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Speech Archive

Leader's speech, Birmingham 1920

Andrew Bonar Law (Conservative)

Location: Birmingham

Commentary:

This conference was the first since the end of World War I, and Bonar Law praised his Party’s conduct during that time. In particular, he commended its participation in the coalition government, which enabled Britain to avoid the in-fighting that plagued American politics, and thus to play a full role in the process of post-war reconstruction. Bonar Law then attacked the proposed tax on war wealth, claiming it was unworkable, and spoke of the need to reopen trade with Russia. A further issue at the time was Ireland, which was suffering under deplorable conditions following the passage of the Home Rule Bill.

With seven years almost since the last meeting of the National Union of Conservative Associations – what a time we have gone through in the interval which has elapsed since that date.  What anxieties, what doubts, and uncertainties, what hopes and fears; but never, I am proud to say – on the part of the Government or of the nation – any doubt as to the carrying to the end the struggle in which we have been engaged.  (Cheers.)  In these circumstances, it is, I think, right that, for a few minutes, I should consider what the action of our party has been in that time, and what its position is today.  But I do not want in praising, as I am going to praise, the part that we have played, to give any suggestion that that praise is due to us alone.  It is easy for an individual, it is easy for a nation, to rise in a moment of enthusiasm above themselves; but it is very difficult to live year in and year out on that higher level and display that staying power – and it is that and not enthusiasm – which has brought us through this struggle.  Our nation has lived through that time in that spirit.  We cannot look back on all we have gone through; we cannot recall the part played by every section, by every class, by every sect, without feeling that, glorious as our history was in the past, we have never risen to a nobler height than, as a nation, we rose in that war.  When we think of those who played the chief part, of those who made the supreme sacrifice, we remember this – that there were no sheltered lives; that, if the anguish of the war is felt in the castle, it is also felt in the cottage; and I hope, and I am sure, that so far as this generation is concerned, however much we may drop back into old controversies and old quarrels – perhaps, worst of all, into class differences – we will never forget the part that was played by every class in the supreme hour of the nation’s history.

We Did Nothing Mean

During the war we had very few party meetings of any kind, but I recall well the first, in the autumn of 1914.  At that meeting I said something like this – it was as near an approach to a peroration as I have ever attempted.  ‘We each of us play our part, important or unimportant, on a great stage, and the great honour that we can look forward to is that when the war is over we can truthfully say as a party that we did nothing common, did nothing mean upon that memorable stage.’  Ladies and gentlemen, I look back upon that time – look back upon it as leader of a party – and I say that we can truthfully make that claim.  I am not going to go into the whole history of it, but let me remind you of some of the things that happened when war broke out.  The Government in power was a Liberal Government, and a Government with which at that time, we had been in very bitter conflict.  For ten months, I think, we occupied the Opposition benches, but we never opposed anything during the whole of that time.  I can say truthfully no action was ever taken by our party, directly or indirectly, which could interfere with the Government in the conduct of the war.  Well, that is not so easy as perhaps it seems to you.  Party fighting is the life of politicians, and it was not an easy change to throw away every advantage of hitting our opponents, even in that supreme hour.  Time came when that Government could not continue.  That was evident.  We had to choose between supporting a real opposition with the object of changing the Government or forming a Coalition.  None of us liked the idea of a Coalition, and I believed then, and I am sure my colleagues believed too, that if we had chosen to wait for a few months, it is certain that there would have been a change of Government, and that your party would have carried on with the war to its conclusion.  We never even thought of that.  If we had taken any other course we would have been condemned by our party because they realised that unity of the nation could not have been so well secured.  All through, in supporting the Government, our colleagues in the House of Commons and our party in the country showed a fixity of purpose which justifies us in saying that that at no time did they think of anything but the interests of the nation as a whole.  What is the result?  The future, the political future, is very uncertain, but at this moment our party is a united party as much as when the war began.  Well, that could not have happened if as a party we had acted foolishly, and if, as I think, we acted on the whole wisely – there was no Machiavellism in the business – it consisted simply in this: That the party has come well out of it because at no stage did we think of the interests of the party, but at every stage we thought of the good of the nation.  (Applause.)

