14 OCTOBER 1922, Page 5


WHAT the nation needs far more than anything else is a breathing-space. We have been knocked about like a man in a boxing-ring. Our " guard " has been broken down and we have taken so many punches in succes- sion that we are left gasping. In these circumstances we want time to recover, and the next round must be fought with more watchful and sober methods. The boxing-ring provides time for recovery between each round and politics, after all, are not always more inconsiderate. The great consolation now is that if we handle the situation wisely we can easily get our breathing-space and be quite ready for the next round. We have every confidence that the next round can be fought so well that we shall score points instead of having them scored against us. How can we ensure having this brief period for recovery and make full use of it ? In our opinion the idea of a dis- solution before the end of the year, prevalent though it is, ought to be dismissed. Ten weeks is a very short time— not nearly long enough to give a final shape to the settle- ment in the Near East. The only safe solution is that Mr. Lloyd George—who through over-excitement or nervous exhaustion and a reckless attempt to retrieve the blunder of his Greek policy and make it look like a triumph has led us into all our troubles—should withdraw. We said so last week and we say it even more strongly now. The political gossips tell us that if Mr. Lloyd George were to withdraw, as even some of his Coalition Liberal friends are now advising him to do on grounds of expediency, Mr. Chamberlain would naturally be sent for and that Mr. Chamberlain would advise an immediate dissolution. Thus we should have a dissolution either way. This statement certainly has an appearance of credibility and such action by Mr. Chamberlain would, in itself, be credit- able to him. He has collaborated in Mr. Lloyd George's policy, possibly allowing himself to be over-persuaded, and it would be quite appropriate for him to say, " I have agreed with my Chief and if he is to go I am not the man to carry on the old policy. I have believed in that policy, but if the nation so strongly disapproves of it as it appears to do I obviously cannot with any sincerity suddenly produce a new policy. The only thing, therefore, is for me to recommend a dissolution." That would be a sincere reason such as we should expect from Mr. Chamberlain who is well known to be perfectly straightforward in all his dealings. Fortunately for the country there is a plain alternative. Mr. Lloyd George could propose, Mr. Bonar Law as his successor and should be urged by those who have influence with him to do so. Mr. Bonar Law has for sonic time stood aloof and unless common report is wrong has recovered his health. He is not tainted by any of the recent mistakes. His mind works directly and simply. All the circumstances surely point to him as the man who could be asked to carry on the Government in a quiet and sober manner for a few months.

We believe that the restoration of confidence which would result would astonish and gratify the whole Empire. Nearly all Englishmen are pretty well agreed about what they want. They will not have war. Thex do not want to give way unnecessarily to the Turks, but they recognize that it is quite wrong and, indeed, impossible to try to enforce a policy in the Near East which has not the active sanction of our Allies and they, therefore, will not touch a policy which involves singlehanded and expensive adventures abroad. Finally, they want very strict economy at home—a much severer economy than has yet been exercised. We believe that if Mr. Bonar Law took the place of Mr. Lloyd George in a reconstructed Ministry those Liberal leaders like Lord Grey of Fallodon and Mr. Asquith, who arc sensible of the vast dangers which even yet surround us, would in the national interest offer a sympathetic support to such a Government till the Peace Treaty is signed. When those few months are ended we can all talk about the dissolution, which in any case must come before the end of next year. We confess that we are disturbed to the point of alarm when we read in papers whose faith in the Government is not at all shaken that Mr. Lloyd George is in " fighting mood," and intends to smite his enemies hip and thigh at Manchester on Saturday. As Mr. Lloyd George has been very strongly criticized—more strongly than ever before-- it would be absurd to expect him to remain silent now that there is no opportunity for him to try to clear himself in the House of Commons. It would not be fair, therefore, to ask him to say nothing. But it is fair for every reason- able and patriotic man to ask him most earnestly not to defend himself by embroiling the situation. We know that the bombing method is congenial to him, but if he speaks in the vein which is customary with him when he is assailed he may