TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE NEW SPLIT IN THE UNIONIST PARTY. THE Unionist Party was shaken to its foundations in the year 1903, when, owing to Mr. Chamberlain's determination to force his policy of Preference and Pro- tection to the front, the late Duke of Devonshire, the late Lord Ritchie, and the other Unionist Free-traders were driven from the Cabinet, and when Unionists who, like ourselves, believed that the welfare and prosperity of the nation and the Empire were bound up with the Free-trade policy were forced to adopt an attitude of hostility to the bulk of their fellow-Unionists. One would have thought that such a blow to the unity of the party, resulting as it did in the overthrow of Unionism at the polls and the unexampled triumph of the Liberals, would have been sufficient to satisfy uncompromising Tariff Reformers, and that they would have learnt a lesson from the dangers of pushing their policy to the logical extreme. It appears, however, that there is no limit to the hostility with which the extreme Tariff Reformers regard those who will not accept their shibboleths. The Unionist Party is once more to be rent asunder, and all are to be driven out of it who will not adopt the Confederate position. Think for a moment what this means. It does not merely mean that aggressive Unionist Free-traders like ourselves are not to be tolerated. It means that men who are perfectly willing not to go out of their way to attack Tariff Reformers, who have worked side by side with them in Parliament against the present Government—as, for instance, Lord Robert Cecil has done—men, in a word, who have by no means carried their Free-trade views to the point of rebellion, are now to be drummed out of the party, and that all their good work is to be forgotten. If this policy is insisted on, we are quite certain that the Unionist Party will suffer an injury which will make it unable to take advantage of the unequalled opportunity which is afforded to it by the internal weakness and political blunders of the present Government. But for the Confederates and their action, the defeat of the Liberal Party at the next General Election would be a certainty. It cannot be a certainty if the Unionist Party is to go to the polls distracted by internal dissensions.
That there will be such internal dissensions unless the extreme Tariff Reformers change their policy is beyond question. We say this, not merely because we believe that there is still a very large amount of anti-Protectionist feeling latent in the ranks of the Unionist Party, but also because we are certain that the Unionist Party as a whole will not tolerate the kind of tyranny contemplated by the Confederates. No doubt a logical defence for their action may be made out by the Confederates. But Englishmen are not logical, and we feel confident that there are a great many men who, though strong Tariff Reformers themselves, regard with the utmost detestation the attempt to force matters to a logical conclusion, and to refuse tolerance to any who do not hold a particular pattern of Unionist views. The bulk of Tariff Reformers, after all, are Englishmen first and Protectionists afterwards, and share the Englishman's desire for compromise and moderation in action, and his instinctive dislike of pushing a thing, even when it is a good thing, too far. Again, as was pointed out in a very sensible letter in Wednesday's Pall Mall Gazette, Englishmen hate anything in the nature of a Vehnigericht, or secret tribunal, which carries out its decrees in the dark without discussion and without appeal. Resistance to such tyranny is instinctive among us, and will come quite as naturally from those who agree in theory with the Confederates as from those who, like our- selves, differ from them in tote. To take a concrete case. We are sure that all over the country the impulse of most Unionists, when they realise what is happening in regard to Lord Robert Cecil, will be to say :—" Why can't they leave him alone ? He has been doing splendid work for the Unionist Party, and even if he is a little unsound on the Tariff question, after all he has got a right to his own opinion. We want to show people that the Unionist Party can accept help from men of all kinds, and that there is no need to force everybody into exactly the same mould." We repeat that we are convinced that if the Confederates insist on carrying out the policy which has been announced in the Morning Post, and is endorsed by that journal, disaster must overtake the party as a whole, and a fresh lease of life be given to the present Government.
