16 AUGUST 1930, Page 18

THE PARTY SYSTEM [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—The

letter on the above subject, which appeared in your issue of last week, calls for comment. To ensure popular and democratic government, Party is obviously necessary, if the opinions of a great number of people arc to be effectively organized. Nevertheless, to critics of the Party system it seems too mechanical a form of dividing opinions to represent fairly the popular feeling, with any direct relation to accuracy.

It may be argued that at the present time, Party organi- zation is too frequently a kind of machine for exciting political passions, and for procuring a hold on the people for the purpose of securing votes, but nevertheless these organizations are compelled to appeal to the masses, and the ignorant masses at that, so that currency may be given to ideas, and, equally important, to secure the adherence of a majority. It is folly to argue that there has been a tendency for local interests to override and obscure the interests of the State, as some people seem to imagine ; State has always come first, and will continue to, however important the problems of other localities may be. With one class of people Party institutions are condemned for the reason that they are not democratic enough, because they divert true sovereignty ; with others, they are condemned for the reason that the cleverest political wisdom is weakened with ignorance and prejudice. In this way, these institutions can be accepted by both aristocrat and democrat alike.

Maine, writing in one of his essays on popular government, says :

" I have sometimes thought it one of the chief drawbacks of modem democracy that, while it gives birth to despotism with the greatest facility, it does not seem to be capable of producing aria- tocracy, though from that form of political and social ascendancy all improvement has hitherto sprung."

This passage can be remembered forcibly if taken in a general sense, us there is truth and justice in the position.

We must be prepared to exact a limit to the capacity of the people for progress under education. With that accomplished nothing will be impossible in a directly popular Government, willing to recognize its own natural aristocracy and to listen to its leaders when they interpret the people's will to the people. The leaders must have very wide discretion, and in the end they must be responsible to the people.

Such statesmanship will only thrive in an atmosphere of complete publicity, and such publicity requires the power to come front individual persons, not from composite bodies.