THE THREE MR. BURNSES. T HOSE who have followed the public
career of Mr. John Burns can have hardly failed to notice that there have always been two Mr. Burnses. There is Mr. I3urns the able and practical municipal administrator and labour organiser, and there is Mr. Burns the stump orator, the man who knows how to put the pepper into his speeches, and who, when he is face to face with a mob audience, does not hesitate, as Carlyle would say, to fill their bellies with the East wind of meaningless rhetoric and vague invective. Mr. Burns is, of course, no exception in having a dual personality. Most of us have that, and are three or four people at once. What is remarkable in Mr. Burns is the fact that his dual personality seems to be so exquisitely poised that you can never say which is the dominant one. Mr. Burns has never let either one of his personalities entirely obscure the other. When he is most practical and sober-minded and sound, he always lets the face of the mob orator show round the corner just to prove to his friends in that quarter that "honest John" is still to be depended on as an unconverted, irreconcileable of the good old school, In the same way, Mr. Burns never plays the part of the " down with everything " demagogue, without a hint to his practical and common-sense friends that he is sound at heart, and that all the bunkum is to be neglected as mere verbiage. Like a skilful juggler, he keeps the two balls going at once, and with such dexterity that he never seems in the least danger of a miss. As the brown ball is dropping into his hand, the red ball is merrily shooting aloft. It seems now, however, that Mr. Burns is going to give a further display of his ingenuity by adding a yellow ball, and by keeping that going in company with the red and the brown. In other words, Mr. Burns is in- troducing to the political world a third Mr. Burns. This new Mr. Burns may best be described as the official Mr, Burns. He is a sound party man, determined to support the Government, convinced of 'the entire honesty of the Ministerial promises,' and generally what the Whips call a "reliable person "—one who will not only vote straight himself, but will keep other men straight also. It is clear, however, that this new Mr. Burns is not going to eat up the other two Mr. Burnses. The official John Burns will be able to claim only his fair share, and no more, of the complete composite personality, just as does the practical John Burns, of the County Council Committees, and the aemagoguic John Burns, of the Chemical Parcel Post. The official John Burns has made several tentative appearances, but on Wednesday last he may be said to have regularly taken his place in political life. At a meeting in the Battersea Town Hall, Mr. Burns formally introduced his new personality to his constituents. The speech on Wednesday was, indeed, an excellent example of the skill with which Mr. Burns fulfils himself in many ways, and all at once. The three Mr. Burnses shared the honour of the evening, and not one of them monopolised the platform or forced the others into the background. We will illustrate what we mean by quoting from the speech. Here is an example of the way in which those who admire the practical Mr. Burns were made to feel that the Member for Battersea has got his head screwed on the right way, and is not at the beck and call of the fad-mongers. Referring to his two years of Parliamentary life, Mr. Burns declared that " during -those two years, he had had the honour of being the lion's mouth of Labour, into which the grievances of Labour and of poverty had been put. When he settled down to his duties at Westminster, he received no end of hints, instructions, and orders, but with that persistency he showed on the London County Council, he put his critics on one side." Here was the business man who would stand no nonsense. Mr. Burns the demagogue stopped to the front in the following passage in regard to the House of Lords. Plain and simple abolition was, he declared, the only course to be pursued, and like the lady agitator, Mr. Burns was almost prepared to " wade knee-deep in gore, and let down his back hair," to get it. " The remedy he proposed might cause a great political crisis, it might involve even a coup d'4tat, but of this he was certain, that the subject would have to be boldly faced, and that before very long." Take, again, his declaration that nothing but accidental absence from the House prevented him from voting with Mr. Keir Hardie in regard to the vote of congratulation on the birth of the Duchess of York's baby. In both these passages there is the good old Tower Hill ring. Equally clearly marked was the part played by the official or good-party- man Mr. Burns. A Parliamentary Under-Secretary of seven years' standing could not have preached with more eloquence and conviction the supreme duty of supporting the Government, and keeping the party together. Nothing could be more satisfactory from the Whip's point of view than his treatment of the Irish question. He is as fully convinced of the necessity for paying a fair price for the Irish vote as any professional party manager. " He was," said Mr. Burns, " as much in favour now as when he was elected, of giving Ireland