do a great deal of harm. Just when we want to steady down he will create new enmities, new dangers, new fears and recriminations in the Near East and a further loss of public confidence. That is the risk. But unless and until we have reason to think the contrary we shall assume that Mr. Lloyd George appreciates the risk just as much as we do and that he will be wiser than his friends predict. We have only arrived at a clearing in the middle of the wood. The signing of the Mudania agreement is satis- factory, as we have said, but there is still the Peace Treaty to negotiate. Suppose that Mr. Lloyd George has a little triumph at Manchester and feels strong enough to carry on. Ought we to accept that decision ? Ought we, knowing what Mr. Lloyd George's past record is, complacently to hope for the best and pretend that he is sure to have taken his lesson to heart and will see us through the peace negotia- tions serenely and sensibly ? In our opinion the risk is far too great. We simply cannot afford such risks. Mr. Lloyd George would start on the peace negotiations with almost everything against him. He is mistrusted in France and he is mistrusted in Turkey—the two principal countries with which we shall have to deal. Mustapha Kemal Pasha has stated in interviews that he regarded Mr. Lloyd George as the principal enemy of Turkey. As for the French view, we read in a message from the Paris correspondent of the Westminster Gazette, published on Tuesday, that France would be " overjoyed at the departure of Mr. Lloyd George." " He is now," says the correspondent, " permanently regarded as France's most dangerous foe." Now, we have often expressed our belief that Mr. Lloyd George's policy xis-d-vis France, as regards reparations and most other European questions, has been in principle absolutely right. We still think so, but what are we to say of Mr. Lloyd George's equipment as a peace negotiator when he is held in such disrepute by the principals with whom he will have to treat ? They may be wrong— and we are sure that so far as Mr. Lloyd George's intentions are concerned the French are wrong—but the fact remains. It is therefore plain that Mr. Lloyd George is among all possible leaders the least fitted for the task of the next few months. Imagine, further, how many opportunities he would have of flying off in a new passion during the con- ferences. The problem of the Freedom of the Straits has to be settled. Nobody knows yet with any exactitude what is meant by " freedom." It might mean freedom of passage for .all ships in peace or it might mean freedom of passage even for ships of war during war. Evidently the Government when they issued their manifesto intended to insist upon the latter interpretation. It is not easy to see precisely how it can be enforced with Turkey firmly established again at Constantinople. Even when the formula of freedom has been defined it will remain to decide how the League of Nations can guarantee it, for it must be remembered that the voice of the Council of the League must be unanimous. Then there will be the Thracian question and the protection of religious and racial minori- ties—most delicate and complicated problems for dealing with which the British Prime Minister ought to be as free as he possibly can be from past commitments and especially from commitments of such doubtful origin as Mr. Lloyd George's co-operation with the Greeks. We need deal with only one other objection which is frequently raised to the idea of a reconstructed " Safety First " Ministry. It is said that such a Ministry would have no mandate from the country. This is surely pedantic criticism quite misapplied to our dire necessities. We must get out of the wood by the shortest and safest track and not be prevented from choosing that track because we should be treading on ground where we have no strict " rights," or should be disturbing somebody's covert, or should be doing damage to a young plantation, or for some such reason which by comparison with the main object to be attained does not matter at all. Besides, we are ready to dispute the objection that there is no mandate. If there was enough mandate for the Government to embark upon their recent Turkish policy there is enough mandate to carry it through. All that we demand is that it should be carried through, not boisterously and offensively, but with quietness and good sense. There is, indeed, no need of a mandate to continue a policy to which we are now bound by facts. If the objectors accepted the logic of their argument they would say that though a mandate is required to complete the settlement in the Near East in a sell-respecting way, no mandate is required for the Government to go on outraging the wishes of the country —to go on issuing inflammatory manifestos through the Cabinet Secretariat, and, in the name of peace, keeping the nation in unceasing dread of war I