Coalition Still Necessary

Now, ladies and gentlemen, everyone admits that by means of a Coalition we did get a better use of the national force than could have been got in any other way.  But, we are told, the war is over; why don’t we fall back on our old party divisions.  We are told, as the chairman has pointed out, that a Coalition represents the abandonment of principles.  Let us examine that.  Let us say first that in my life experience – which, though Mr. Chamberlain spoke of me as a young politician – (laughter) – has been a pretty long one – I have not found on the whole that the men who talk most about principle are very different in their actions from the rest of us who don’t talk about principle.  But let us consider what that means.  There is principle in politics.  There can be, and there should be, no compromise between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong.  But is not there a habit of confusing political principle with political prejudice, and does not it happen generally that when we are talking of political principle we are really thinking of political prejudice?  Just look at it.  There are some subjects where principle is the whole question, but they are not very numerous.  Politics is the science of life, and you will find, if you look back on the controversies of the last hundred years, that in almost every case the point at which one party left off was the starting point of another party in a subsequent generation.  We are told that there cannot be unity, real unity, in a Coalition.  Well, now, do you think that is so?  We have all been members of a party.  Did we always think alike on every subject?  Is it not the fact that we had to choose on broad lines which party we would belong to, and that over and over again there was even in our party the most acute differences on subjects of vital importance?  Unity of purpose does not depend on a name; it depends on something more than that, and I venture to say with a certainty that I am right that there is more unity of purpose in the present Government than has been the case of any other Government in the war, and I believe as much, if not more than, in any Government in my life.  Now, I have got here a phrase which defines the general idea about political consistency and unity.  They are very nice words: ‘An independent political force, inspired by common convictions, arriving at common ends, marching on the same road to a common goal.’  Well, if there is any party where you should think it easy to have this unity of purpose, it ought to be easier when the party is small.  There words were used by Mr. Asquith – (laughter) – whom I gladly served under, and of whom, like your chairman, I shall never speak or think except with respect.  But ‘Here we are, the independent political force – a great army marching on the same road to a common goal.’  There are 33 of them in the House of Commons.  (Laughter.)  They may be marching to the common goal, by the same road, but they are never marching to it through the same division lobby.  (Laughter.)  No, ladies and gentlemen.  Even this small group is unable to hide its differences in the face of the enemy and is united by nothing – (laughter) – except a name and a real dislike of the present Government.  That is the political principle which unites them.

No Compromise on Nationalisation

Take an illustration of it.  There was a division on the question of nationalisation.  Like your chairman, I think that perhaps more than any other, and not the old party issues are the things which are going to count in the years which are going to come.  On that there is no compromise.  In my view there can be no question whatever that any system which tries to get rid of the initiative of the individual, the energy of the individual, is a system which is against history, is against common sense, and is fatal to any nation.  (Applause.)  Well, even on this, this political force, united by a great principle, and marching on a common road to a common goal – they cannot agree.  Well, they, at least, should not talk to us about a want of unity of purpose in the course which we are pursuing.  But, consider what is the alternative to a Government such as exists now.  I think we can get a lesson from what has happened and is happening in the other nations of the world.  The war is over, but the effects of the war are not over.  (Hear, hear.)  Look what is happening in other countries.  Take the United States of America.  She played a great part in the last days of the war.  (Laughter and applause.)  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she did, and we, as a nation have glory enough not to need to grudge it to any of our Allies.  She did.  But she was far off in the struggle.  She was not driven as we were by the force of the danger to form a national government, and what happened the moment the war was over?

