20 OCTOBER 1984, Page 19

One hundred years ago

We do not suppose that any leaders of the Liberal Party in Birmingham sanctioned in any way the riotous de- monstration of Monday; but we wish they had condemned it more strongly. There is no need to make too much of an outbreak such as thirty years ago used to mark every contested election, and was organised on several occasions by the Tories during the Jingo period; or to say that the demonstrators are as bad as Lord Salisbury, who almost asked for violence, or Lord Randolph Churchill, who distinctly recommended it in `retaliation'; but apart from higher considerations, which we discuss below, any resort to violence just now is an extreme of foolishness. The real fear which checks the final triumph of Liber- alism among the middle classes in this country is not a dread of what the masses will do with their votes, but of what they will do with their fists, — a dread, that is, lest under a democratic government law and order should not be adequately maintained. Mob-law is the bogey, not mob-voting. The dread is, we believe, unfounded; for, if we understand the workmen at all, they wish law to be carried out with regular

severity. Spectator, 18 October 1884