The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1881. Crotchets in Politics.
The ensuing election is not likely to furnish anything more than a very rough estimate of people’s sentiments regarding the larger number of the most important measures which will be brought forward in Parliament. In many places, especially those most remote from the seat of Government, the contest is already being carried on entirely with reference to the capacity of the respective candidates to get Government money voted for works in the locality and not at all as a matter with which statesmanship could have anything to do. The candidate who can prove that he is the most likely, through his influence, to get a railway carried along a particular route, or who can procure a vote for a new Police Court, or obtain a bridge across the river so and so, is the hero of the hour, and is likely to head the poll, and will enter Parliatrient as the Representative of nothing in particular of any consequence to the people at large. And then, again, in many places large numbers of electors have banded themselves together to get a member for their locality who will be sound on the one article which forms for the time their conception of the politician’s whole duty of man. In some places in Otago and Southland there is a triangular duel being carried on with regard to the education question. The Bible reading in schools people are determined that they at any rate will return a religious man, or what some people wotfld style a man who wears his religion in his coat sleeve. The Roman Catholics, with
some reason, complain that they are treated unfairly in the distribution of 1 the vote for educational purposes, and make the reform of the Education Act in this direction a test question of the fitness or unfitness of a candidate to be , returned. The secularists on their part are equally determined that come what may “ the Education and Act shall not be tampered with,” will vote against any man, no matter how suitable otherwise, who is unsound on this point; and as with the State aid to education question, so also with regard to the liquor trade. Some of the teetotal societies have already fairly thrown down the gaunlet, and avow that the Licensing Act passed by the late Parliament is not half stringent enough, and that they will never be satisfied until they see the infamous liquor trade entirely prohibited, and an agreement come to that no compensation shall in any case be granted to publicans whose houses may be closed by the operation of a proper liquor law. The licensed victuallers, on the other hand, are equally determined that they will not be suppressed, and one Christchurch paper asserts that they have already chosen their nominees, and will give them a block vote on the election day. This is unfortunate. We quite admit that the reform of the Education Act, and the framing of the best possible liquor law are important measures, but they only form after all a mere fraction of all that is important* and will come before Parliament. With regard to all matters except the one specially selected by the enthusiasts we have referred to, the respective districts of the members elected to represent one idea is often very useful as an agitator, seldom of much account as a calm adviser or judge, and those are the chief functions of members of Parliament. Besides this, also, there is always the danger that some hyprocritical rogue may be returned by the one-sided constituencies. Nothing will be easier for an unprincipled candidate than to post himself in one particular subject, and profess unbounded devotion to one particular phase of opinion with regard to that. In fact, the more unscrupulous he is, the more wildly will he gush in his enthusiam until the day of his election. This has always been the case when there has been only one subject before the electors at a Parliamentary general election. At the end of 1875, in this colony, many candidates well known to be generally quite unfitted to discharge Parliamentary duties with any credit to themselves or the colony, were returned merely because they were vehement Provincialists or Abolitionists. The same thing held good for yearn in Vic toria. Any man who styled himself a Protectionist and a Liberal, no matter what his personal character or capacity, was sure to be the chosen of the electorate. We trust, however, that on the present occasion, after all, it will be found that the electors will not lose their heads, but consider calmly who are, on the whole, the ablest and best men, with regard not to one particular subject but with reference to the majority of those likely to be placed before their members.