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centre of political gravity, the latter terming the powers of the House of Lords the dominant issue in politics, and maintaining that if the Peers could arrest constitutional progress, not only the Liberal party, but the party system, would disappear. On the other hand the Earl of Cromer, speaking at Leeds on January 18, thought that the Report of Lord Rosebery's Committee (ANNUAL REGISTER, 1908, p. 240) afforded a basis for discussion, and advocated the referendum as a means of ascertaining the opinion of the country on single issues. But the chief feature of this latter speech was an attack on the finance of the Government. The next Budget, Lord Cromer declared, would probably constitute the turning-point of our fiscal policy for many years to come; and he again referred to the flow of British capital abroad and to the Miners' Eight Hours and Licensing Bills as not likely to inspire confidence. Incidentally, he described himself and his relative, the Earl of Northbrook, as absolutely impenitent Free Traders, and intimated that there had been enough abstract discussion of the fiscal question.
A section of Tariff Reformers, however, were taking active steps to end the discussion within the Unionist party by intimidating or ostracising all Free Food members. The National Review for January contained an account (written by one of the members) of a "Confederacy" directed by an autocratic council of twelve and well supplied with money, whose object it was to prevent the return of any Free Food Unionist to Parliament, even at the cost of letting in a Liberal. It was expected that the Unionist majority at a general election would be from 30 to 50, and 15 or 20 Free Food Unionists, if returned, might frustrate its fiscal aims. Sixteen such members were enumerated by the Morning Post of January 10, five, however, being expected not to seek re-election; six more were doubtful, and it was formally stated both by that paper and the Central Conservative office that the latter would withhold its official support from any Parliamentary candidate who would not accept the Unionist fiscal policy as defined by Mr. Balfour at Birmingham (ANNUAL REGISTER 1907, p. 250).
The most conspicuously decided Free Fooders were Lord Robert Cecil (Marylebone, E.), Mr. Abel Smith (Herts, E.), and Mr. G. Stewart Bowles (Norwood). Lord Robert Cecil, at a meeting of his constituents on January 22, said that he had no intention of leaving the party, criticised the Morning Post for its complaint that he could not accept the Old Age Pensions Bill, and for its tendency to concession on the education question and Home Rule; and severely criticised the methods and the anonymous "Confederates" as destructive of Parliamentary independence. He referred to his agreement with his constituents in 1907, that if fiscal reform were brought forward by a Unionist Ministry he should resign, and offer himself for reelection, and declared that Mr. Balfour was the only possible Unionist leader. Mr. Abel Smith, Sir Seymour King and Mr.
Stewart Bowles also stood firm, the first named, however, promising certain concessions which did not satisfy his Tariff Reforming constituents. Mr. Stewart Bowles was specially censured by the Norwood Conservative Council for his refusal to pledge himself to a duty "even on imported doors and window frames." Lord Robert Cecil was so important to the Unionist party that the Observer advised that he should be granted some latitude; but on January 28 one of his meetings was broken up by dissentients.
A list of alleged "Confederates Confederates" published by the Daily Graphic comprised Sir Gilbert Parker, and Messrs. Bonar Law, Claude Hay, J. W. Hills (post, p. 19), Harry Marks, and some non-members of Parliament. Among more moderate Unionists the movement was strongly deprecated, and its alleged practices suggested the secret societies of melodrama. On the part of the Tariff Reform League, Lord Ridley (Jan. 28) disclaimed connection with it; and Mr. Austen Chamberlain at Birmingham (Jan. 22) contented himself with advocacy of Mr. Balfour's policy, and showed an unwonted apprehension of the difficulties of framing a "scientific tariff."
The clouds in the Near East had meanwhile been somewhat dispelled by the settlement of the pecuniary claims of the Porte on Austria-Hungary for the annexation of Bosnia (Foreign History, Chapters II., III.), and Sir Edward Grey, in addressing his constituents at Coldstream, on January 22, was able to express an opinion that the chances of an agreement between the Powers had been increased. He could say, also, that the British discussions with France and Russia had made for confidence, friendship and peace on these Near Eastern questions as in others, that the knowledge that Germany and Italy had been genuinely working for peace had removed all risk of friction with them in these affairs, and he hoped that the coming visit of the King to Berlin would promote confidence there in British goodwill. After mentioning British sympathy with Italy in the calamity at Messina, and with the reforming party in Turkey, he referred to the absurd charges of "deliberate malevolence" made against Great Britain in Austria-Hungary, commending the abstinence from embittered replies of the responsible British Press.
