31 JANUARY 1903, Page 19

Lord Balfour of Burleigh, addressing the Glasgow Liberal Unionist Club

on Monday night, broke the Ministerial silence on the Venezuelan question. He described the Alliance with Germany as "a mere casual co-operation for a specific purpose and for a limited time." Lord Balfour scouted the sugges- tion that the Alliance was the result of the German Emperor's visit to this country in November. On the con- trary, joint action had been decided on in July. We may add that Lord Balfour's remarks on what an American diplomatist has called an "ironclad alliance" provoked some pertinent comments from Mr. Asquith in his speech at Hull on Wednesday. He found it very difficult, he said, to reconcile Lord Balfour's statement with Lord Lansdowne's despatch, which described the association as one from which neither Government should be at liberty to recede without the consent of the other ; or with the damaging admission that our Government had entered into this affair without knowing, and without taking the trouble to inquire, what were the nature, character, extent, or grounds of the German claims. Mr. Asquith accordingly preferred to describe the Alliance as "a partnership, indefinite to a large extent in its purposes, and altogether indefinite in point of time, in which we as a nation combined unlimited liability with a strictly limited power of control." Unhappily, that definition exactly fits the facts. It is very humiliating for Unionists to admit it, but we have no alternative.