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THE POLITICAL SITUATION, Issue 15704, 19 January 1915
THE POLITICAL SITUATION
OPPOSITION LEADER INTERVIEWED. RETICENT, BUT CONFIDENT. [Fbom. Oub Special Cokhespospbkt.] WELLINGTON.. January 18. Sir Joseph Wa.rd, who returned from Auckland on Saturday, courteously but very firmly refused to discuss the party position with a representative oF tiw Dunedin ' Star * who waited upon him to-day. "It would be scarcely decent," Sir Joseph Ward e-aicl, " for mo to express an opinion 'for publication upon the elections which are etill in dispute, and which probably will come before the Election Court. "Of course, I have an opinion, as everyone else doubtless has, but it is only the opinion of a landman, and is just as likely to be biased as other people's opinions are." "No," Sir Joseph eaid in reply to an attempt to break ground in another direction, "I don't think at present I can discuso even the causes th:it Jed up to the ptesent muddle. There will have to be some searching inquiry into the whole manner in winch, the election was conducted if only as a guarantee fcgainst the recurrence, of tho blunders and Irregularities which have put tho country to 60 much incon-ink-nee and expense. sud this can hardly be- carried out while the parties axe still fighting for supremacy. When Parliament meets we are bound to hear a great deal more about the matter."
This was a bad beginning front the interview point of view, but a, third question concerning the. voting at the recent election led Sir Joseph on to a subject which bo felt he could discuss without any impropriety. " Yes,'' ho replied, " I have seen the full official risuies. and they show beyond all question that the Opposition secured a very substantial majority of votes nt the polk". Of the 515.500 votes polled, 272,025 were cast for the Opposition and 243,476 for the Government, so that, taking the whole country as one constituency, Ministers are now holding office with a minority of 28 549. Theseare not fanciful figuies conjured up to exalt one party or to discredit the other. They are the final returns from the 76 European constituencies, and cannot bealtered by recounts, ov petitions, or anything else. The fact that some of the Opposition votes were recorded for I-abor candidates does not affect the position at all. These votes were as emphatically cast against the Government as were those recorded for Liberal candidates.
"The plain meaning of the figures is that it" the votes had been cast under a system that wculd have given them all an equal value there wouid be .40 European members on the Opposition side- of the new House of Representatives and 36 on the Government side. The Government were beaten at the polls in both the North Island and in the South Island, their minority in the North being 10,074 totes and in the South 18,475 votes. "The election provided incidentally a strong argument in favor of Proportional Representation, and showed that the reform could be made effective in comparatively small constituencies, and without interm-ing with the country quota. The Opposition, with 55,856 votes, won 12 seats in Canterbury, while, the Government, with 35,371 votes, won only two. On the other hand, in tho North of Auckland district the Government- won the whole of the four seats with fewer than three-fifths of the votes eatt. and in the fhago Central district the four seats with not much more than half the votes. These are results that would be impossible under any equitable system of election, and the fact thJt an injustice in one district often balances an' injustice in another is no argument why there, should be injustice In either of them."
"Oh, yes," Sir Joseph smilingly replied to a parting oueetion, '".I noticed the statement, attributed to Mr Massey by the newspapers to the effect, that the leeent election was the dirtiest he had ever known. All of its, when wo are irritated or disappointed, are apt to deal in superlatives, but it is difficult to believe the Prime Minister expressed himself in this way. There was hard fighting on both sides daring the contest —principally by the newspapers, by the way—but nothing that came under my notice on our side could justify such a sweeping impeachment. However, Mr Maspey had wider opportunities to judge of the character of the election than I had, and as long as h© doe? not include the Opposition in "his denunciation it is not for me to complain." Sir Joseph could not bo induced to break his silence- with regard to the general aspect of tho political situation. "But do not misunderstand me," lie said, when again pressed to make a statement. u I shall be delighted to disc ties tho elections and their results at the proper time, but it does not. seem to me this is the proper time. When the way is clear I shrill have a good deal to say on the subject, and I shall not hesitate to say it. In the meantime, the Opposition are an absolutely united party, standing firmly to their policy laid down dining the election campaign. I have confidence in my supporters, as I feel they have confidence In me, and when our opportunity comes I have not the slightest doubt that we shall be able to justify ourselves befo-ro the. coantrv."
THE POLITICAL SITUATION, Issue 15704, 19 January 1915
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