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Speech Archive

Leader's speech, Bradford 1901

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal)

Location: Bradford


Campbell-Bannerman missed the Liberal Convention of 1900, something he makes up for here in reviewing a year’s worth of developments in international policy. The overwhelming issue of the day was the Boer war – on the prosecution of which Salisbury had won the ‘khaki election’ only for the conflict to become longer and more fraught than expected. In this coherent and unified speech Campbell-Bannerman soberly attacks the intemperance of the government. He makes some effective use of metaphors of vision, to emphasise the clear-sight of his own party. The reason of Liberals is made to stand out in contrast to what Campbell-Bannerman paints as the boorishness of the government, especially in connection to recent failed negotiations with General Botha. Campbell-Bannerman introduces the liberal principles of self-government, connects them with the liberal approach to fiscal policy, echoing criticisms he had made in 1899 and opening onto an attack on taxation. He then attacks the government’s poor record on social reform. Turning to domestic issues he talks about housing, education and temperance, specifically mentioning the “Children’s Bill” banning the sale of liquor to children.

I thank you with all my heart for your cordial greeting.  If I sought to discover the ground of your cordiality I think I should say in the first place that I believe it is a burst of honest, earnest, political feeling, too long restrained and pent up, owing to the circumstances of the time we live in, and especially to the dark cloud of war which has hung over the recent history of our country.  In the second place, I believe you have desired to express your recognition of the services of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, for whom it is my privilege to speak. And, so far as your plaudits are directed to myself personally, I take them as conveying your forgiveness of my misconduct last year in failing to keep my engagement to meet, at Nottingham, this great society of com­batant Liberals.  I was absent on that occasion, much to my regret, from temporary ill-health, and it only makes me more deeply sensible of your kindness tonight.

Fourteen Months Afterwards 

On that occasion the war in South Africa was the subject which engrossed nearly the whole of your attention.  How astonished any man would have been at Nottingham last year if he had been told that four­teen months afterwards the war in South Africa and the events imme­diately arising out of it would still be overwhelming all other topics.  At that time - in March of last year - we had indeed lived through those terrible weeks of national anxiety which marked the commencement of the war.  We were following with the closest interest the advance, step by step, of our forces into the belligerent territories.  There were some of us who entertained the hope that the whole territories would soon be occupied, and that pacification would follow thereupon; but we have it on the authority of the High Commissioner, the principal agent of British authority in South Africa., that from midsummer onwards there was retrogression instead of advance, and now we find that the troops of our country only occupy the lines of communication and one or two isolated places, that over the greater part of the territory we exercise no authority, and we have nearly all of us frankly given up the attempt to follow and understand the perplexing movement of the forces on either side.

The Country Longing for Peace

The press correspondents have vanished from the scene.  The offi­cial information vouchsafed to us is scrappy, and its items are not always reconcilable with each other.  It is not too much to say that general bewilderment characterises the view of most people of the situation, and where bewilderment is not relieved weariness and sickness are apt to follow.  There still remains the resolve of the country, no doubt, to carry the war to a successful conclusion, but the whole country is longing for peace, and I am happy to say that I think it does not require very much special acuteness to discern a strong desire among our fellow countrymen that when the settlement does come there shall be no trace in it of resentment, of vindictiveness, or of anything that will perpetuate animosity.  This I am convinced is the feeling and desire of the great body of our countrymen, but it is not at all a temperament or an idea congenial to the Minister who directs our colonial affairs.

