22 JULY 1905, Page 8

PARTY ORGANISATION. T HE friends of Mr. Chamberlain are very anxious

to relieve him of the charge of having destroyed the Unionist party,—the greatest, and while it was controlled by Lord Salisbury the soberest, instrument of power that the conservative feeling of the country has created since the death of Sir Robert Peel. They are worried, almost frightened, by the restiveness of the electors under his proposals ; they see more clearly than they will acknow- ledge that the " stream of tendency which makes for " the acceptance of large proposals is flowing steadily against Fiscal Reform ; they have no sufficient explanation to offer of the by-elections ; and they look round. eagerly for any suggestion which may revive the fainting hearts of the Protectionists. They attribute defeat to anybody or anything rather than the disgust of the majority of electors at the idea of fresh taxes being laid on indispensable articles, including food, for the benefit of landlords, manu- facturers, ironmasters, mineowners, and all who think that if competition were restricted they could grow rich in peace and comfort. Now the " excitement " is all said to be due to the Education Act, and again to " wild mis- representations about Chinese labour," then to dissatis- faction with the High Church clergy, and by and by to extravagant expenditure. Sometimes the excuse is im- patience with the peacefulness of the Government, which does not sink. Russian men-of-war because their captains have injured British fishermen, or challenge William II. for defending what he thinks German interests ; and anon it is all the fault of the inherent " cussedness" of Radicals, who discuss, or delay, or even reject admirable proposals directly opposed to their convictions. At the moment, however, the two favourite apologies are " the swing of the pendulum," and the " defective organisation " of the party which at present retains all legal power. Both propositions are deliciously vague, and both have the merit of seeming at first glance true. Nobody exactly knows what is meant by " the swing of the pendulum," which in a clock is a very regular and strictly timed proceeding, whereas the shiftings of power in this country are neither strictly timed nor regular ; but still pendulums do swing, and as majorities do change there is held to be sufficient explanation in the misused simile, and old gentlemen in clubs quote it as almost self-evident wisdom. As to defective organisation, that is clear past discussion. The object of organisation is to ensure success, and as every fresh election results in a failure, the organisation is proved beyond argument to be defective. The Standard of Monday, in an article made impressive, not to say solemn, by its careful moderation, pointed to this as the great truth, hitherto from delicacy not revealed, hinted that the Central Committee had become a sort of War Office made powerless by routine, and, taking a lesson from recent procedure, called for a " Consultative Commission," or Committee of Defence, to wake it up into energy and wisdom. On every occasion of perplexity that Commission is to supply disinterested " observers " having local knowledge, who are to tell the central party Committee what is going wrong.

Is there not a little childishness in all this, or at all events a little misconception of the influences which really govern the British democracy ? Does our contemporary believe that the " machine," as they call it in America, can really do what the Government—or the Opposition—on the hypothesis, have failed to do, that is, induce masses of dissatisfied electors to vote for them ? How is it to do,it, except by showering money, a practice we are all trying, with some success, to put down ? That in a community governed by voters there must be some sort of " organisation" we admit. The numbers of the electors are so unmanageable that there must be local party organisations to select or endorse candi- dates, to distribute literature, to watch the register, and generally, so far as they can, to inform voters about the candidates who are seeking their support. We do not see how that is to be avoided without allowing that multiplication of candidates, self-chosen and self-interested, which more than any other practice embarrasses a multitude of men in sending up the man who best expresses their opinions. And as such organisations often want to ask guidance from the Government or the Opposition, there must, we suppose, be some sort of a Central Committee to act as a post-office between them and the ultimate authorities. But the more the powers of such bodies are restricted, the truer will be the election ; while to suppose that they can affect it, especially in a time when great issues are at stake, is simply to assert that democracy has neither instincts nor reflections of its own. As a matter of fact, proved by thousands of elections in Great Britain and America, it has both, and both have a certain quality of dourness or immobility which is often the despair alike of candidates and agents. We question if even canvassing greatly affects the result of a contest, though no doubt the lingering idea, derived from older manners, that they have something to bestow makes the lower electors impatient of not being personally asked. The asking, however, does not secure the vote, nor, we fancy, does the speechifying, or the provision of carriages and motors, or the distribution of what is called " election litera- ture." Demos makes up his opinion slowly, often, no doubt, on erroneous grounds, but firmly, and in such silence that the ablest agent, after days of inquiry and calculation, is often so taken aback by the result as ever after to have some doubt of his own acumen. Some idea, of the strength of which he had no notion, has rooted itself in the popular mind, and all his subtle manceuvres, and the hints against frankness that he has given to the candidate, and his careful collection of " pledges " have gone for nothing, or in many cases have injured the side for which he is contending. The party has the best candi- date procurable, all its meetings have been numerously attended, its candidate has been distinctly "popular" with his own side,—but somehow the result is disappointment, to be " explained," no doubt, but still hardly to be endured. The machine has not worked, as in this country, where with many failings there exists among electors the capacity to form an opinion, it will very often not work. The remembrance of one definite speech by a political leader, made perhaps a year before the election, will bring hundreds to the poll when all the clevernesses of all the Committees will not bring ten. The Standard, in fact, makes precisely the same blunder as Mr. Balfour. It mistakes adroitness for statesmanship, ability to manage for ability to govern, the resourcefulness which eludes an attack for the capacity to inspire conviction. The voters are not shaken from their standpoint in the least degree. After all, De Wets do not in the end win great battles, especially battles upon the democratic, scale. The people, when once interested in large proposals, will find repre- sentatives to express their will, even if the wirepullers have grown a little old, and the "agents" a little perplexed by the spread of new opinions, and by that silent impulse of the electoral mind which, and not dodgery, is the cause of unexpected transfers of power.