Had the Labour Party intended to show the rank and file of its members how much it is in the hands of the Liberal Party, it could scarcely have shown it better than in its action over the Veto question.
At the General Election all their candidates were desperately anxious to appear as supremely “practical” politicians, and to avoid frightening the voters by standing as representatives of the working class. To occupy the latter position would mean running as Socialists, and laying before the workers the opposition of interests that exists between employer and employed. But such an attitude is denounced by these “Labour leaders ” as “unpractical,’’ “impossible,’’ and in other terms that are found so useful when argument has failed.
Therefore they went before the electorate with such a splendid position that Mr. Snowden said in the “Daily News” (3.2.10):
“The demand for social reform which the Labour Party’s persistent propaganda work has created has expressed itself very considerably at this election by votes given to Liberal candidates even against Labour candidates, because the Liberal Government was believed to stand for all that was immediately practical in the Labour Party’s programme.”
Mr. A. Peters, National Agent of the Labour Party, also said :
“the questions of the Lords’ Veto and the Budget were almost identical with those of the Liberal Party; or to put the point in another way, it was rather too much to expect ‘the ordinary man in in the street’ to pick out the distinction.”—“Labour Leader,” 4.2.10.
Practical politics up to date! Arrange your programme so that the ordinary voter will be persuaded, by that programme, to vote for your supposed opponents, and you will have won political distinction and a reputation for hard-headedness.
But were they opponents? Curious that opponents should occupy positions so much alike that the voters can see no difference. Like a flash however comes the answer when Parliament meets. A few days before a rumour goes round that, as is usual with the Liberals, their election cry is to be dropped and the “great Lords’ Veto” is to be indefinitely postponed. The chairman of the Labour Party makes a public statement that his party will not be satisfied with such a position. When Parliament meets Asquith confirms the rumour. “What he has said he has not said.” The Irish party kick up a row, and here, apart from the merits of the Veto, the Labour Party could have floored a tactical point by keeping their election pledges and refusing to support the Government. Instead they showed their complete subjection to the Liberal party by supporting Asquith. Not only do they lock up the Government in breaking its pledges, but every Labour Member deliberately broke his own election pledge for the purpose of assisting the Labored party !
Yet the cup is not full. Scarcely has this of the unity of Liberal and “Labour” been given than Asquith, under pressure from the Irish, withdraws, and promises, more or less, to take the Veto before the Budget, and the Labour Party are left wondering how they are to find excuses for their position. Mr. Clynes tries some word-spinning in the “Labour Leader,” but even that journal has to admit that “the Labour Party has failed to make the most of one of the most magnificent opportunities history can record.”
This on March 4th. On the 7th Ramsay MacDonald moved an amendment on the Army Estimates, regarding wages and conditions of employment in the Government departments. On Tuesday after a long debate Mr. Haldane promised that if anyone said they were not acting up to the spirit of the (Fair Wages) resolution they would refer it to the same tribunal as in the case of contractors. Instead of refusing to take this promise the Labour Party were prepared to withdraw the amendment and leave the Government as free as before. But the Tories forced a division—then fifteen of the “practical” politicians voted for the Government and against their own amendment! Only three voted for it, the rest (including the mover) did not vote!
What farther proof can the most hardened Labourite demand of the asinine stupidity and deliberate treachery of the “practical politicians” of the Labour Party ?