At home, however, the difficulties of the Government did not decrease. In Ireland the murder at Craughwell, in Co. Galway, of a constable while protecting two men working for a boycotted woman (Jan. 22), was taken as an effect of Mr. Birrell's laxity in repressing crime. With even less reason, the astonishing series of murders at Tottenham (post, Chronicle, Jan. 23), committed by two Russian anarchists after an attempt at robbery, was made a ground for assailing the Ministerial administration of the Aliens Act. This, however, was successfully vindicated by the Home Secretary in a speech at Leeds on Feb. 4 (cf. also p. 27), and it was ascertained that the criminals
had entered the country as seamen, whom the Aliens Act did not touch. The unemployed demonstrations and marches through the West End continued, and another persistent attempt by five women suffragists to see Mr. Asquith at Downing Street (Jan. 26) resulted, as usual, in sentences of imprisonment on their refusal to be bound over to keep the peace. This agitation, however, had produced a counter-movement, resulting in the formation (Jan. 18) at a meeting at the Caxton Hall of a Men's League for opposing Women Suffrage, with Lord Cromer as its president and Lord Welby as one of its treasurers. But the chief drawback to the prospects of the Government lay in the uncertainty of its attitude regarding the House of Lords, which excited the gibes of Unionist speakers and resentment among advanced Liberals. The Attorney-General at South Shields on January 26, and Mr. Masterman at Yarmouth on February 1, intimated that no future Liberal Government would take office without some arrangement as to limiting the power of the Upper House; the former seemed to contemplate an arrangement with the Crown to create new Peers, the latter some statutory limitation; and Mr. Harcourt, speaking at Rossendale on February 6, recommended the plan proposed by the late Prime Minister in 1906. But it was not clear when the conflict was to begin, though the belief that it would arise on the Budget was increased by a speech of Mr. Pease, the Liberal whip, at Plymouth on February 12.
However, Mr. Lloyd-George, in acknowledging the presentation of a portrait (by Sir Luke Fildes, R.A.) of himself to the Law Society (Jan. 30), had referred to the "bad jest " he had made (on the subject of "robbing henroosts," ANNUAL REGISTER, 1908, p. 252), and emphatically disclaimed any vindictive spirit in his financial plans. The single purpose of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (he said) should be the protection and confirmation of the national interests; and in that spirit he approached his task.
A few indications of the rest of the Ministerial programme were given in the speeches of the recess. Mr. McKenna at Fishmongers' Hall (Jan. 28) promised to maintain the Navy in such strength and efficiency as would secure the country from all possible attempts at invasion. Lord Carrington on February 4, in giving some account of the steps taken to carry out the Small Holdings Act, said that some County Councils had done splendidly, some moderately, and some seemed unable to start at all, and that special commissioners would be appointed to prepare draft schemes and otherwise assist the last-named class. Prizes amounting to 1,000l. had been offered by a private donor for the best cultivated small holdings in certain counties. Mr. Runciman at Dewsbury (Feb. 4) intimated that he would not again attempt a compromise on the education question; matters must now take their natural course-which, he intimated, was adverse to the denominationalists; but he declared himself
strongly against "the secular solution." Mr. Winston Churchill, speaking on the work of the Board of Trade on February 4, foreshadowed an amendment of the bankruptcy law, the abolition of gambling insurance policies (known as P.P.I. or "policy proof of interest" policies) on shipping [which were believed to act as a direct temptation to procure wrecks] and the extension to all forms of insurance of those existing restrictions on life insurance companies which were intended to secure their financial soundness. Next day, at a mass meeting, he said that a general election was already on the horizon, with issues not less important than those of 1906. If the Unionists won, Tariff Reform would be introduced—an anti-democratic measure, decreasing the burdens levied on assured incomes and increasing those on wages. Preferential duties would be part of a bargain with the Dominions, and practically irremovable. He hoped something would be done for unemployment by " decasualising labour, by better organisation, and by cutting off the supply of unemployables by improved education and by temperance measures. The outlook in trade and foreign affairs was promising.
