4 MARCH 1905, Page 6

THE HOME-RULE BOGEY. • M R. BALFOUR'S audacity is magnificent. He

has only just emerged from a very critical Parlia- mentary situation created by an attack upon him on the part of the Ulster Unionists,—an attack directed against him for having not merely contemplated, but actually put in hand, a policy of governing Ireland according to Irish ideas, and of making wide and deep concessions to Nationalist feeling. The Ulster Members raised the Home-rule bogey in regard to the Irish policy of the present Government, and. tried to show that Mr. Balfour, Mr. Wyndham, Lord Dudley, and Sir Antony MacDonnell were engaged in what they consider, or pretend to consider, a conspiracy to intro- duce virtual Home-rule. It is true that Mr. Balfour and his Irish Secretary have said in effect that though these are our sentiments, they Can be altered if they don't suit the Ulster extremists ' ; but meantime it is noticeable that neither Mr. Wyndham, Lord Dudley, nor Sir Antony MacDonnell has vacated. his post. In these circum- stances it is not a little astonishing to find Mr. Balfour raising the Home-rule bogey in regard to the Opposition, and telling the Government candidate in Buteshire that in supporting the changes in the Fiscal policy which Mr. Balfour recommends he must not let "the issues thus raised obscure the fundamental principle of the Unionist party. If I rightly read the signs of the times," continues Mr. Balfour, "the policy of Home-rule only awaits the advent of a Radical party to power again to become active, militant, and perilous. It has never been disavowed by the British Radicals ; it is earnestly held by a majority of them ; it has been con- sistently, and quite recently, advocated by their leader; it will be pressed for by their Irish allies, on whose support they must be largely dependent." Though it is impossible not to be amused. by Mr. Balfour's sudden anxiety on behalf of the Union, and though we might well ask him why, if he feels the Union to be in such peril, he is willing to put off such an essential measure as the Redistribution of Seats Bill till next year, when he knows that it can by no possible means become law, we will for the moment not raise this question. We readily admit that the maintenance of the Legislative Union is so vital that as Unionists we are bound to pay attention to any warning as to the Union being in danger, whatever may be its source or whatever the motives which inspire the warning. Has Mr. Balfour any real ground for raising the Home- rule bogey, and ought Unionist Free-traders to allow themselves to be alarmed by it ? Ought they to con- sider that the cause of the Union will be endangered if a Liberal Free-trade Government takes the place of the present Administration ? We might, if we liked, knock over Mr. Balfour's bogey at once by pointing out the simple fact that the House of Lords is still in existence, and that it will know perfectly well what to do with a Home-rule Bill if we can imagine one presented to it by a Parliament elected, as the next Parliament will be, on the Free-trade issue. No sane Unionist can doubt that such a Bill would be thrown out, and that the House of Lords would be supported in such action by a practically unanimous country. As the whole world knows, the only danger of the repeal of the Legislative Union comes from the possibility of a Home-rule Bill being presented by a Chamberlain Administration which had come to terms with the Nation- alists. Conceivably such an Administration might be able to chloroform or cajole the House of Lords into acquiescence in a disruptive policy. We do not ourselves believe that they would. be able so to persuade the House of Lords, though we admit that the matter is arguable. But though we hold that the right of the House of Lords to refer any Home-rule Bill to the people is, in fact, a perfect guarantee for Unionist Free-traders against the dissolution of the Union, we will not ask Unionist Free-traders to rely solely on the House of Lords when they join in giving the coup de grace to Chamberlainism at the General Election. We are satisfied. that the Liberal party have not the slightest intention or desire to introduce legislation in the coming Parliament calculated to dissolve the Union in any shape or form. We have, instead, the strongest evidence that the Liberal party are thoroughly sick of Home-rule and of dependence upon the Irish party, and. that though they will no doubt pursue a reasonable and liberal policy towards Ireland, they will not dream of attempting to satisfy the Nationalists' aspirations in regard. to the repeal, actual or