion on this great and most important subject, and finally learn from them what would be best for the United Kingdom at home and beyond the seas. Going on these lines, and waiting for this with patience, who could so well fill up the gap as a new combination of the following: the noble Duke of Devonshire, Prime Minister; Lord Rosebery, Foreign Secretary; Sir M. Hicks-Beach, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Lord James of Hereford, Lord Chancellor; Mr. Asquith, Solicitor General; Mr. Ritchie at the Board of Trade; Mr. Bryce at the Education Office; and Sir Edward Grey, Colonial Secretary; together with a number of the able tradesmen in the House of the class of the members for Colne Valley to fill in many of the offices, instead of as to-day, when men get positions in the Government for which they have only political qualifications, and the consequences are that the country has to suffer. Lawyers and professionals, when such alone, are often a danger to the State, and should always be carefully avoided when better men can lie secured.

These are a line of gentlemen who would be able to give some good account of themselves, and, whatever else, would always be for the State and not for themselves. In ordinary games the plan is to select the best men. The cricketers whom we have sent out to Australia were chosen because of their worth, and when the test matches are played their opponents are the best side the colonies can produce, and by this means the greatest results are achieved.

Simple and correct as this is for other purposes, one can hardly hope for so much common-sense in politics. There are too many human passions and desires to gratify, too much vaulting ambition to serve, and too many interests at work (individually and otherwise), that one almost despairs of finding one universal and wise plan to help the people. All that can be done is to wait for the tide, and have your boat trim, so that you may be ready to ride on to fortune, not for the party, but for the State, of which we form but a part, and the greater happiness and more universal prosperity of mankind. If, at this time, such a team cannot be got together, the writer, with others, will either have to stick to the old or throw in their lot with what comes to hand and may be considered the best means of securing the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Of course, if Mr. Chamberlain wins all previous prognostications are at an end, and the hon. gentleman’s proposals are “the only way,” and if all he promises comes true, then we may all rejoice in this universal redemption, and in a salvation which has saved a nation, consolidated an empire, secured English manufactures for the towns, and opened up a better prospect for the land, on to which the people may go with some reasonable hope, and cheerfully leave the congested districts, in which are many dens of suffering, misery, and want.

Mr. Winston Churchill has now gone quite over to the Liberals.

Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden

Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) - Chapter LVI


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