A World Calamity

I blame nobody in America.  They reverted to the most intense party fighting with what result?  The result that they are playing no part whatever, you may say, in that reconstruction after the war, which is almost as vital as the winning of the war itself.  And it is one of the calamities of the world that America is left out in all the work that is to be done.  But it is not true of America only.  Look at what has happened in Germany in the last year.  It is said of the English people – I don’t know that it is applied to the other races to one of which I belong – (laughter) – it is said of the English people that they have a genius for compromise.

What does that mean?  It means simply that they hate extremes, that they chose the middle way.  And that is our safety.  (Hear, hear.)  What has happened in Germany is that the extremes of both sides have won, and the problem as to the way of dealing with Germany, of the recovery of Germany – for believe me that if chaos similar to what has happened in Russia should come it is a calamity not only to Germany, but to the world as a whole.  (Hear, hear.)  They had not our instinct of the middle way.  I do not know what will happen, but the danger is very great.  Look even at our Allies.  France and Italy had coalition Governments; but it is not enough to have a coalition of parties in name.  You must work together as one party if you are to be effective.  In France during the time of the existence of this Government – since the autumn of 1916 – there have been, I think, five different Governments; in Italy there have been four.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is not a good thing.  Stability is of the essence of recovery, and you can only get stability by choosing the middle path, avoiding extremes on the one side and on the other.  But look at the history of our own country.  Put your minds back to what the position was in February and March of last year.  I remember it well, for the Prime Minister was in Paris, and I and my colleagues had the whole of the responsibility.  You remember it.  Disorders of an extreme kind – not, as far as I remember, in Birmingham – in Glasgow, in Liverpool, in Belfast.  In London, the danger of the City being thrown at any moment in darkness.  Worse than that – we can speak of it now because our troops played so glorious a part that this small incident does not count – but there were signs of discontent which at another time would have been considered mutiny.  That was followed by the railway strike.  Well, we came well all through that time, because we had public opinion behind us – (applause) – and I do not believe for a moment that the Government of any party, whatever it was, would have commanded in the same degree the general support of the public opinion of this country.  Now, our chairman has spoken of what is said about the position of the Prime Minister and myself.  It is quite true, as he said, that you read one day in one newspaper that I and my colleagues are the tools of Mr. Lloyd George, that this Government, supported by the Conservative majority, are really carrying through Bolshevism in disguise.  On the same day in another newspaper, or the next day in the same newspaper – (laughter and applause) – you will read – not, perhaps, exactly as the chairman put it – that I have swallowed Mr. Lloyd George.  (Laughter.)  I would not like to do it.  (Laughter.)  My digestion would never be good again.  Not that.  But we read that Mr. Lloyd George has gone back on all his principles, that he is the leader of a reactionary party.  Well, now, ladies and gentlemen, both these statements cannot be true.  One or other is false.  Which is true?  (Laughter.)  That is a conundrum which is not easily answered.  Don’t you think that perhaps a simple explanation is the real explanation?  Don’t you think hard facts are as we said them to be, believed them to be, think them to be?  That we as a Government – and this is the sole justification for our existence – that we are looking at each problem as it arises on its merits, without regard to party prejudice or party feeling, and that the one desire is to solve it in the best interests of the nation.

National Finance

That is the only justification, and that is what we think we are doing.  Well, those who are opposed to us may call that want of political principle.  I don’t think so.  I will tell you what I think it is.  It is not opportunism; is it statesmanship.  (Cheers.)  Now in illustration of what I have been saying, let me deal with one or two of the problems with which we are faced today.  Take first the position of our national finance.  That is not a simple problem.  For some years during the war I had to face it.  I did not think it easy then, but I knew that perhaps some people might think there was something like cowardice in what happened.  I knew it would be far more difficult after the war was over.  It has been far more difficult.  I am not going today to argue, as I have argued, and the chairman has argued more than once in the House of Commons, questions of our extravagance.  You know, if you judge us by one mode of examination, we are not only an extravagant Government, but we love to be extravagant.  (Laughter.)  Well, that is wrong.  I do not say – the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not say – that a great deal of money is not being spent unnecessarily.  I do not say that for a moment.  I am sure many of those I am addressing are men connected with very big businesses.  Can you imagine any big business where there is not some difficulty after a period of boom in getting expenditure down to the normal level?  It is not easy, but I say that no Government, and no Chancellor of the Exchequer, has ever tried more sincerely and earnestly to avoid unnecessary expenditure than is being tried by this Government and this Chancellor of the Exchequer.  (Cheers.)  I want you to consider another subject which was discussed only this week.  I am afraid it is rather dull.  I was going to say I am going to repeat our chairman’s arguments, but my introduction was bad for the purpose.  (Laughter.)  Well, the subject is dull, and I am going to repeat very largely his arguments.

