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Evening Star, Issue 15675, 14 December 1914
Circumstances now point to a continu-
ance of the* Reform AdReform and ministration by a small tho People, majority of members in
the House of Representatives. This numerical margin looks dangerously inadequate, but it has to bo admitted that tho Massey party lack the elements of instability which undoubtedly exist in the Liberal-Labor party. Only for ono definite purpose —the downfall cf Reform—can it bo said that the LiberalLabor party are as compact, reliable, and strong as their political opponents, who certainly will not yield easily, and who may be depended upon to muster their maximum strength before the severest test in Parliament. But thero are still many disconcerting weaknesses and legislative dangers in the present position, which may be improved for the Reformers, but cannot be bettered for the Liberab. While it is the duty of tho Government, if they secure a majority of even two or four members in the House, to carry on, the Opposition will be so strong and so bitter as to provo a formidable hindrance to progress. Mr Maesey'a eventful term of office was marked by record "stonewalls" and prolonged wranglings, which were only overcome by the will of a determined party to maintain their constitutional position and privileges in Parliament. Tho public did nob profit from the numerous constitutional, if occasionally very silly, deadlocks, and if there be a prospect of a tedious repetition of unprofitable tactics the Liberal-Labor Opposition would be strong enough practically to paralyse legislative activity as initiated and controlled by a Government who would always bo menaced by defeat on a "snatch" test at an inconvenient time. It is an excellent thing in politics to havo. a strong Opposition, but when opposing strength ! is almost equal to that of tho Government the position must often go perilously near to a farcical deadlock. So thero is a danger of constitutional deadlock if tho Massey party decide to carry on with almost a minimum margin of numerical strength. The public will not appreciate the prospect. There are counterbalancing aspects of the position. The Government would be compelled to shape their legislative action so as to force the Opposition to support it, and any attempt to pass legislation which was considered to be adverse to tho interests of all the people would immediately reduce parliamentary activity to tho level of an impotent and expensive farco. The Government, in a word, would bo forced by a strong Opposition to be Liberal in action rather than in intention and profession. In all probability the Massey party will decide to retain administrative office, and will endeavor to adjust their programmo to wear down the external bitterness against Reform in the country.
There can be no question as to the opposition among the people against the Massey party. It exceeds the opposition to the Liberal-Labor party by close on 30,000 votes. Excluding tho Expeditionary Force 3 and absent voters, the poll aggregated 487,154 votes (approximately), distributed as follows :—.Reform, 228,980 ; Liberals, 205,412; Labor, 52,762. The Liberal-Labor party thus secured 258,174 votes as against Reform's 228,980 —a majority of 29,194. Tho majority of the soldiers would probably vote against the Government, who did not do anything in particular to attract tho electoral support of tho Expeditionary Forces. Dry canteens, for example, do not arouse enthusiasm among soldiers for legislators, who havo a special license for Parliament, where warfare is not sanguinary. If the Reform party remain in power they will never be allowed to forget that they have not "a mandate from the people." One can hear Mr G. W. Russell and Mr G. Witty at it now!
In addition to a. marked decrease in the aggregate poll for Eeforrn, there were many noteworthy reductions in .the case of individual members of the Moesey party, as compared with the returns in 1911, when Sir Joseph Ward lost his prestige and some of his political henchmen. In
IHawke'e. Bay, fcr instance, where Conservatism has not been killed, the- Reform majority foil from 1,107 in 1911 to 206—a fact that epeaks for the wisdom of placing a staJwart Liberal to contest a Reform stronghold. In Manukau tho Reform majority dropped from 2,307 to 1,190 in favor of Mr Lang, the Speaker in tho late House of Representatives; in Masterton from 581 to 177; in Rangitikci from 1,028 to 827; in Ashburton from 913 to 144; in Oamaru from 1,364 to 365; in Otago Central from 1,810 to 998; and in Dunedin Central (bo far) from 1,544 to 9 on tho other side—a Liberal gain of 1,553 votes. As against these reductions Reform made several individual gains in electorates where Liberalism • might have been expected to be fairly strong. The Hon. A. L. Herdman, whoso firmness against tho Federation of Labor and whose open, uncompromising opposition to tho Prohibition party and tho Bible-in-Schools League were expected to incur punishment, increased his 1911 majority of 1,763 to 2,543. In Eden the Reform majority of 665 in 1911 was increased by Mr Parr to 2,372; the Prime Minister increased his majority from 1,968 to 2,734; the Hon. W. Eraser from 271 to 899; Mr A. S. Malcolm from 375 to 990; Mr J. B. Hino from 430 to 680; and Mr Buick from 832 to 1,064. Other distinct losses and gains on either side have already been noted in this journal and commented upon. The most remarkable individual majority was gained by Mr T. K. Sidey—from 745 in 1911 to 2,638. Enough has been cited to show how the game of politics is fall of "ups and downe" —its greatest fascination to manv men.
It is clear that if the Massey party secure a continuance of office it will not be at the will of the majority of the electors. This fact emphasises the need of tho introduction of an improved electoral system, which shall provide a more conclusive. form of representation of the will oi tho people. Now that «ircum<stanccs indicate a slender success to Reform, it is to be hoped that the Government will not adopt the Liberal Leader's method in 1011 and leave tho public in ignorance as to Ministerial intentions and changes. Tho first duty of the Cabinet will bo to select, a successor to Mr Fisher, who held the important portfolio of Minister of Marino and Customs. We trust that the present portfolios will be redistributed, so that tho Hon. J. Allen may be relieved of the portfolio of Education, which would bo placed in capable hands if it were transferred to Mr Guthrie, Chief Government Whip, whoso knowledge of the needs of our education system and whoso services render 'him fully qualified for that important position. He can hardly be overlooked, and we hope that his claims will be promptly and adequately considered.
Evening Star, Issue 15675, 14 December 1914
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