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THE DECAY OF TORYISM
satisfactory ending had been reached, they were of course anything but pleased at having to pay a very large bill. As a matter of fact, however, this lamentable war was probably inevitable-it was the direct result of Mr. Gladstone's policy in 1881, when, quite ignorant of South African affairs, he made peace after the disaster of Majuba.
In addition to the effects of the South African war, the enormous increase of wealth, in many cases notoriously the result of speculation,-the disappearance of the old class of landlord, and the appearance of the new; and finally, the dissemination of socialistic teaching—all of these have combined to do the Tories harm.
Of late years the Radical party, which contains a number of first-class mimes, has thoroughly mastered the art of playing to the gallery; whilst the Conservative, a less clever company, have entirely failed to present any connected entertainment at all, being content for the most part to try and appropriate some of the Opposition troupe's business and milder gags. At the same time, they have most unwisely continued to present Tariff Reform, which, whatever its merits, Is palpably a failure with the electorate, whose palates have been so adroitly tickled by the highly spiced fare provided by more clever if less scrupulous politicians.
As has been well said: "To hold our own, we must know with whom we have to combat-we must be fully alive to the consequences which will ensue upon
our turning back in the day of battle. If we never prosecute this inquiry; if we remain ignorant of the devices of those opposed to us; if, in the false security of a proud self-sufficiency, we leave our gates open, and our territory unguarded, fall we Forewarned, as the proverb says, is forearmed; but if we neglect this caution, if we seek no information respecting those who seek our destruction, if we remain utterly careless and indifferent as to the results which will accompany their success, what must the end be?"
Lack of keenness has for many years now been apparent in the Unionist ranks-very different from the zeal which is constantly exhibited by the Radicals. In addition to this, the Radicals are far more energetic, and ready to throw their whole energies into the fight-indeed, the enthusiasm displayed by many of their rank and file is extraordinary as compared with the somewhat apathetic attitude of their opponents.
An amusing if rather malicious instance of this was the Radical engine-driver who, having been told that Mr. Balfour when speaking was particularly sensitive about noise, drove his engine up and down, emitting the while piercing whistles, on a line which chanced to be close to the hall where the leader of the Opposition was delivering a great speech.
One of the salient characteristics of the old Tories was their dogged determination; and, notwithstanding their antiquated ideas and perhaps narrow views,
AN APOLOGETIC PARTY
During the last
they seldom lacked fire or courage. two decades, however, the whole spirit of the Conservatives seems to have changed, and they have, it seems to me, become rather an apologetic partypleading, as it were, that they are just as anxious for reforms as the Radicals.
From an altruistic point of view all this is no doubt very laudable, but a perpetual if well-ordered retreat has never yet secured victory.
A successful general must build his fame on his advances rather than on his retreats-on what he has attained rather than on what he has abandoned. In addition to this, too, many of our modern leaders have resembled that general of Napoleonic days who was so famous for his retreats that his companions in arms compared him to a drum, which nobody hears except it be beaten.
For some reason or other, the Unionists have been very unfortunate in their tactics-or the lack of them.
For instance, they brought in the Referendum much too late, hardly giving the British elector time to realize it was not a vegetable.
When they were in power, they had ample time to bring in a Redistribution Bill, and so get rid of a number of quite unnecessary Irish members; yet they never attempted to do anything of the sort, nor did they make any serious effort to reform and so strengthen the House of Lords.
The organization of the party during recent years
has also left much to be desired. In many cases indeed it has seemed as if they considered anyone who had failed at everything else good enough to work for the Conservative cause. In old days far more strenuous efforts were made to secure the return of their candidates. In short, the whole impression conveyed during recent elections has been that the hearts of the leaders of the party were not in their work.
At present, except Tariff Reform, the Unionists can scarcely be said to have any real policy of their own-one of the great delusions of the party seems to be the idea that it will gain votes by going one better than the Radicals; and though in all probability scarcely a vote is gained by such a manœuvre when confronted with any question on which firmness should be shown, there is always a certain amount of quibbling and hedging. The party seems perfectly incapable of taking a bold line and saying, "Thus far will we go, and not one inch further."
Witness the weak Unionist opposition to the Insurance Act by which Englishmen have been made not only fools, but something like slaves, to a social despotism as oppressive as inquisitorial. Every child born after the Act came into force is no more of the free-born British breed than were the serfs who first saw the light on the lands of some unreasoning despot of the Middle Ages.
Another source of weakness to the Conservatives is the tendency which certain members have shown to indulge in faddism. Formerly restrictive legislation
curtailing the liberty of the individual was not popular with the Tories, who would have bitterly resented anyone on their side attempting to dabble in anything of the sort. Now, however, all this seems changed. A Conservative-the member for the Eccleshall division of Sheffield-some little time ago actually brought in a Bill to assimilate clubs to publichouses. A more outrageous interference with personal liberty cannot be imagined.
One great fault of the Unionist party would appear to be that those responsible for its policy attach overmuch importance to parliamentary tactics, which, no matter how clever they may be, are not understood by the average voter, who much prefers straightforward methods. In addition to this, the individual in question cannot fail to perceive that, in spite of a good deal of talk about verbal felicities and skill in the game of dialectic, the Unionist leaders have been outmanœuvred and beaten on every political issue of serious importance ever since their more astute opponents came into office. Three general elections have already been lost in succession, and, unless a bold, straightforward policy is adopted, the Unionists will probably lose a fourth.
Their methods require overhauling. No General can presume to say he may not be defeated; but he can and ought to say that he has left as little as possible to chance. There are dispositions so skilful that the battle may be considered to be won even before it is fought, and the campaign to be decided