Taxation of War Wealth

There was a proposal to put a special tax on war wealth.  Now, that is very attractive.  It is attractive not only to the Labour party, it is attractive to the vast masses of our countrymen who feel that if they are worse off in every direction it is hardly right others should be very much better off in consequence of the war.  There is that strong feeling.  We all sympathise with it.  But you have to consider not merely feeling, but the effect of what you do.  Now, look at it from that point of view.  Examinations of the subject show that it is impossible to separate wealth won in consequence of the war from wealth which had grown during the war.  That is a great problem.  Consider the justice of it.  I have no hesitation in saying – and I showed it, and so did the Government when we put on 80% excess profits duty – that no one who during the war made an income as large as he made before it has any cause for complaint.  But that is rather a different thing from saying that there is no difference between the man who spent all his income during these five years, and the man who saved it.  There is a difference there surely.  And let me remind you of this: That the estimate of increased wealth during the five years of war is 4,000 millions.  I saw an estimate by an economist the other day of the increase of the five years before the war, and it was put at 1,500 millions.  Consider what that means.  If you had put on that tax a very large part of it would have represented the savings during these five years, and during the war there was nothing which any man could do in the public interest more important – and there was nothing that, we as a Government and myself urged more – than that, that man should save, in the interests of the State.  (Applause.)  I cannot see it would be fair to tax their savings in those five years, and leave untaxed savings made in other years.  But that is not my main argument.  You have got to consider the effect of what you propose to do.  Where is the 500 millions you would have got from this tax?  It is largely, in one form or another, in business.  That means you can only get it by valuing your assets.  That is the difficult thing.  You know that this money cannot be collected except over a certain number of years.  Is there anyone who doubts that very likely before the money was collected and paid there would be a fall in the nominal value, which had taken away to a large extent the nominal increase of wealth.  That is not doubtful.  The date fixed was June last year.  Already in many commodities there has been a fall, which would have swept away the whole of the wealth which you were supposed to have made.  But there is a stronger reason against it.  Mr. Clynes, one of the men who at present lead the Labour party – and if they were all as sensible as he, I would not be so afraid of them – (applause) – said the first thing to prevent unemployment was confidence.  That is true.  Look at the effect of this.  It would take at least one year, perhaps two years, to assess the amount that a man had to pay.

