The Session in Retrospect
rriE real successes which have been achieved by the Government during the session which is now over have been completely overshadowed by the industrial strife which has devastated this country during the past seven months. Nevertheless they are considerable. The Imperial Conference of 1926 will be noted by the historian of the future as marking the commencement of a new epoch in the development of the British Empire, and therefore of the world. It represents a triumph, brought about by the exercise of those peculiar characteristics always associated with the British race, which will echo through the centuries that lie ahead. The parts played by Lord Balfour and Lord Birkenhead will be remembered by future generations, if they are forgotten to-day.
The passage of the Electricity Bill into law may, with equal force, be claimed to have marked the inauguration of a new economic. era in this country—the era of mass production and of co-operation in industry. And the East Africa and Palestine Loans Act suggests, to the mind of an enthusiast, vast possibilities where the develop- ment of our tropical Empire is concerned.
Moreover, in addition to all this, a large number of small but useful Acts—over seventyhave been placed upon the Statute Book since the House met last February. This, in view of the circumstances in which Parliament was sitting for most of the time, is an almost incredible, and highly creditable, performance, The testing time for the Government will come next session. Upon its attitude towards the master-problem of the day—the industrial problem—it will rightly be appraised or condemned by the country.
If the Government is going to content itself with some fiddling legislation directed against the Trade Unions, and leave it at that, it will certainly lose the confidence of many of its present supporters. But if, on the other hand, a serious constructive effort is made to raise the economic status of the workers ; if steps are taken to ensure that the miners receive a fair share of the profits of the coal industry in the future ; if Mr. Baldwin repeats once more his appeals for peace between master and man, and accompanies them by a definite gesture in the shape of constructive suggestions for conciliation, and for increasing the interests of the workers in the industries in which they are engaged, then it is safe to predict a further term of office for the Unionist Party.
The great cry of to-day, which finds an echo in many hearts, is to get politics out of industry and industry out of politics. But this can only be achieved by giving to the workers, and their representatives, larger interests and greater responsibilities in industry than they at present possess. Is the Government prepared to tackle this . job—the only job which is worth while ? Time alone will show. Ministerial reputations remain, on the whole, un- changed. It is deplorable that men of the calibre of Colonel Moore Brabazon, Mr. Ormsby Gore, and Major Walter Elliot should be allowed to remain submerged in Under-Secretaryships. All three ought to have been in the Cabinet long ago. And a special mention should be made of Sir Kingsley Wood, who as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Health has displayed an assiduity, a knowledge of his work, and a capacity beyond praise. The session has provided Unionist backbenchers with no opportunities for making or diminishing their reputations.
The Labour Party emerges torn, battered, bruised, and very short of credit in the House. Lack of courage on the part of its leaders either before, during, or after the general strike is primarily responsible for this. At no period has Mr. MacDonald declared himself openly, or given the impression that he was saying what he thought. The result has been that he has satisfied no one and inflicted untold injury upon the Labour move- ment and the country as a whole. Indeed, the lack of political candour displayed by the leader of the Opposi- tion is a national problem of considerable magnitude. He treats everyone in an Oriental manner, as if they were Turks or Persians. And such manoeuvrings are just as distasteful to the Clyde men as they are to the Unionists.
If Mr. MacDonald were to come out definitely on the side of the moderates, condemn the class-war, and appeal for co-operation in industry, a square deal for the workers, and reasoned political progress, he might alienate some of his present supporters, but he might also return to Parliament in the not far distant future at the head of a clear majority. But he will only do this if he can re- capture something' of his old courage. As it is, he will receive the somewhat precarious support of the extremists and the communists—sufficient to ensure him a considerable number of industrial seats, but not enough for power. He has been singularly unconvincing in the House of Commons except on questions relating to foreign affairs—so much so that it is freely rumoured that should he ever be called upon to return to the seats of power it will be as Foreign Secretary and not as Prime Minister. The remainder of the Labour Party have been shockingly bad. Mr. Wheatley has occasionally interested the House in some of his pet nostrums ; Mr. J. H. Thomas fought the Economy Bill with great parlia- mentary skill ; and of the backbenchers, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Tom Johnston, and Dr. Haden Guest have spoken consistently well. But, apart from these, little has been emitted from the official Opposition not calculated to drive everyone from the chamber in a frenzy of boredom.
As for the Liberal Party, it has now become rather a sickly farce. The squalor of the bickerings concerning the disposal of his private fund has further reduced Mr. poyd- George's waning prestige, which is unlikely to be Testored either by his Land Policy, or by spnches such as the one he recently delivered on China. Captain Wedg- wood Benn fights on gamely, universally popular, and admired by all ; while Mr. Percy Harris evinces a genial interest in local government. None of the others appear.
Thus the curtain has been rung down on a sombre stage, filled with many broken idols and dejecting memories. No one is sorry.
liTATCJIM AN. '