the first place in the House of Commons. The Irish Parliamentary party consisted of some eighty men, who in fourteen years had spent millions of the money of the poorest people of their race in all parts of the world, and had laboured unceasingly to get that decentralised power in their national affairs that London had in the County Council for metropolitan affairs, and those men should never have a stab in the back from him by any vote he could give." Even more sound and helpful was the line taken by Mr. Burns on the general question of the position of the Government. Mr. Burns referred to the various measures that have been introduced by the Government, and " claimed that it was entitled to the support of the masses for what it had done for Labour." Of course he would have liked to see very much more done, but " bearing in mind the opposition the Government had had to face, it had achieved a great deal." Could Mr. Ellis have wished for more judicious and evidently spontaneous and sincere yraise than this ? There is nothing forced or made to order about it, and nothing overdone. Such candid friends are the fortresses of the Ministry. It is amusing to note that in his concluding passage Mr. Burns inter- wove so cleverly and closely the sentiments and feelings of the three manifestations of his composite personality, that it is impossible to dissever them. The concluding passage of the Battersea speech reads like one of those scenes in an opera called, if we remember rightly, a " tutti," a scene in which all the principal characters come on and sing together. Mr. Burns the practical man, the official Mr. Burns, and Mr. Burns the demagogue, all came forward at Battersea on Wednesday, and sang a " tutti." We cannot resist quoting it in spite of its length, so characteristic is it of the Member for Battersea. Mr. Burns the man of practical common-sense led off, but at once the strain was taken up by the others. [The practical Burns] "It was not by the indiscriminate assassi- nation of chief Magistrates that the workers could secure their ends. If there were to be sacrifices let the men make them themselves. It was not by brutal murder, but by the collective, municipal, Parliamentary, and industrial action of the people of this country that Labour could hope to come by its own. [The official Bums] And by coming by its own Labour must not be too narrow in its aim, and not so intolerant of other questions, as there was a disposition for it to become, because a one-eyed view of the social problem meant a squint-eyed view. [The dema- goguic Burns] The Labour movement demanded arms and the man,' and he was sorry to have to say that the men especially were not so numerous as they should be. [The official Burns] He had himself become much more patient with Parliamentary life than he was six years ago. The reason was that he had the good sense to learn by experience. [The demagoguic Burns] He asserted that the working classes suffered most from having had their affairs governed in the past by their enemies and their masters. [The official Burns] Progress had been slow, but it had been safe, and with all its faults England was the most democratic, the most socialistic country, on the face of the earth. [All together] It was because of that, because of the practical character of Englishmen, and because he saw that slowly but surely they were winning recruits and converts to the cause of Labour, that he was not impatient with Parliamentary work. Permanent suc- cess was better than Anarchy at a bound." It must not be supposed that in analysing Mr. Burns's multiplex personality that we have any desire to suggest that he is a worse man politically than his neighbours. The fact that he carries this nice discrimination of the men within him further than most people, is however, an im- portant one, and must be recognised by those whose busi- ness it is to analyse the characters of our public men. For ourselves, we make very little doubt that Mr. Burns is a very sensible man, and on the whole a moderate man, and that though he will not refrain from strong language as long as blood-and-thtinder phraseology will get him a single vote, he has no real liking for the hues of earthquake and eclipse. He is, we suppose, like many—perhaps, indeed, we should say like all—politicians, anxious not only that certain ideas should win the day, but that the engineer of victory should be himself. He thinks, probably, that by riding his three personalities at once he will be able to do himself and his cause good, and so he intends to stick to them. Lord. Rosebery, however, would tell him that in the race of life as in races run under Jockey Club rules, an owner must ultimately declare which horse he intends to win with. Mr. Burns, sooner or later, will have to make his choice, and will be obliged to choose one personality and stick to it. Which of the three will he choose ? We can only hazard a guess, but we expect it will be the per- sonality of the good party man " laced " with the astute politician. With this personality to the front, Mr. Burns may go far. However, we shall see. Meantime, one thing is certain,—the public will not much longer allow Mr. Burns to keep all his three personalities going at once.