Two important steps were taken early in the year to avert labour disputes. An agreement between the Employers' Federation in the shipbuilding trade and the twenty-six unions concerned fixed wages for piece and time work and set up a series of conferences to adjust disputes-a local conference, a general conference, and in the last resort a grand conference between the Employers' Federation and the Unions. During these conferences no stoppage of work was to be legitimate. February 5 saw the issue of the award of Sir Edward Fry under the scheme of conciliation and arbitration instituted for railway men (ANNUAL REGISTER, 1907, p. 245), in respect of the wages and hours of the London and North-Western Railway Company. It was based on evidence submitted to him as arbitrator during eight days' sittings in December, 1907, affected some 39,000 men, and was binding from April 1, 1909, till the end of 1912. Though not altogether satisfactory to the men, the concessions made to them would cost the company 70,000l. a year; but Mr. R. Bell, M.P. (Derby), the Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, recommended the men to resume their demands in 1913.
While the Ministry seemed disposed merely to carry out the policy it had already laid down in the three previous years of its existence, it was naturally urged to go further by its supporters and allies. The Conference of the Labour party at Portsmouth (Jan. 28) pressed the "Right to Work" Bill, and, besides passing the usual academic resolution demanding the socialisation of the means of production, declared in favour of the abolition of half-timers, the raising of the age for leaving school to sixteen, and secular education. Mr. Crooks urged the appointment of a Labour Minister, and Mr. Clynes, the President, attacked the House of Lords and Tariff Reform. A Conference on the
Taxation of Land Values, held at Caxton Hall on February 8, was attended largely by delegates from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and the Midlands, and supported by the municipal councils of Glasgow, Dundee and Tynemouth. It passed a resolution urging the Government to make a beginning with the taxation of land values in the Budget, including rural as well as urban land. The movement was specially taken up by the Daily Chronicle, but it had long been favoured by a very large number of Liberals.
The King's visit to Berlin (Feb. 9-12), though primarily a return for that of the German Emperor to Windsor in the autumn of 1907, at any rate emphasised the desire for reciprocal good-will entertained by the Governments and peoples of both countries; and the simultaneous publication of the Franco-German agreement in regard to Morocco (post, Foreign History, Chapter I.) was probably more than a mere coincidence. The Imperial and the popular welcome were alike thoroughly cordial and friendly, and the reception of the King by the municipality of Berlin at the Rathaus was a new feature in Royal visits. There was, indeed, some disposition in the Berlin Press to complain that the visit had not been returned earlier, and there were the usual wild conjectures as to its diplomatic aims. The presence of the Earl of Crewe as Minister in attendance helped to reassure the constitutional purists in Great Britain.
Unfortunately, the visit exercised no lasting effect in abating the popular apprehension of German designs. This feeling had just been stirred by a play with a purpose-"An Englishman's Home," produced at Wyndham's Theatre on January 28. This play, which was by Major Du Maurier, D.S.O., aimed at advocating national military service in preference to games; and it depicted an invasion by the troops of the "Northern Emperor" and a ludicrous failure on the part of the Volunteer or Territorial forces to cope with them. It was so far taken seriously that the censor refused to permit it to be parodied on the stage; but it certainly did little towards its end. A stronger feeling was aroused by the rumours that a party in the Cabinet, led by Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. Lloyd-George, and, according to some accounts also comprising Lord Morley and Mr. John Burns, was demanding large reductions in the Navy Estimates, while Mr. McKenna, who had been inspecting the fortifications in the Mediterranean, had come back converted by Sir John Fisher to the principle of a strong Navy. In the middle of January a meeting in the City was contemplated under the joint auspices of the Navy League and the London Chamber of Commerce to uphold the Ministry in providing a strong Navy; it was to be held about the date of the reassembling of Parliament. Eventually, this meeting was deferred till after the revelation of the policy of Ministers afforded by the Naval Estimates; but just as Parliament met rumours were rife of a crisis in the Cabinet on the question whether four Dreadnoughts or a larger number should be provided in the Estimates; and