The ‘Hysterical Nonsense as to Conciliation’ 

You may have remarked that we sometimes obtain a truer view of an object when it is reflected than when we see it by direct vision, and the inner mind of a man may be best ascertained from some third person who is familiar with it.  Such an indicator of the real meaning of the Colonial Secretary we have in Lord Selborne.  Lord Selborne was for many years associated with the Colonial Secretary in his duties, and he was only recently translated, for urgent family reasons, to be First Lord of the Admiralty. He made a speech the other day in which he used these words. He said, ‘They heard a great deal of hysterical nonsense as to conciliation.  His own opinion of the best course they could pursue was to proceed by gradual growth of mutual self-esteem.’ ‘Mutual self-esteem!’ – ‘Mutual self-esteem’ is a little difficult to understand.  I am neither a philologer nor a philosopher, and one would require to be a little of both to discover the real meaning of it; but this incomprehensible language is extracted from Lord Selborne under the shock with which he starts back in horror from the idea of conciliation.  ‘Hysterical nonsense as to conciliation!’  What a sentiment to come from a Minister who has been engaged in the conduct of those delicate affairs!  May we not find in it the key-note of much of the policy which has been pursued?  It is as if one would say, ‘What is the good of having enemies, either in private life or in public life, or as director of Imperial affairs, if you cannot trample upon them?’

Mr. Chamberlain’s Speech

We are not, however, left to the understudy, because the chief actor has recently appeared upon the scene.  On Friday last the Colonial Secretary addressed his nearest friends and neighbours in Birmingham.  So far as that speech related to his political opponents I propose to take little notice of it.  He appears to have on hand a considerable stale stock of the vituperation with which he bespattered us so freely at the general election.  The echoes of the Town Hall of Birmingham rang with ‘pro-Boer’ and ‘Little Englander,’ and the notorious and scan­dalous phrase that anyone who voted against him, forsooth, was giving a vote to the enemies of his country was repeated and insisted upon.  For party purposes I would wish, nothing better than that once a week Mr. Chamberlain should make a speech of this kind.  But if one has any regard for the tone of public life, for the character of the politician, and for the authority and dignity of Ministers, it is deplorable to the last degree.

Mr. Chamberlain and the Dutch 

But there is, I am sorry to say, something much worse and more serious.  We here at home understand the Colonial Secretary; we know his style, and we appreciate the value of his floutings and scold­ings.  But one begins to despair of the settlement of this question, one begins to despair for the stability of our South African empire, when we find the responsible Minister making a violent partisan speech, openly taking sides in colonial politics, and launching a tirade of denun­ciation against the Dutch - the Dutch in the old colonies, who, after all, have been perfectly loyal subjects in the past, and are a majority of the population, and the Dutch in the new colonies, who are a still more overwhelming majority of that population, and whom it is the whole object of our policy - and indeed it is essential to the maintenance of our authority - to convert into loyal fellow citizens in the future.  What becomes of all our hopes for the future when at this critical moment we find the man who inspires and controls our policy going out of his way to rouse that very spirit of antipathy and recrimination which it is his prime duty to discourage?  You and I, like others of our countrymen, are more interested in men of our own race than in others.  We know and appreciate the services and sacrifices and the sorrows of the British party - those who constitute what is known as the British party - at the Cape.  We wish to protect their interests; but it is our belief that their permanent interests and prosperity will be best served by conciliatory action towards their neighbours and fellow subjects, and above all by freeing not only the formal act of settlement, whenever that may come, but also the tone and spirit of its negotiation and administration, from every trace of racial ascendancy. 

The Attitude and Policy of the Liberal Party

However, we may leave it to Mr. Chamberlain to reconcile as best he may with his sense of duty the outburst of violent prejudice in which he indulged.  What more concerns you and me, should be the attitude and policy of the Liberal party in regard to this great question, and on that, with your permission, I should like to say a few words.  For many weeks and months we kept urging that while the war should be spiritedly con­ducted, at the same time no opportunity should be lost of negotiation by the offering of generous terms, including especially the promise of full representative institutions.  Your Federation, by its General Com­mittee at Rugby, played a noble part in promoting that view, and every Liberal in this country is grateful to you for it. Since that most useful declaration of your opinion we have had the negotiations with General Botha. These negotiations failed.  Why did they fail?  We do not know.  We have little or no information. There is much that is left completely in the dark. 

