THE PARTY SYSTEM
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—I shall be much obliged if you can allow me space to reply to Captain Mildmay's criticism of my letter on ' The Party System."
Captain Mildmay claims that the Party System is "necessary for the effective maintenance of the Representative Principle." If the party labels were scrapped as I suggest, and the Lower House elected every five years from individuals with the courage to stand on their own merits and convictions, we should have a more truly representative gathering than we can ever hope for under the present system. It would be edifying to know the number of politicians who subscribe wholeheartedly to the entire programme of their particular party, and also the number of electors who can place-confidence
in any of the political programmes offered as bait for their vote. If political candidates had to stand as Independents we should gradually find the finest men desiring to enter Parliament, for they would feel free to serve their country instead of wasting their abilities in nursing a party that required constant nourishment ; whereas (owing to the unhappy state of affairs engendered by party politics) we are faced with the lamentable fact that the greater part of our men of fine character and constructive ability regard both politics and politicians with contempt.
I must join issue with Captain Mildmay when he states that " the Party System is to Parliament what Discipline is to the Navy and Army—indispensable." While we know that in the case of the Navy and Army it is " theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die," the function of Parliament might be said to be the reverse : theirs is to make reply, theirs is to reason why, and (however much we might wish it otherwise) theirs is not to do or die.
I fail to appreciate Captain Mildmay's analogy between a regiment and the House of Commons. The former depends for its existence as a unit on discipline—it must be the expression of one idea only ; whereas the latter should be a gathering of individuals representing all the diverse interests and activities of the nation ; their virtue consisting in the very fact that each one contributes something individual to the common stock, in order that light may be shed from varied angles on our problems.—I am, Sir, &c.,
ELSIE B. WILLIAMSON.
Studio, 4 Dolts Hill Avenue, N.W. 2.