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even before it is contested. If, instead of wailing and wringing their hands in impotent despair, the more wealthy props of the Unionist party had devoted their energies and cheque-books to forming a large campaign fund wherewith to build up a thoroughly efficient organization, a very great deal might have been done to stem the rising tide of socialistic agitation; but they have not had sufficient foresight to do this, nor seemingly do they possess either the dogged fighting instincts or the rough geniality which did so much to make the old Tories popular with the people of England.
Up to quite recently at least, owing to the ruling powers of both sides forming more or less a family party, into which new-comers were coldly welcomed, the rank and file, especially on the Unionist side, knew scarcely anything of their leaders. Recruiting has been almost entirely neglected. Whilst the Radicals seem to keep their eyes wide open in order to snap up any young man of intelligence and promise, little seems to be done by the Unionists to secure clever recruits. Some promising young candidate spends his time and money fighting a hopeless seat, and what does he get in return? Two or three telegrams, perhaps a couple of letters from his leaders, and nothing more.
How different is this from the methods pursued by Lord Beaconsfield, who never left a stone unturned to lure clever young men into the Conservative field, and when he had once got them there took care to
THE LIFE-BLOOD OF A PARTY show that their efforts were held in high appreciation.
As the great Tory leader used frequently to tell me, a constant flow of energetic and enthusiastic young men is the very life-blood of a great political party. Though, considering his many worries and his arduous life, it cannot have been otherwise than wearisome to him, Lord Beaconsfield made a special point of personally entertaining all sorts of youthful aspirants to political fame, whom he thought might in one way or another assist the triumph of the Conservative cause.
In one year alone I know that over four hundred and fifty of such individuals enjoyed his hospitality. Often after dinner, leaving his place at the head of the table, he would go and sit for a quarter of an hour or so by some youth whom he thought might be of particular use to the Tory cause. In this way he secured quite a number of waverers who might in time have become valuable to the enemy.
Such methods, however, involving as they do a certain amount of trouble, and even boredom, seem little to the taste of the modern political leaders, some of whom, no doubt, are much too tired after their golf to be bothered with rising young men at dinner or anywhere else.
Another cause which-unreasonably, perhaps-has, I think, been most prejudicial to the Unionists has been the entirely modern fashion of Radicals and Conservatives hob-nobbing together on every sort of
occasion-which practice, it should be added, is a complete innovation.
Whilst those two Titans of the past, Mr. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield, would as soon have thought of meeting one another at a dinner-party as fighting a prize-fight, Messrs. Asquith and Balfour are constantly announced as being present at various social functions in company with one another. Perhaps the most striking of these was the fancy ball where no party distinctions were allowed to cloud the gaiety of a number of guests drawn from both sides of the House.
Voters who do not grasp the subtleties of up-todate party politics not unnaturally dislike this extreme cordiality between the leading spirits of both sides. Owing, indeed, to the entirely new fashion of politicians bitterly attacking one another in the House of Commons and then going off to spend the week-end together, an increasing body of electors seem gradually to be coming to consider the whole thing as an impudent piece of humbug, and consequently lose all interest in the party for which they have been accustomed to vote. No explanations about the amenities of modern life having softened the asperities of political warfare, and excuses and pretences of a like nature, will ever convince the sturdy-minded British voters (and there are some still left) that the newfangled system of intimate friendships between political opponents is anything but a cause for distrust.
The new methods would not have commended themselves to the old school of English politicians.
THE BACKBONE OF ENGLAND
Gladstone and Disraeli never met in private life. In their day it would not, I think, have been considered very dignified for such bitter political opponents to be close friends.
Nevertheless, it is pretty certain that even had they both been of the same way of thinking, they would not have got on together, for never surely did Nature create two individuals whose dispositions were so totally unlike.
The natural antagonism between their two minds was insuperable.
Notwithstanding this, the curious thing is that in the House of Commons there seems never to have been anything but the slightest skirmishes between them. One explanation of this used to be that Gladstone so thoroughly disliked Disraeli that he would not even fight with him, and that Disraeli stood so much in awe of Gladstone's weapons that he gladly kept clear of them.
Besides the somewhat inefficient policy of the Unionists as regards recruiting and organization, a number of other reasons have tended to weaken the party.
To-day the power of what used to be known as upper class" is gone. The middle class also seems to exercise far less influence than in former days when it merited its old appellation of the Backbone of England. At present, I fear, it has more or less sunk into a condition varying between pretentious luxury and stagnating respectability. The more
serious portion of it is governed and directed by old rules, old ideas, and old routine. On the other side is an enemy who does not care a halfpenny for antiquity, and is not above adopting the most irregular methods to win a victory..
The woes of the workmen obtain a sympathetic hearing much more easily than those of the middle class. When the former are evicted, endless declamation ensues; but when shopkeepers are evicted, no one cares. Not such a great time ago it was a regular custom for corporations and companies which had obtained Improvement Acts to use them as slowly as possible, so that the householders to be evicted, being unable to improve, or repair, or sell, might consent to easy terms. The householders to the east of King's College Hospital, for example, complained bitterly that, while they had been for six years under sentence, they could not get a final settlement, or the compensation which would accompany it.
Not so many decades ago the proletariat had real grievances, whilst a draconic code of laws dealt in a savage manner with offences against property. To-day it is difficult for us to realize that in Blackstone's time there were one hundred and sixty felonies punishable with death. But very few of these had reference to the defence of life or person; the vast majority of these statutable crimes were made crimes in defence of property, and the statutes which created them were statutes to protect the enjoyment of property. In the time of Sir Samuel Romilly, the contemporary of