Two Facts causing Surprise

But the papers presented disclose two facts which cause great sur­prise.  In the first place, they disclose the fact that, after all that had come and gone, after all the weeks and months of anticipation, when the auspicious moment for colloquy arrived our high officials were found to have no determined plan whatever, to have difficulty in answering the questions addressed to them, and, above all, to differ among themselves.  That was the first cause of surprise.  The second was this.  There were three principal officials involved.  There was the General Officer Commanding, who had the reputation of being a stern and somewhat autocratic soldier.  There was the High Commissioner at Cape Town, and there was the Colonial Secretary in London. Which of these three was the most generous?  It was the soldier.  It was the soldier, who had been thwarted through long weeks by the obstinacy and the provoking tactics of the Boers, who might, therefore, be expected to entertain some feeling of resentment against them, and who had been brought closely into contact with them and knew the nature of the men we should have to deal with when peace was restored. He was the man who proposed the most generous terms.  Next to him in point of leniency came the High Commissioner, who, no doubt, was largely in­fluenced by the atmosphere of Cape Town.  And, last of all, stiffest and most unyielding, was the high-handed Minister in Downing Street. 

The Failure of the Negotiations with General Botha

As I have said, we do not know what the impediments to agreement were, but there are two, at all events, that we may speak of as not improbable.  And may I say here that if we have not inquired, if we have not pushed inquiries in the House of Commons, it has been for this reason - that we have always been cherishing the hope that, for­mally or informally, avowedly or without avowal, some sort of negotia­tions and communications were still going on, and perhaps their success might be prejudiced if close inquiry were made?  But there are two grounds which we may conjecture as not improbable.  It may have been on the question of future government, and that question, indeed, these men, who have been accustomed - imperfectly in one State and perfectly in the other - to enjoy representative institutions, may well have considered to be vital.


What is our Liberal policy in this matter?  Undoubtedly this - that when hostilities cease there must follow an interval of somewhat irregu­lar government in order to maintain order.  It matters not whether it be conducted under a soldier or under a civilian so long as it is tem­porary and provisional.  But as soon as that is over, and as soon as it can possibly be done, full representative government should be granted - the same as our colonies elsewhere enjoy.  We believe in self-govern­ment.  We treat it not as an odious necessity, not as a foolish theory to which unfortunately the British Empire is committed.  We treat it as a blessing and as a healing, a sobering, and a strengthening influence.  The Government, indeed, think it advisable to interpose a period of Crown Colony government for these new colonies - that is to say, a government either wholly destitute of, or only partly provided with, a representative element, a system which in these days we apply to no men of European race, and which, also, would have none of the tem­porary character which we wish to see.  What is the thing - I want to impress this upon you - what is the thing that lies at the root of this particular questtion?  It is often strangely forgotten.  It is this.  When these communities, which are now at war with us, when they are vanquished, when they are, if you like to put it so, chastened for the mis­ ;deeds committed against us, we are not going to brush them away and have done with them, we are going to take them to our bosom, and the very men who are out on the veldt in arms against us must be made contentedly loyal citizens, in order that peace and prosperity may be attained.  You may be sure that they will never become either con­tented or loyal under a system of government which they at least regard as government by red tape, if not government by barbed wire.

The Question of Amnesty

But there is another question, the question of amnesty to the inhabi­tants of Cape Colony, who have joined their kinsmen in the field against us, or those who are known as the Cape rebels. What is the latest and highest official proposal as regards them?  It is this - that they should be allowed to remain in the Transvaal State or the Orange River State unmolested by us if they please, but that if they return to their own homes, to their properties, to their families and to their neighbours in the two old colonies, the rigours of the law shall be applied to them. Was ever a more absurd proposal made?  And I must again remind these high officials of their own policy. They make these two States British colonies, and if that is to be their standing can anything more ridiculous be imagined than that a man, on account of an Imperial crime, shall not be punished or molested in one British colony, but shall be punished if he goes into a neighbouring British colony?  Don’t our Ministers see that amnesty is inevitable?  If they don’t see it I admit it is entirely in keeping with what we have seen in the whole of this business from first to last, where, from the Jameson Raid downwards, in every estimate of the position, in every forecast, in every prophecy they have been wrong.  But if peace were made today with­out amnesty, amnesty would have to follow tomorrow.  Why, then, not take advantage of this necessity?  Why not throw some grace into it?  Why not remove this, which must be a material stumbling block to a settlement?  I will tell you why it must be a material stumbling block.  The whole world would condemn the Boer captains if they thought for a moment of making term for themselves and leaving in the lurch the men who have fought with them.