virtual, of the Union. The Liberals will have an Irish policy, and. that policy will be in accordance with Liberal ideas, but it will not be the policy of the former Home-rule Bills or of any Lind of disruption. As proof of the truth of what we say, we may point to the speech made by Sir Edward Grey at Cheltenham on Tues- day. In that speech, after describing the position taken up by the Government when they appointed Sir Antony MacDonnell, Sir Edward. Grey went on to assert that the Government had. shown that, though it was dissatisfied with the present system of governing Ireland, "yet it had not courage enough to alter it; and that though it was now embarrassed. by Sir Antony MacDonnell, it could not do without him. One good thing about the Government was that it was always providing programmes for its successors, and its successors might well find their programme with regard. to Ireland in taking up the sympathetic policy where the present Government had dropped it." Consider- ing the high position occupied by Sir Edward Grey among the Liberals, and the confidence reposed in him not merely by the moderate, but quite as much by the advanced sections of the party, these words are of immense importance, and indicate the line which the Liberal party may be expected to take in regard to Ireland. It will be the Balfour-Wyndham policy of " sympathetic " treatment. That they will endeavour to reform the Castle—for ourselves, we should like to see it, and the Lord- Lieutenancy with it, reformed out of existence—and that they will liberalise the Irish Administration generally, we do' not doubt; but this, after all, will only be doing what Mr. Balfour and Mr. Wyndham desired to do, did do in some measure, and would have done alto- gether if only they had not been afraid of Sir Edward. Carson. We are certain that if the Premier had had the courage of his opinions, and had gone forward on the path which it is clear he was convinced was the right one, he would have had the support of all moderate and reasonable English Unionists. That being so, we see no reason why Unionist Free-traders should. be frightened at the idea of the Liberals carrying out a policy which had. received the assent of Mr. Balfour,—a policy, curiously enough, more Liberal than that of the Liberals in one im- portant respect. Mr. Balfour was personally anxious to grant a Roman Catholic University to Ireland—a piece of TO put the matter shortly, Mr. Balfour is only raising the bogey of Home-rule in order, if possible, to detach the Unionist Free-traders. In view of Sir Edward Grey's most statesmanlike and most welcome declaration, they will be wise to pay no attention to this bogey, and to feel no anxiety in regard to Mr. Balfour's alarms. It is true, of course, that Unionist Free-traders will not get all they want from the Liberals, because, unfortunately, the Liberals do not realise the need for that essentially democratic measure, a thoroughgoing Redistribution Bill. Since, however, Unionist Free-traders now know that they are only going to get talk about it from Mr. Balfour, and will certainly not get the real thing, they cannot feel that they are losing anything by not supporting the Prime Minister. They are bound, in any case, to wait for justice to England. Meantime the question of Redistribu- tion affords them a ready touchstone for determining the bona, fides of Mr. Balfour in raising the Home-rule bogey. We will readily admit that Mr. Balfour is a Unionist at heart. If, then, he really believes that the cause of the Union is in danger, is it conceivable that he would show such treason to the Union as not to insist that whatever other questions may have to be neglected, a Redistribution Bill must be passed before the next appeal to the country ? Mr. Balfour cannot say that to pass such a Bill now is beyond his powers, for he tells us with magnificent aplomb that he will be able to pass it next year. His ability to do so is, in fact, the only excuse he can allege for not proceeding with the Bill at once. To take away thirty Members, and almost all of them from the South of Ireland, and to add thirty Members to the great English centres of population, which, whether they vote for Free-trade or Protection, are certain to vote against a Home-rule Bill, is a course of action which no Unionist Prime Minister could refuse to take if he really believed the Union in danger. This fact is the measure of the sincerity of Mr. Balfour's belief in the Home-rule bogey which he is now parading before the country. He is either insincere, or else no true Unionist. From the horns of this dilemma there is in his case no escape.