Only One Argument in Favour

During the whole of those two years, if it took that time, not only would the man who would ultimately have to pay the tax, not know how much money he had in his business, but tens of thousands of men who would be free from the tax would not be certain that they would not be liable.  I can imagine nothing worse for business.  In speaking in a city like Birmingham I know I am speaking to men who understand these things.  Businesses are carried on to a large extent on credits from your banks.  Well, during these two years, or whatever it was, the bank manager would not know how much your assets were, and nothing is more certain than this, that the amount of credit given would be diminished in consequence of that uncertainty.  I am not going to say anything more about it than this: It is admitted that you would not have got as much money by that method as by the method we are adopting.  In these circumstances there is only one argument in favour of it, and it is an argument which might influence some Governments; it is that it is very popular.  Well, our justification as a Government, the justification for this kind of a Government, is that we are going to hold the scales even; that we are going to hold them fairly between class and class, and not going to be influenced by anything except what we believe to be in the national interests.  (Applause.)  Now look at another point.  There is an impression that the rich are not paying enough.  I really want the whole country to know what the level of taxation we have drawn from the well-to-do is.  Let me try to put it before you.  Before the war the largest amount of direct taxation, that is taxation collected largely from the well-to-do in any one year, was 93 millions.  Last year the amount of the same kind of taxation was 721 millions sterling.  But that is not all.  Look over the whole period of seven years, and you will find that over and above the annual contribution of the 93 millions, taking into account the excess profits duty which is due but will not be collected by the end of this year, we have collected in direct taxation from the well-to-do practically 3,000 millions sterling.  There has never been anything like it, anything approaching it during this war or any other, in the whole history of the world; and when there is so much talk about the greed of the capitalist – I do not deny that every class is inclined to think that the national interests must more or less coincide with his own interests – but I say throughout the war, and even now, that class has borne these burdens with an equanimity and absence of complaint on the whole, of which there has been no record in our past history, and no record in any other.  But, ladies and gentlemen, that is one side.  We have refused to impose taxation which we think unwise.  We know that the National Debt is a terrific burden; we know that on the whole trade and industry is prosperous.  Well, what are we to do?  That prosperity won’t continue indefinitely, and I am sure many of those I am addressing know that as well as I do.  Is it not our duty, when prosperity is there to use to the utmost of our power every effort to lessen the burden which will come in the lean years?  And where can we get it?  We cannot take it from the ordinary professional classes with fixed incomes, because they are worse off in consequence of the war.  We can only take it fairly from those who are making money.  That is the only fair way.  I know that a burden of that kind is heavy on industry, but can anyone suggest that we can put on burdens without hampering industry?  It is necessary to make a beginning in the reduction of our national debt, and just as we shall not be driven to unwise taxation by the public clamour, so we shall do equally right in getting a fair amount of taxation from those able to pay it.

Russian Negotiations

There are so many subjects to talk about that it is rather difficult to choose.  But we should discuss subjects which are most in evidence at the moment, and I am going to speak to you for a little on a subject on which the Government has been much criticised – namely, our attempt to reopen trade with Russia.  Let me say at once there is a widespread feeling, which I share, of dislike to having anything to do in any shape or form with a Government such as that which controls Russia.  But the longer I continue in political life the more I am convinced that all kinds of political problems, including foreign problems, are best dealt with by the exercise of a quality which is one of the most uncommon, the quality of common sense, and I am going to ask you to look at that problem and use your own common sense.  In the first place, the doctrine that you are not to deal with a country whose Government you may dislike or detest is a new doctrine and an absurd doctrine.  Let me take an analogy.  The French Revolution broke out in 1789.  For nearly four years, till war was declared, we traded freely with France in spite of the eloquence of Burke and the September massacres.  After the imprisonment of the King we ceased to recognise the French Government, but we did not cease to have commercial intercourse.  We did not do it until war broke out.  There have been many cases where, for one reason or another, we have broken off diplomatic relations, but that did not mean that all trade relations must cease.  We have got to face one of two alternatives.  We have got to make up our minds that we will put down this kind of Government, but I venture to say there is not one man in a hundred in the United Kingdom who would be willing to spend British money or British lives on a war in Russia at the present time.  The other alternative is to make the best of the situation, and that however long this Government will last we will have nothing to do with Russia until things have changed.

Well, that is a possible point, but it is not a sound point.  Consider what the position is.  It is not to the advantage of the Soviet Government that we think of renewing relations.  Russia is the storehouse of the raw materials of the world.  Before the war Russia exported something like nine million tonnes a year of grain and flour; of wheat alone it exported a quarter of the whole quantity that was exported from all the other countries of the world put together.  Well, look at the position.  We know what the price of foodstuffs is today, but there is something more.  Those who make estimates as to what next year will be at this year’s costs, tell us that great as is the scarcity this year, it is going to be much greater next year, unless Russia is brought into the pool.