The Cost of the War

I have said we are in the dark in these matters, but there is one point upon which we have been informed of one very solid fact, namely, that the war expenditure is being piled up at the rate of a million and a half a week.  If this meeting lasts a couple of hours there will have been taken from the resources of the country while we are in this hall £18,000.  While our people, with wonderful patience, go about asking each other why so little advance is made, and whether some arrangement is not pos­sible, every month in which they are meeting each other, and wonder­ing, and asking, adds six million pounds to the obligations of this country.  We have no control over and no responsibility for the unreasonable stubbornness or infatuation of the Boers, but we have responsibility for what is done on our own side, and if it should turn out - and all this will be known some day - that this long-drawn and costly delay, costly in money and also costly in life and suffering, is due in any measure to pedantic tenacity and narrowness of view on the part of those who are acting as our agents, then I say that there will be a terrible day of reckoning.  I come to the conclusion that if the Cabinet were learning to write, and I was their schoolmaster, there are two maxims that I should set in their copybooks.  One is ‘Act so that the Boers may become willing citizens,’ and, the other is ‘Remember that each week costs £1,500,000.’  These are Budget days, and our thoughts naturally turn to finance. The financial outlook is appalling. 

A Chamberlain ‘Inaccuracy’

I must here repudiate the idea which is sometimes attributed to us that we have asserted that our countrymen would run away from the obligation they have incurred. Mr. Chamberlain, in one of his inaccu­racies the other night, attributed an opinion of the sort to me.  He said, speaking of me: ‘He says that not one in a thousand would have voted as they did at the last general election if they had known what the war involves.’  I did not say anything of the sort.  There is no foundation whatever for imputing that sentiment, be it a right one or a wrong one, to me. What I said was this - this was on the 24th April - ‘Not one man in a thousand among us, if he had foreseen all that had happened or the situation that was still before us, would have approved the steps which on April 24, two years ago, were in process of being taken.’ And so I repeat that opinion, that if this country had known two years ago, when the negotiations as to the Outlanders’ grievances and the franchise and so forth were in progress, if this country had known or had had any idea of what were the possibilities of a particular line of conduct, they would not have approved, and if I have said that not one in a thousand among us would do it, I am quite certain that the one man would not be any of Mr. Chamberlain’s colleagues, and I doubt very much if he would be Mr. Chamberlain himself.  Our contention is exactly in the opposite direction.  What we find fault with on the part of the Govern­ment is that they are not exacting enough from the present taxpayer, and that they are putting too much over as a burden upon posterity.  But now let us consider this matter.  That the war, which was to have cost ten millions sterling, should have cost 150 millions already is startling enough.

The Alarming Advance in Normal Expenditure

But there is something which to my mind is almost more alarming.  It is that, apart from the war altogether, the present Government have allowed the normal expenditure so largely to increase. War is at all times a hideous thing.  War expenditure is deplorable.  It may be partly pure waste through misconduct; it may be every penny of it pure waste if the object attained could have been secured without it.  But a war ultimately sooner or later does come to an end, and there remains a fixed charge upon the country.  You provide for it.  You know what you have to provide.  We are already charged with interest to the tune of two millions a year.  But there it lies. Annual expenditure, on the other hand, if allowed to mount up by millions, cannot be suddenly stopped or checked or reduced.  It survives.  It is a living expenditure and not a dead expenditure.  How do we stand in regard to this normal expenditure? 

