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essential for any national scheme of land reform that it should have the sanction of most, if not all, of those who stand to be affected by it, and if the Unionist party can put into being such a preliminary scheme of reform as is outlined here, it will find itself, perhaps for the first time in its political existence, in touch both with employers and employed, and having remedied the worst faults of the existing system will be able to proceed along the road of national reform at a leisured pace, and with due consideration for all aspects of change. If the Small Holdings Act has taught us nothing more, it has proved at least that a long period must be devoted to careful inquiry, and that we must borrow from the Continent, particularly from those countries in which small holdings thrive, the machinery that renders them effective. It may be repeated that, unless the unexpected happens, many years must pass before small ownership can enter the domain of practical politics. In the meantime the countryside, irritated by the incidents of the Small Holdings Act, looks anxiously for something better. Will the Unionist party grasp the occasion ?


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DURING the debates in the House of Commons on the Franchise and Registration Bill, the Government, through various Cabinet Ministers, committed themselves to a Redistribution of Seats, but cautiously declined to say very much about when this measure would be introduced and passed, though frequently pressed on the subject by the Opposition. It is not to be wondered at that the latter were somewhat sceptical as to the value of these promises, for it is impossible to forget the fate of certain pledges given definitely by the Prime Minister and others in regard to a reform of the House of Lords and the setting up of an efficient Second Chamber. The whole point, however, of any Redistribution centres round the date. Carried out after Home Rule became law (arguing for the moment that it does reach the Statute Book) Redistribution would be nothing less than a fraud, and it is the object of this article to make this quite plain.

Let me refer for a moment to the debates on the Franchise Bill and to the arguments used by members sitting to the right of the Chair. The Irish over-representation,' they said, 'of VOL. LXXII-No. 427


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which you complain, will be cured by the passage of the Home Rule Bill, when the representatives of Ireland will be reduced from 103 to 42.' Consequently throughout the whole debate on the Franchise Bill Government supporters invariably excluded all Irish representation from their arguments, and seemed to resent any reference to the most glaring of all electoral anomalies as ill-timed, superfluous, and almost out of order. In fact, when giving some figures to the House showing the number of seats that had less than 7000 electors, and dividing them into those that habitually voted in the 'Aye' and 'No' lobbies, I was at once met with the interjection, ‘But you are counting in the Irish.' (The figures, by the way, prove that there are more than double as many small seats—i.e. under 7000 electorsreturning supporters of the Government as there are of the Opposition, the actual figures being 95 to 43.) But why not count the Irish seats? How, in any discussion on Redistribution, can you exclude the Irish members, and lay down that they must not be counted on the ground that it will be all right when Home Rule is passed? The all-important point is that these seats which 'must not be counted' are being utilised at the present moment in the Division Lobby in order to pass Home Rule, though it is quite certain there is no mandate for this measure. They are quite good enough to count, apparently, when it is a case of a division for, let us say, depriving the Welsh Church of her income, but you must exclude them from your argument when you are discussing the question of Redistribution. It would be difficult to imagine any argument more unfair, more illogical, or even more ludicrous.

Now let me briefly put the present political situation with which this whole question is so intimately bound up. It may be stated under three headings :

(1) England is as much interested in the question of Home Rule and the consequent dismembering of the United Kingdom as Ireland is.

(2) Home Rule was not in any true sense of the term the issue at the last General Election. In fact, the Government, besides having no mandate for this policy, know well that were the electorate given a chance of voting on it, they would give the same answer as they have done before.

(3) The Constitution has been manipulated in a way purposely to prevent any appeal to the country being made until after the bargain between the Government and their Irish allies has been fulfilled.

It is not necessary to argue about this third proposition, but a word or two may be usefully said on numbers one and two.