What is Good for the World 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is not a question of sympathy or anything else; it is a question of what is good for the world in the policy that we are willing to take in a matter of this kind.  Now I am not going to deal with the kind of criticism that is made about our action.  As you know, it was decided by all the Allies that these trade negotiations should be opened up.  An agent came to London for that purpose.  We are told we are offending the conscience of the world because Mr. Lloyd George and other Cabinet Ministers dealt with this man.  It would be all right, apparently, if we had employed civil servants, and even under-secretaries; but for a Cabinet Minister to do it – that is the end of the world!  Well, that is nonsense.  It is too stupid for words.  If it is right to do it, it is right to do it in the best way.  (Applause.)  Consider what is involved.  The British Government is not going to buy or sell to another Government.  We want our traders to get to work, but we are not willing to allow even that till some things are done.  We are not willing to allow it until British prisoners, until British subjects in Russia who wish to leave, are allowed to leave.  (Applause.)  We are not willing to do it until we know that this Government is not going to be hostile, to stir up trouble throughout the British Empire and throughout all our Allied countries.  These things we must have as a preliminary for trading.  (Applause.)  Is it not right to try to get them settled?  Think of this first.  I don’t suppose there is a man or woman in this room who dislikes that kind of a Government more than I do.  But I go much further than that.  We have all believed all our lives that a Conservative Government is an impossibility, that it is contrary to human nature.  I read today a report of an interview of a Labour delegate who has just come from Russia.  He has got a very open mind about Soviet government – (laughter) – but he says their ideals are all right, but that this Communist Government cannot come for two or three generations.  Well, that is good enough for me.  (Laughter.)  That is only saying in another way what I say, that a Government of that kind, so long as men and women are human beings, and not angels, is an impossible Government.  Very well, then, what is most likely to end that kind of government.  You run a great risk, it has been proved, of strengthening a Government by employing foreign forces to fight against them.  In my belief – events may show, perhaps, in a reasonable time whether I am right or wrong – just because that kind of government is an absurdity, is contrary to human nature, so the one thing to end it is to restore normal conditions and get reasonable trade going between one country and another.  I have dealt with this subject, not because I thought you would like it specially – you don’t love the Bolsheviks, you have got samples enough of them at home to imagine what they are like abroad.  (Laughter and applause.)  I don’t suppose you like them.  But we have to think of something more than our likes and dislikes.  It may well be that nothing now may come of these negotiations.  It may be, as we are told – there is very conflicting testimony – that there is nothing to come from Russia.  I do not know, but I know this: that, whenever you begin, nothing will come for a long time.  But if you begin this year there is a chance of something next year; that, if you wait until next year there is not a chance of anything worth having next year.  And I say to you that, on this subject there is not, as has been suggested, any difference of opinion between the Unionist members of the Cabinet and Mr. Lloyd George.  (Hear, hear.)  We all believe that it is in the interests not of England – we do not wish to trade between Russia and England, but between Russia and the world, and the idea that we are pursuing some selfish policy is absurd.  Food is scarce with us, but we are much better able to pay for it than most other nations, and if Russia is opened up it is not Britain it is the world which will benefit by the change which will take place in that case.