The Tory Heritage

The Government have not been badly treated by their predecessors. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach himself told us that the taxes as they stood when they (the Conservatives) came into office have increased in their yield by no less than sixteen millions sterling.  The revenue from the taxes that we left them to manipulate has increased on the old basis by sixteen millions sterling!  Such has been the prosperity and the elas­ticity of the revenue.  But this does not represent the whole sum which has been placed at the disposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  There was a surplus in 1855-6 of £4,200,000.  Then he has intercepted out of the death duties £1,500,000, which goes in relief of agricultural rates, and he has appropriated two millions out of the annual sinking fund, so that the total amount of what I may call his Liberal heritage amounts to £23,700,000.  But what have the Government done with the expendi­ture? The increase in civil administration, Post-office, etc., has been £7,150,000.  The increase in armaments has been £22,600,000, and doles to the landlords and the schools, to the tithe-owners and the parson, have amounted to £3,350,000.  So that the additional expendi­ture has amounted to £33,100,000.  That is the first thing we must bear in mind - that the extra normal cost of ‘the strongest Government of modern times’ to the country is thirty-three millions sterling.  It takes a pretty strong nation to carry it.  Then let us look for a moment at the large increase for armaments - £22,600,000.  I give merely this fact, that whereas in 1881 - that is twenty years ago - the charge per head of the population for the army and navy was 14s., and in 1891-2 it was 17s.; this year it is 30s. per head.  This is often spoken of as the premium of insurance which the country ought to pay.

A Peace Budget - A Normal Deficit

I believe that insurance companies have certain insurances which they call incendiary insurances, and for these they charge incendiary rates.  I quite admit that if you pursue the fire-eating policy which invites the hatred of other Powers you must pay premiums accordingly; but does the payment of these premiums do much to increase our power?  I mention merely one fact which I think gives ground for reflection.  I take the case of the navy alone.  The combined naval estimates of France, Germany, and the United States, the four great Powers of the world, we may say, between 1892 and 1895 increased at the rate of 6 per cent.  Between 1895 and 1900 they had increased at the rate of 50 per cent.  Fifty per cent against 6 per cent!  Was this in consequence of our extraordinary activity in naval preparation, or was it merely a concomitant fact?  You may take it either way.  At all events, it is shown that our expenditure, which was to make us feared, has not succeeded in making us proportionately strong.  So, although this year new taxa­tion has been imposed to the amount of £11,000,000, we have a deficit on the normal expenditure of peace of £9,400,000.  The conclusion that we are driven to is that this Budget, except for the loan, is not so much a war Budget as a peace Budget, and when we are told that the basis of taxation must be broadened we must not conclude that this is a mere temporary matter. 

The New Taxes Permanent

There is no secret about it.  The coal tax and the sugar tax have been introduced in order to stay.  They will live, they will increase and multiply, and if they do not replenish the earth they will, at all events, deplenish the pocket of the tax-payer.  The war, in fact, has nothing to do with them.  Under cover of an appeal to patriotism on account of the war, under the plea of making those who approve the war contribute to its cost, new veins of taxation have been opened, as remote as possible from those hated death duties, and from the luxuries and superfluities which form the proper subject of taxation.  I will not rehearse the arguments, which will now be familiar to you, on the coal tax, but I wish to say something about the sugar tax.

The Sugar Tax 

I will say this, that even if I were completely satisfied of the necessity of opening some new source of taxation of this kind, it would be with the utmost reluctance that I should agree to this particular one being chosen.  And for this reason - that it is an impost, almost I would say above all others, which presses upon the poorest and the weakest, upon the women and the children and those who have none to help them.  It has been reckoned that the contribution under this head of the ordinary workman’s family will be about 4½ d. a week.  Now, 4½ d. a week may seem not a very large sum, but if the wages of the head of the family are 15s. it means 6d. in the pound on their income.  If this burden is to be escaped - and this is the pitiable thing - it can only be by stinting the food of the children.  Why should this be done while the well-to-do are called upon only for 2d. in the pound, while the squire and the parson are aided with their rates, and while the value of the public-house goes merrily bounding up, because of the lucrative monopoly which our law almost gratuitously confers upon it? 