It will perhaps be said that we do not understand the Confederates' position, and therefore are unjust to them. That is a mistake. We understand their point of view very well. We are sure, for example, that we are not misrepresenting it when we say that the Confederates argue somewhat in this way :—" We believe that the carrying out of the policy of Tariff Reform is absolutely vital to the interests of this country and of the Empire, and that if it is not carried out we shall see the ruin of our industries at home and the gradual dis- solution of the Imperial fabric. That being so, we are bound to put the interests of Tariff Reform before all other interests. In other words, we have no use for the Unionist Party except in so far as it is an instrument for obtaining Tariff Reform. Accordingly, if we find latent in the Unionist Party an element which, though useful to Unionism as a whole, is capable of endangering the success of Tariff Reform, we are bound to eliminate that element, no matter how great the risks of doing so. When you tell us that by doing this we are endangering the interests of Unionism, we can only reply that by not doing it we are endangering the interests of Tariff Reform. If there is a conflict between the two, Unionism of the old type must go to the wall. It would be better to postpone the achievement of Tariff Reform for ten years than to put the Unionist Party in power next year under condi- tions which would be inimical to the carrying out of the policy of which we approve. We cannot trade and traffic in a matter which we regard as vital." Those who adopt this attitude have in reality ceased to be Unionists, and have become solely Tariff Reformers. It would not, of course, be right to arraign those who hold such views as if they were criminals. Their sincerity of purpose is clear, and must be admitted. It is, however, necessary to point out what the effect of their policy must be upon the Unionist Party, because we are sure that there are a good many persons who are supporting the Confederates who do not yet realise the meaning of their action, and who, when they do realise it, will shrink from the conclusion, and declare that they, at any rate, do not put Tariff Reform above all other considerations, and will not be content to sacrifice Unionism as a whole to Tariff Reform.
Though we feel that it would not be in the least fair to condemn the sincerity of the Tariff Reformers who say, " Perish the Unionist Party unless it can carry Tariff Reform! " we are bound to add that we do not like the secrecy with which the Confederates carry on their opera- tions. Why are they afraid of coming into the light ? Why do they object to its being known who are their members, and why do they conceal the nature of their Confederacy ? Is it because they are ashamed of the way in which it works, or of some of its members ? Some light is thrown upon this point by a statement made in Thursday's Daily Graphic. The Daily Graphic professes to be able to give a. list, though not a. complete one, of the members of the Confederacy. Here are the names it furnishes :—
Mr. Boner Law, M.P.
Sir Gilbert Parker, M.P.
Mr. J. F. Remnant, M.P.
Hon. Claude Hay, M.P.
Mr. Harry Marks, M.P.
Commander W. F. Caborne.
Mr. Page C Mr. Ratcliffe Cousins. Viscount Ridley.
Lord Wiuterton, M.P. Mr. J. W. Hills, M.P. Mr. Jesse Collings, M.P. Mr. E. A. Goulding, M.P. Mr. Alan Burgoyne. roft.
We cannot, of course, say whether this is a correct list, but if the name we have italicised, the name of Mr. Harry Marks, is rightly included, and if that person is one of the members of the Confederacy, the ground for secrecy is obvious enough. Whatever else is going to happen, we are convinced that the bulk of Unionists are not knowingly going to allow the party to be broken up by Mr. Harry Marks, and persons who can see no reason why they should not associate with him in carrying out their political aims. Of course it is quite possible that the nature of the Confederacy has been misrepresented by the Daily Graphic, and that Mr. Harry Marks is not a member of that organisation. In that case we must by anticipation offer our sincerest apologies to the Confederates for having been misled in the matter.
It remains to say a word as to the action of the Central Conservative Association. As we understand the attitude adopted by that body, it is this. They do not, and will not, attempt to interfere with the local Conservative Associations as regards the choice of candidates. At the same time, they will not recognise any candidate as an official candi- date if he does not endorse the policy in regard to Tariff Reform, or, to be more correct, Fiscal Reform, set forth by Mr. Balfour as the policy of the party. On the other hand, if a locality insists on choosing a vandidate who cannot receive that official endorsement, and if the Tariff Reformers run a candidate in opposition, the central body will not give their sanction to either of the disputants. Though that policy may not be a very heroic one, it is at any rate not an actual endorsement of the policy of the Confederates. It is rather a policy of neutrality, and more cannot perhaps be expected considering the attitude of the chief of the Unionist Party.