26 FEBRUARY 1921, Page 5


will find few more curious puzzles than Mr. Lloyd George's career and peculiar talents. Mr. Lloyd George seems to thrive on difficulties. In the case of most statesmen the observer is hardly ever wrong in predicting that casualness, want of forethought and opportunism will meet with their condign reward within a given period. But in the case of Mr. Lloyd George the observer is always wrong. Mr. Lloyd George staves off each crisis as it occurs with some expedient which seldom contains any traces of enduring principles ' - he follows the line of least resistance, and for the rest he employs his incomparable ability in debate to such good purpose that he can count upon making a fool of his opponent for the time being. No other man could play such tricks more than two or three times without disaster, but Mr. Lloyd George goes on playing them indefinitely. Each crisis in the long succession may be a little intenser than the last, but Mr. Lloyd George nevertheless contrives to subdue and direct it, and we for our part have long since recognized that the ordinary laws of cause and effect which may be applied with confidence to other statesmen must be applied with a host of reservations to Mr. Lloyd George.

Take, for example, Mr. Lloyd George's treatment of Germany. When the ink was still fresh upon the Treaty Mr. Lloyd George told us that he would make Germany pay to the last farthing and that all the German war criminals would be tried from the Kaiser downwards. Here, however, we must safeguard ourselves against seeming to make an absolute statement, for Mr. Lloyd George always manages to have a line of retreat carefully secured for use in case of necessity. It is part of his strange and matchless ability that most onlookers are quite unaware of the existence of this line of retreat. They allow a firm and deep impression of the unequivocal character of some- thing Mr. Lloyd George has said to be produced on their minds ; it is only later when Mr. Lloyd George destroys that impression that it is discovered that the Prime Minister's words were literally capable of the new interpretation. The country believed at the time of the last General Election that Mr.- Lloyd George would be able to make Germany pay in such a drastic way that British pockets would be relieved of a great part of the War Debt, and that he meant to arraign the Kaiser, and if not to hang him at all events to administer 'to- him the most elaborate dressing-down ever inflicted upon a monarch. Now, -when we compare all that with the brilliant speech of a wholly different tendency which Mr. Lloyd George delivered in • the House on Friday, February 18th, we have a very good example of the ways of Mr. Lloyd George. Any other statesman would have succumbed under the weight of facts—under the insupportable contrast. Both his legs would have been knocked away from underneath • him, and then he would have been peppered with ridicule as he lay upon the ground. Quite otherwise was the experience, or rather the achievement, of Mr. Lloyd George. The ridicule was not for him. It was for his opponents. He carried the House with him as usual, and if we were to sum up the political situation now we should have to say that, in spite of the reversal of his earlier words on most political subjects, Mr. 'Lloyd George has never done better for himself than ho has done. within the past few weeks. " His position, so far from being weaker, is stronger. Further, he saved the Cardigan election ; and though the figures of that election do not justify any single party in claiming a clear victory, the result has undoubtedly been a very great support 'to Mr. Lloyd George.