The Government and Social Reform

The Government are apt to boast of their mandate.  At the last elec­tion they managed, by wiles and devices which we easily detected, by a stale register, and by hiding under the glamour of what was alleged to be a successful war - they succeeded, not in any great triumph, but in coming out about as strong as they went in.  But what mandate did they receive?  If we go back to their true genesis, which was in 1895, what mandate did they then receive from the country for all this great expenditure and for their fire-eating policy?  All the talk then was of a great era of social reform.  They are, if we listen to them, the Govern­ment especially of social reform.  But how does this social reform fare with them?  Why, the door of it, as the chairman has said, is barred and double locked, because they have turned their own energies and the energies of the country and our available financial resources into the channel of distant enterprise and there is nothing to spare for domestic needs.

The Government and Education

Take the question of education.  What is the greatest need of our country?  What will give the country strength among the nations far exceeding that of a dozen army corps or a perfect legion of Imperial Yeomanry?  Ask the first half-dozen men you meet engaged in any staple trade, and they will say that the great want in this country is education, and better education, and better education still.  We live and thrive by commerce, and we are in danger of falling behind our com­petitors in the markets of the world because we have allowed them to get in advance of us in evoking the intelligence and in instructing the mind of their people.  To correct this neglect is the true national and imperial policy.  But what has been the contribution of the Government to that object?  They have endowed the parsons’ schools and they have snubbed the School Boards, which they look upon as rivals of the par­sons’ schools. As we know, in consequence of a legal decision, leading to a preposterous and mischievous result, the Government have been forced to introduce a Bill.  I must candidly say that I don’t know which astounds me most - the Bill, or the controversies which it has caused.  For I am an outlandish, semi-barbarous Scotchman, who have strayed from my hyperborean solitudes into your rich meadows and fat pastures, and I find you engaged in a desperate fight for popular control of educa­tion and to save your higher grade schools and your continuation classes.  In my poor country we have in every parish a popularly elected School Board, and in every parish school there is no rigid line drawn between elementary education and secondary education, and a child may at his own door, I may say, be carried into the higher learning and up to the very gate of the university.  What we take for granted and possess you, it appears, have still to fight for lest the parson’s domain should be invaded.  I do not understand it, but I begin at least to think that in Scotland we are better fitted than you to face the new century. 

A Skeleton Bill

The Bill that has been introduced is a skeleton Bill.  It wants flesh to be put upon it and blood put into it.  Yes, and this is mainly to be done by the Board of Education. But the worst of it is that a great many of us have desperately little faith in this Board of Education, and we would rather clothe the skeleton ourselves.  But at any rate must see to this.  We must see that there is no attack on School Boards either on the principle of their existence or on their usefulness. Se­condly, we must see that there is no sacrifice of education to sectar­ianism; and, lastly, that there is no placing of fresh difficulties in the way either of the children or of their parents.  I can only trust that in dealing with this singular measure these objects will be kept in view. 

Temperance Legislation

But our people, if they are to make their way in the world, and if they are to hold their place in the world, must be not only intelligent, but sober.  This year has marked an immense stride forward towards the solution of the temperance question, for nothing could be more full of hope than those remarkable demonstrations, joined in by men of all parties, in favour of taking Lord Peel’s Report as supplying in its main lines the basis of legislation.  But what was the attitude of this strong Government?  To begin with, they are not likely, a priori, to be strong friends of the temperance cause.  As a witty friend of mine said to me the other day, the last man that they want to encourage is ‘Philip sober.’  But what is their attitude?  Cowering before - or would it be more proper to say cowering behind - their friend the publican, and taking their orders from him. His support is so necessary to them that they dare not thwart him.  Last night a very innocuous Bill was brought into the House of Lords giving a certain elective character to licensing authorities.  The Government refused to touch it on this very ground - that they were not sure that it might not prevent compensa­tion from being given to the public-houses.  Lord Salisbury says that ‘we have to deal with private interests which on any equitable system require the most careful consideration,’ and then he goes on to make an observation which I am bound to say is astonishing to me. He says also, ‘We have to deal with that inability which any Government, and especially such a Government as ours, finds in attempting to impose upon the people a matter so entirely within their own judgment and within the guidance of their own knowledge as the course that they should pursue in satisfying their own individual tastes.’  What!  Is Saul also among the prophets?  This is local veto and nothing else.  I think this must have been drawn accidentally from Lord Salisbury, and he cannot have fully realised the gist of the words he was using. 