England is equally interested with Ireland on the question

of Home Rule for many reasons. In the first place, she is expected to pay for it, and I challenge anybody to dispute the proposition that before a large burden of this sort is placed upon the taxpayers they have at least the right to decide by their votes whether they are prepared to shoulder this burden or not. It is no use dismissing the question of this annual tribute of so many millions as a 'sordid argument'; one can only be amused at anybody taking up this sort of line after listening to the strenuous arguments frequently advanced against a beggarly increase of some estimate by a few thousands a year, say, for granting a separation allowance to Territorials while serving their country in camp, or for some similar object. The economists' at once mobilise to vote down anything of this nature, though they brand any reference to the millions involved in this Irish question as a sordid argument, and one apparently quite unworthy to be used. And, again, surely England is entitled to consider and, if she wishes, to decline the risks involved in this policy of Home Rule. For were she ever to be engaged in a life-and-death struggle with some foreign Power, it would mean having close on her flank a semi-independent nation, probably in a state of sulky neutrality, and even possibly of passive hostility. This is no fancy risk; it is merely weighing up statements that have proceeded from time to time from Irish orators themselves, and England, whose international position gets no easier as time goes on, may not think it worth while to take the chance.

And now for No. 2. No politician of any weight would be prepared to say that this great question of Home Rule was the predominant issue at the last General Election. What really happened was, that a very strenuous campaign was engineered against the Lords and the whole hereditary principle, for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who did so much to embitter the campaign by stirring up class hatred, is entitled to a good deal of credit from an electioneering point of view. But having succeeded by the cry of 'Peers v. The People,' and by keeping Home Rule well in the background, in just about upholding their majority on a second appeal to the same electorate, the Government are not entitled to say that they have a mandate to pass a Home Rule measure, from which, when directly appealed to, the common-sense and good judgment of the country have invariably recoiled. It is not easy to accommodate oneself to look upon this great issue of Home Rule as merely a sort of consequential amendment to the Veto Bill. Nor is it difficult to prove that the above is a fair statement of the case, for the absence of any reference to Home Rule in the election addresses of the majority of the Radical party, including, of course, the Prime Minister, is notorious, and supplies evidence that cannot be gainsaid. But perhaps my arguments would be reinforced if I called in the testimony of a member of the late Government. Sir Ernest Soares, in a letter issued to the electors a few days before the poll in the Barnstaple Division, wrote as follows: 'The question at issue is a simple one-namely, whether the peers or the people are to rule this country. I hope you will not be led astray by the Home Rule bogey with which our opponents are attempting to confuse the issue.' It will be realised how very inconvenient at the present moment it would be to have Sir Ernest Soares on the Front Bench, and it must have been a relief to many when he was translated to the Mint, where, as we were always on good terms, I hope he is enjoying himself and having a good time.

Now, since England is equally interested with Ireland in the question of Home Rule, and since Home Rule was not before the country as the issue at the last General Election, what follows? Firstly, that the predominant (and paying) partner should have an equal say in the matter; and, secondly, that a decision should be asked of the electorate before Home Rule becomes law. But has England an equal say in the matter, or rather, has she an equal say in the Division Lobbies of the House of Commons ?—the really important point--for it is here that the actual decisions on this policy are ultimately made. It is very easy to show that she has not, and equally easy to show that every Irish elector has very nearly twice as much weight and voice in deciding this question as every English elector. There are 696,405 electors in Ireland returning 103 members to the House of Commons. This gives an average of 6761 electors per member. For England, the 465 members are returned by 6,102,423 electors, an average of 13,123 electors per member, or nearly double the number of electors that are necessary for returning an Irish member. In other words, an English elector has only half the influence on matters of public policy that the Irish voter has, and yet, especially in the case of Home Rule, England has to run most of the risks and do most of the paying. It would not be difficult to prove that England is even more interested in this question than Ireland, but at least it will be acknowledged that she is equally interested, and hence arises the unchallengeable case for equal political power. The truth is that Ireland on the Home Rule question has the use of thirty-eight votes to which on a population basis she is not entitled, but to which England is, and it is more than probable that these votes would be worth seventy-six on a division, since, broadly speaking, England is

1 This scandal is further emphasised when it is remembered that one elector out of every nine in Ireland is returned as illiterate.

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