How remarkable was the feat of Mr. Lloyd' George on Friday, February 18th, may be judged from an examina- tion of the facts with which he had te.deal. Since the airy dreams of wealth to be derived' from Germany were first floated `before •the eyes of a grateful public, it has been gradually discovered by the same public that as Germany can pay an indemnity only in goods, too much indemnity may be a very bad thing for us. This discovery, which has now taken full possession of the public mind, has caused all kinds of ingenious solutions to'be propounded. We can, for instance, compel Germany to send her excess of cheap manufactured goods to countries on the Con- tinent—she will pay us in raw materials, which she will obtain from those other docile countries in return for the cheap goods—or we can receive cheap -goods here Merely to shoot them on to America ! And these ingenious solu- tions merely place the injury to ourselves—if 'the reception of cheap goods is assumed' to be an injury—one • move farther away. All' this complicated situation is further complicated by the proposal of a 12i- per cent. export duty on German -goods, which looks like a' way of saying that, after all, we want to put an obstacle in the way of Germany paying the indemnity, since she can pay it only in goods. Really, there is yet another complication, for Mr. Lloyd George -has pledged himself to an Anti-Dumping Bill which is a still further way of reducing such indemnity as Germany eau pay. What other statesman could have crowed and laughed from the top of this heap of complica- tions--largely created by himself—as Mr. Lloyd George did last week Of course, Mr. Lloyd George had, in accordance with his invariable practice, secured his line of retreat. He was able to point out that he had never promised more than that Germany" should be made to pay to the limit of her capacity." His chaff of his opponents who, he said, would need a ship-load of German paper- marks- to pay their passage home if they went to " search the pockets of the Germans on the spot was excellent. 'And he had a' word of comfort to bestow on both those who think the indemnity too high and those who think the' indemnity too low, according as he referred to the nominal value of the indemnity or to its present or discount value. What can we say of such a speech except that it is unassailable until we examine it in the light of what had gone before ? Any sensible person, we think, 'who listened to the Prime Minister's arguments against making Germany pay in such a way as to damage ourselves must have' been honvinced by the overwhelming good sense of - the =argument. Still, how can you reconcile the argument with the earlier beliefs which- Mr. Lloyd George-allowed to -be 'created iu the country ? You cannot. The whole thing is clue to Mr. Lloyd George's mastery in debate. He is like a doctor treating a patient who is breathing 'heavily with large patches on his lungs. The doctor watches the patient and pumps in the oxygen. The patient responds ; his breathing becomes easy. -He is exhilarated, grateful, pleased. But man cannot live on oxygen alone, and presently the oxygen is switched off. The after-effect is some- what deadening ; the patient, no longer helped, is more conscious than ever of suffocation. However, a good long time passes before the usefulness of oxygen has been exhausted, and Mr. Lloyd George is supreme in his judg- ment of the appropriate moments at which to re-apply it. So we go on—managing to scramble through one emergency after another, but without ever feeling sure what is the nature of the • cure which is being offered to the country or whether any cure has really been thought out.

Perhaps, after all, we ought not to write as though we were surprised, for Mr. Lloyd George's methods have developed consistently enough throughout his career. The only things which are definite about him are those qualities of temperament or race which are beyond his control. We Call to mind 'some self-revealing passages written' by Mr. Lloyd George himself and quoted by Mr. H. du Parcq in the Life of David Lloyd 'George published in 1912. Mr.. Lloyd George wrote, when he had not been long a member of the House of Commons : " I cannot gain much in this House by my speech ; on the contrary, I may lose much influence—these M.P.s are so frightfully decorous and respectable. My audience is the country." That was perfectly true. Mr. Lloyd George, even when he speaks in the House, is speaking, in a much truer sense than can be said of any other member, to the country.

He never uses an argument which will not be plain to the plainest man. He seizes on what is salient ; he reflects no subtlety ; he ignores what is inconvenient. We find that our comment .eight years ago on the passage we have quoted was as follows :- " Our own impression is that Mr. Lloyd George's Celtic passion -might lead him as easily to an extreme of harsh Im- perialism as to one of demagogy. He' will be the sport of circumstances more than he imagines. " In any case he is likely to have a large 'following. The fury- of some Welsh Radicals has a duality akin to Jaocibinism ; for their excessive violence of feeling is capaW.e of being exactly reversed."

In the' diary, frequently quoted in Mr. du Parcq's Life, ' Mr. Lloyd George used to speak of getting into the "hwyl " —a Welsh word which means " swing "—when he was speaking. Apparently the summit of his ambition was that in any speech he made the " hwyl " might come to him. But Barely this is to depend upon something which is 'outside oneself—" upon a kind of daemonic assistance which may be a good or a bad servant (just as it happens) to the cause' of truth." Oratory, we know, is of many kinds. There is the -oratory of• an uneducated demagogue who apparently'cannot become eloquent until the blood has mounted to his head and certain glands have become inflated. This type of uneducated demagogue cannot speak flowingly unless he shouts. Unfortunately, while he is shouting he is -not also thinking. At the other extreme we= have the man of intellect who thinks so carefully as he goes along that his language is- prim' and dry. This is the price which too often has to be 'paid. for reasoning and scholarly faculties of a high order. Mr. Lloyd George, so far as we can see, does' think pretty carefully what he is going' to say before he makes a speech, and within limitations—limitations determined by the kindness or unkindness of the " hwyl "—abides by what he intended to say. The real trouble is that he thinks out his speech with reference to 'what has happened about a month before and to what- is likely to happen within a month afterwards. Lowell 'once wrote an ironical -account of newspaper which had no difficulty in reconciling its present with its -past, or in providing for its future, bemuse it had no past and would have no future. It was in- fact, a newspaper which appeared once and once only. Row ungrudging would ' be our tribute of admiration to Mr. Lloyd George if we could read any One of his fJpetvhea in such a - setting !