The Children’s Bill

But there is another Bill before Parliament to which I cannot but refer.  That is the Bill which is known as the Children’s Bill.  At first it was scouted.  Last year it was carried on the second reading, and then the promoters were treated as visionaries and foolish enthusiasts.  This year it has again been carried on the second reading by a large majority.  A great number of the supporters of the Government, I am glad to acknowledge and I am glad to see, supported it. And now it hangs in the balance, and it is for ‘the strongest Government of modern times’ to say whether they are equal to the task of passing this little Bill.  That the little Bill is needed who can doubt?  A friend sent me the other day particulars of a certain watch which had been kept upon an individual public-house, one public-house in London, on Sunday, the 28th April in this year. It was open for seven hours.  There entered into that public-house in that time 1,792 men, 786 women, 1,365 chil­dren.  I think that if things like this are possible it is not too much to ask the Government that it should assist in passing this Bill.

The Lion in the Path

And then there is the great housing question.  What in all these years have they done for it? They introduced and passed one or two scrappy, pinch-beck measures of no value.  Why is this all they have done after we have read the fine phrases of lofty appreciation that this great want always excites?  Is not the reason perfectly plain?  We all know it.  If only houses could be built on something else than land what a scheme of houses for the poor the Government would give us!  And then I turn to another subject.  They are the farmers’ friends.  They represent the agricultural interest.  Yes, if the interest of the farmer coincides with the interest of the landlord. But if in any case the interest of the owner and the interest of the cultivator differ then they are no longer the farmers’ friends.  We are interested in giving the farmer freedom in the contracts he makes with his landlord, and in encouraging him to make the best use of his land, in order not only to benefit himself, but in order that our country may be made as produc­tive as possible for the general benefit.  The other day our friend, that active Member of Parliament, Mr. Lambert, introduced a bill giving some wider freedom to tenants than at present exists.  It was opposed.  I don’t care for my purpose tonight whether it was a good bill or a bad bill, because the main fact of the whole debate was this - that the Minister of Agriculture slammed the door in the face of the farmer, and declared that, so far as the Government and the Unionist party were concerned, the weak and ineffective measure of last year was their very last word upon this question.  It is the same wherever we turn.  The lion in the path is vested interests, whether of the parson, or the pub­lican, or the landlord, and as it is precisely the vested interests which have put them into rower and maintained them in power, how can you expect them to attack and remove them?

The Duty of Liberals

We are confronted by this great fact in opposing the Government - a Government so powerful for mischief and so impotent for good.  What is the duty of your vigorous organisations throughout the country, and of myself and my colleagues in Parliament? It is to protest and protest, to expose and expose, and, above all, I think I may say, it is to close up our ranks. We are a party of active-minded politicians of many shades of views.  Let us determine to dwell pon the ninety-nine things in which we are agreed rather than the one thing upon which we happen to differ.  But you will say - I can read the thoughts of gentlemen throughout the hall - you will say, ‘Who is this that is preaching to us, loyal delegates of healthy organisations throughout the country?  Is there no lack of unity in the House of Commons?’  I do not know that there is not some remnant of lack of unity, but there is a strong desire for unity at all events, and what I would ask and call upon you to do is to go home each of you to inculcate the doctrine of unity and loyalty upon your individual representative in Parliament, and I promise you that so far as I am concerned I will forgive you.  It is not I who will find fault with you for using this liberty towards them.  We have faith - the very foundation of our political existence involves and implies that we have faith - in the good sense and right feeling of our country­men. We know that they are awakening in a greater and greater degree to the fact that the full development of their happiness as indi­viduals and of the prosperity of the country to which they belong is hindered by the grasp of monopoly and privilege.  In every assault on these hindrances, in every movement forward in the cause of freedom and equal rights, I know you will be in the van.

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