REFERENDUM OR GENERAL ELECTION? [To TEE Eurron OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
SIR,—Throughout two leading articles you appeal to Unionists to demand a general election on Home Rule, and you plead with Liberals to concede the demand. I have some knowledge of recent by-elections, and can testify, and bring the testimony of Unionists to prove, that the hesitating elector was swayed not by Home Rule, but by the Insurance Act and by several recent Acts of Parliament which interfere with the subject's liberty. The situation resembles that which led to the
Unionist majority in 1895 and Disraeli's triumph in 1874. The people want a rest. Coming in contact with many Liberals, I repeatedly bear the exclamation, " Shut the shop (Parliament) for five years or ten years." As a Home Ruler before Mr. Gladstone, and more so then than now, for old- age pensions and other doles (which we Liberals used to condemn) have altered the situation—and I do not like the Customs clauses of the new Bill—I quite agree with you that the compelling power of a direct popular vote is desirable in order to avoid trouble in Ulster, although I am not appalled by the Carson crusade. But a general election would not give us a pronouncement on Home Rule. The nearest approach to that would be the Australian referendum, which is always used for constitutional changes. I think you have explained how that could be carried out either now or before the next general election, or at the next general election, it being, of course, assumed that if the referendum on Home Rule is to take place along with the next general election, that election shall take place before the Parliament Act comes into force. Why, then, do you not demand a referendum P—I am, Sir, &c., AN OLD POLITICIAN.
[Because we have done so already and have been met with a blank refusal. " Old Politician's" friends, the Liberals, tell us in every note of the scale of anger and terror that they will die rather than agree to a Referendum. We want every great and essential legislative change submitted to the vote of the electors, i.e., made subject to their veto or assent.—ED. Spectator.]