Ireland

I cannot refrain from saying a word or two about the problem which is the most difficult to the Government at this moment, and that is saying a good deal.  (Applause.)  For I can assure you that hard as the task was during the war from the point of view not only of the amount we have to do, but of the difficulties, of the problems which we have to face, the position of Ministers is far more difficult than it was even during the war.  The most difficult of these problems is Ireland.  (Applause.)  What have we to say about it?  It is one of the tragedies of the world – (hear, hear) – that we are still in the same old rut in regard to Ireland.  I have not time, and I do not think it is necessary to dwell in any detail upon proposals which we are making for the Government of Ireland.  But let me say this.  Do not imagine that this is a new policy imposed upon us by the wickedness of our Radical colleagues.  Before the war at a conference at Buckingham Palace, at which I was one of the Unionist delegates, we would gladly have jumped for our party at the solution which is proposed in this bill.  The Home Rule Bill is on the Statute Book.  You cannot go back to the position of ten or twenty years ago.  You have got to face the position as it is.  Well, now, what is the proposal of our bill.  During the war, in the year 1916, while Mr. Asquith was still Premier, an attempt was made to solve this problem by agreement.  That attempt was based on leaving out the six counties of Ulster and giving the largest measure of local government possible to the rest of Ireland.  It did not succeed, but very nearly succeeded.  For a time it seemed as if the Nationalists were willing to accept it.  Well, now, if in a time like that, when there was a general desire for agreement, such a proposal was put forward, do you not think it probable that that is the fairest proposal now which the circumstances enable us to make?  I think it is.  (Hear, hear.)  We are bound by certain conditions, not the Unionist party only.  The Liberal Party, and no one expressed it more clearly than Mr. Asquith – the nation itself has declared that North-East Ulster has as much right to be free from Dublin – and more – as a Dublin Parliament has to be free from a British one.

On that there can be no controversy.  Short of that we are giving the largest measure of self-government which is compatible with the security of the British Empire.  (Hear, hear.)  I do not say the prospects of its acceptance are good, but I do say this, that we have made on broad lines the fairest proposal that it is possible to make, and we cannot do more.  (Cheers.)  But for the Government, what we are thinking of is not so much this bill we are struggling with in the House of Commons.  What we are thinking of is the condition of Ireland.  (Hear, hear.)  It is deplorable.  I am not one of those who think, to use Mr. Gladstone’s phrase, that the Irish have a double dose of original sin.  I do not believe for a moment that any large proportion of the Southern Irish sympathise with this conspiracy of dastardly murder which is going on.  I don’t believe it.  (Hear, hear.)  But the curse of Ireland – I don’t know how it happened – the curse of Ireland is the want of moral courage, and the terrorism which prevails which enables these murders to be committed, with comparative impunity.

No Coercion of Opinions

Well, we are doing, we have done, we will continue to do everything which is in the power of the British Government to put down the most dastardly conspiracy that has ever occurred in the world.  (Cheers.)  We are not exercising force against opinions.  There is no coercion of opinion.  We are exercising, and will continue to exercise, whatever force we can against crime.  We have had the same thing before, and bad enough it was; and heaven knows there are very few people in this country who would not pay almost any price to get rid of this intolerable curse.  We have had the same thing many times before.  We have dealt with it.  We have got as a nation to put this down, to restore civilised conditions again in Ireland.  (Cheers.)

Now I have only one more thing to say.  Our chairman said he was not going to prophesy as to the length of time the Coalition would continue.  Neither do I.  It does not worry me.  Really it does not worry me in the least.  I will tell you what I think about it.  Nobody can foresee what differences may arise – differences which may perhaps split it on the old party lines – I see no sign of it – but I say this, that we work together with our present Liberal colleagues, that we work together with the present Prime Minister, who in my deliberate judgement played the greatest part of any Briton in the war.  (Applause.)  We worked together with him in the war, we have worked with him now in reconstruction, and we shall work with him as long as we can honestly believe that our co-operation is for the good of the nation as a whole.  (Applause.)  In this city, and under the chairmanship of a man who bears the name – (applause) – which has made this city famous, which has added new glory to it, I cannot refrain from looking back on that other kind of co-operation which lasted for a very long time.  It did not mean that the Conservative party or our allies, the Liberal Unionists, remained in their old position.  It had this effect on all of us – it modified our policy, but do any of you think that was a bad thing?  I do not.  And just as that co-operation was undoubtedly for the good even of our party, and still more of the nation, so I hope and believe that the present co-operation will have the same good results on our history.  (Loud applause.)

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