The Evening Star FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1914.
Apart front merely political considerations, which retard proAn Indecisive gressive government by Battle. any party, the indecisive
result of the General Election yesterday must, as far as the incomplete returns enable anyone to form a definite opinion, be disconcerting to the public throughout the Dominion. There is the prospect of another noisy intrusion upon tho patriotic interests of tho people at a time when politics should bo kept in the background. As the parties stand to-day, the battle has been drawn, although a “ moral ” victory has been secured by the combined Liberal and Labor forces, and neither party can claim numerical strength to control the administrative affairs of tho State. Unless there is a repetition of the surprising results which have been a feature of the contest, a dissolution is in immediate prospect, and that is precisely what the public do not desire. The Prime Minister of England once gave it as his opinion that a General Election was the great assize of a nation, where rival policies and rival parties were arraigned and tried and judged. If Mr Asquith’s definition bo acceptable, it would seem that a new “ trial ” will be required to determine whether the Liberal-Labor party have belter claims than tho 'Reform party for a decisive verdict of tho jury. It is indisputable, however, that the Reform party have sustained a surprising set-back, and that Sir Joseph Ward has regained the popularity which he lost three years ago. Of course, it is obvious that without tho aid of Labor the Liberal party would remain in opposition, but since tho Liberal-Labor forces have been linked together (one could hardly say welded together) as a combination with at least one definite object, the alliance must be accepted as a complete representation of political force, which, in the present circumstances, is equal to the entire parly of Reform. The only consoling feature of the contest to the Reform party is their unembarrassing unity. They still remain as a complete. If slightly diminished, force without any troublesome allies in their ranks. The consolation is a poor pleasure at its best, and need not be begrudged. It is a notable fact that two of their number who “ratted” against tho Liberal party (Messrs Reed and T. W. Rhodes) have had their action endorsed by the majority of their constituents.
It Is not difficult to find the causes for the-sharp if inconclusive sot-back to the Massey Administration. Moat people will bn ready to concede that the cantos have nothing to do with the Government's sane handling of the waterside workers’ striko Lust year. The Hon. A. L. Herdman’a do-
cuiva success at the polls is sufficient proof of that contention. Of all the Reform
party the Attorney-General, a man of steel, was the strongest foe of the Federation of Labor. The causes affect the interests of all the people, and especially those interests which find exercise in the homely activities of life and work. Tho Government's palpable weakness in respect to controlling commerce and trade during war, which encourages greedy exploitation, is the chief cause of their moral defeat at the polls. Had the Government exorcised a strong control of exploitation at the outset of war there would have been no talk of an early dissolution. Then they failed to do anything at all in the allimportant matter of adjusting tariffs in order to lesson the coat of living to tho toiler, who is rarely ever more than a day’s pay from debt and difficulty. Workers in all industries became convinced that behind the Reform party’s assertion as to their Liberal aims there lay hidden in the background the unyielding spirit of Conservatism. And when men and women once believe that a political Administration is hypocritical in its professions they make no error about changing their support, even if it be to a party who not so long ago were cursed as the enemies of democracy. it would be courting need of corrective •writing to discuss tho numerical results yesterday. The position can only bo looked at in a piece, as it were, and, judged from that point of view, one must confess that there is a prospect of Mr Massey having to pay the penalty for thrusting a General Election upon the people at a time when the destruction, of an enemy’s marauding cruiser is of more value to the country and the Empire than the Reform, Liberal, and Labor parlies and all their solicitous plans to please the public grouped together. Ho got fair warning to defer the election, but was over-confident of decisive success.
As for the individual losses and gains in the battle, there is ample scope for speculative argument. The crushing defeat of Reform's ablest, if erratic, general, the Hon. F. M. B. Fisher, is an exception. Flashings in politics 13 entertaining and tolerable, but it never deceives thoughtful people as to its true value. Mr Fisher is undoubtedly clover, and was the Government's best disputant in the faco of bitter attack, but his strength in these qualities did not counterbalance his rash impetuosity, his utter lack of consistency, and hia transparent shallowness. He climbed rapidly and high, and has had the inevitable fall of an egotistical individualist in politics. Broad acres in Hav/ke's Bay proved too wide and rich for Dr M'Nab, who proves the amazing truth that ability is not always the essential equipment of a politician. The defeat of Mr Afcmore, for Nelson, on the Liberal's aide, demonstrates that people grow tired of political smartness. It is not surprising that the Hon. E. M'Kenzie has lost his grip on Motueka. His service in Parliament had become spasmodic. And Six Walter Buchanan, who had planned to close a long and honorable political career in 1917, has been compelled to retire a little earlier than expected. He and Mr Hornsby have changed places with almost regularity, and this time it was Mr Hornsby's turn to g-et in. Taken as a whole, the contest has proved that Reform's grip on the country has been rather exaggerated, and that workers have forgiven the Leader of the Opposition for his shortcomings in the past. It may prove that Reform will yet have a meagre majority in the House, but circumstances indicate that neither the Massey nor the Ward party will secure a eafe and workable majority. There, for the present, the position must etand. Moderate Labor has triumphed in Otago.
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The Evening Star FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1914., Evening Star, Issue 15673, 11 December 1914