Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit TUESDAY, MAY 16, 1905. IMPERIAL POLITICS.
The Balfour Ministry in the Imperial Parliament seems likely to enjoy a longer tenure of office than was generally predicted for ib a year ago, when it was considered that a comparatively early dissolution was probable. The Government majority, howover, has been steadily reduced, until it is now insignificant compared with that with which they began their career, and it is clear from the result of the numerous.byeelections that have been held within the last year or so that the Conservatives are losing ground, while the Liberals are gaining steadily. Mr Balfour will ask for an appeal to the country when the time comes for him to lay down the reins of Government, and it is certain to be granted. Whether the Liberal party will be returned at the head of the polls with a good majority, remains to be seen j but indications are at present pointing that way. The mistakes of the Balfour Government have been serious enough to alienate the sympathy of a large section of their one time supporters, and the Prime Minister's attitude on the fiscal question, and his much discussed Education Act and Licensing Aot have all been out of sympathy with the feelings of the bulk of the electors. The Liberal party is at present considered to be in a rather disorganised state, and it certainly was so a while back when the Conservative party's position was at its full strength. But now that the Conservative Government is weakening, the Liberal party in opposition is beginning to show more cohesion and harmony, and with the gradual disruption of one party there appears a corresponding unification of the opposing side. Mr Chamberlain's preference and protection proposals have split the Liberal Unionist ranks altogether, and the divided sections are not likely to come together again until the next Parliament disposes of those questions for a season. Leaving Home Rule on one side, the chief planks in the platform on which the Liberal party will take its stand before the countty, will be the maintenanoe of free trnde, the revision of the Education and Licensing Acts, the taxation of land values, the organisation of means of dealing with labour and trade disputes, and the extension of local government. A prominent place will be occupied by the fiscal question, as that is a question on which the greatest unity can be secured among the Liberals. With such a programme a3 this the Liberal party would stand a very fino chance of being returned with a substantial majority at the next general election. The question of who is to be next Premier is one on which there seems to be no agreement. Tnere are a number of possible candidates for the position, none of whom, however, stands out distinctly as the one and only man for the occasion. Lord Spencer has been mentioned as a claimant: for the office ef Prime Minister, but he suffers from the disadvantage of age, being in his seventieth year, and besides he is not a speaker who can hold his audience by his eloquence. He is cursed by a frigid style and delivery, and in these days this is a fatal objection in a Prime Minister, for the latter to be successful in his office, must possess the art of addressing and impressing popular audiences. Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman would, of course, be an excellent man for the position ; but he would be faced with certain definite difficulties which would moat likely cause him to decline tho task of forming a ministry even if it were offered. Then there is Lord Kosebery, who could almost certainly have the Prime Ministership if he would take it. Whether he will be open to an offer when the time comes for it to be made is doubtful, and on the whole there appears to be a tendency among the prophets who are indulging in predictions on this subject to count him out. The man whom good judges look on as most likely to be entrusted with the destinies of the Empire is Mr Asquith. The member for East Fife is a man in tht prime of life, being now in his fifty third year, and he possesses the necessary qualifications, as a speaker and a leader, and his Parliamentary record is a good one. However, the best prophet's predictions are frequently falsified, one never knows till the numbers go up. But the names mentioned, with the addition of Mr John Morley, are said to include all those whose claims are entitled to serious consideration.