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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

Peeps Into Politics. — I.—The State of Parliament

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Peeps Into Politics.

I.—The State of Parliament.

[unclear: storm] has broken, and the heavy atmos[unclear: phere] of a strong but incapably-led political is reverberating with the thunder-clap [unclear: s] to threaten its destruction.

[unclear: political] firmament seethes with rumors [unclear: coming] decease of a Government, the of a new party, and the impending dis-[unclear: a] of the House—all rumors sufficient to [unclear: a] disturbance in the lately serene ele-[unclear: tric] of our Parliament. Let us consider [unclear: are] we now, and how did we get here! [unclear: 1877], the long-reigning party was deated, [unclear: of] men, untutored in the ways of govern-[unclear: ok] their turn at the wheel. Didn't they[unclear: spin,] too! Graceful curves and elegant [unclear: did] our ship of State go through at [unclear: a] expenditure of millions to keep the fur-[unclear: ther] going. But troubled water loomed [unclear: the] look-out saw breakers on all sides, [unclear: the] George and his jolly devil-may-care [unclear: ept] yawing the vessel's head about, till [unclear: long] suffering passengers, got sea sick, [unclear: he] they had to go to give place to some [unclear: hand] to guide us through the difficulties [unclear: their] wild steering had led us into.

[unclear: were] relegated to the calm of the Op-[unclear: pis] beaches, and time it was they went [unclear: we] did find ourselves in a sad plight. [unclear: an] presented himself in the emergency, [unclear: j] mped at his offer of assistance. Of [unclear: shall] have more to say. With the [unclear: ce] of a strong, compact party of men, [unclear: d] the interest of their country second [unclear: ing] -except, in some cases, their own [unclear: ty] determined to support him in his [unclear: of] reform, he and his colleagues did [unclear: some] good. I honestly admit the good [unclear: d] but, oh, what might they not have [unclear: with] a firm hand and strong determina-[unclear: y] might have carried measures that [unclear: have] left them famous, but instead, they [unclear: of] themselves to petty details of official [unclear: swamped] the Parliament with shoals [unclear: cessary] Bills, and when any opposition [unclear: n] to their principal measures, pre-[unclear: tf] themselves to be kicked, apologised for [unclear: ng] and withdrew their Bills. While [unclear: spat] weary days and sleepless nights [unclear: ating] the least amount on which a [unclear: dek] clerk could live, in enforcing a reduction of 10 per cent, in the wages of the female office cleaners, in tracking starving telegraph clerks through the Australian Colonies to ensure their being given a stone when they asked for bread; while Mr Oliver and Mr Dick were learning the routine of their offices and recruiting their health in holiday rambles; while Mr Rolleston looked wise, and pursued his official avocations as if such a thing as a party to bo kept together did not exist—that party was left unguided, undirected, to work out its own thoughts. The Government supporters were left to themselves, and no wonder

"That Anglo-Saxendom's idees abreakin' 'em to pieces;
An thet idees that every man does just what he damn pleases."

And in that state the last session ended. The recess was spent chiefly in screwing down the Civil Service—a class of people unable to help themselves, and therefore a class whom even a coward Ministry could not be afraid of. Part of the recess, too, was spent in disagreements between the Ministers themselves and disagreements with the Governor; part—and a very small part—in preparing Bills for the coming session.

It came, and members came, clamoring "Give us food," and they were given the Licensing Bill. From all parts of the House arose at once a cry—a cry picked up from the country itself—for improved local government. Then these sages hid their heads together, and marvelled that they had never thought of it before. Of course they hadn't. Men with no power of seeing beyond their noses, and their noses each kept to its own little grindstone, and always grinding some little axe of its own as well. So, with the indecision and weakness adverted to before, so characteristic of this Government, they retired to their closet, leaving their party to look after itself, to incubate some measure to appease the desire of their supporters. "Oh, ye Gods and little fishes" what a Bill! It would have been the laughing-stock of the House but for Sir George Grey's. Thatwas a Bill! Take it for all in all, we hope we shall ne'er look upon its like again!

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The whole thing was getting too ridiculous. How could men of common sense stand by and see such bungling measures introduced, and submit to debate them calmly? One man has had the courage to say he won't. Like all reformers he must suffer much abuse, and it is not spared, but he has at least the courage of opinions. What will be the result it is difficult to say.

"Things look pretty squally it must be allowed, And I don't see much signs of a bow in the cloud."

But if Mr Ormond could find the support he deserves, we might learn once more what a powerful honest Government means. We shall see.

One of the most striking features of the day is, that our Parliament contains but one man who has yet showed himself really fitted to lead a party; that man is Sir George Grey, and he is detested far more than loved. Ever since Mr Stafford retired, and Sir Julius Vogel left for England, there has been a great want in the party opposed to Sir George Grey, viz.—a leader. What the party has lacked, and still lacks, is a leader, and the fact that it has not been able to find one is clear proof that no man of the party is of commanding intellect. Was [unclear: the] ever a House of greater mediocrity all [unclear: round] Ever a better chance for genius to display itself? Most of the older men seem to have had their day, and of the younger men Wake field alone shows any promise of ability, and on him is the curse laid by the aged Jacob on his first-born Reuben, "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel." Sheehan might have been Premier had he not rather loved the flesh pots of Egypt. Except Sir George, [unclear: and] manin the House has a following Look through the list—Hall, Atkinson, Rolleston, Montgomery, Macandrew, De [unclear: Lantour] (so-called leader of Young New Zealand)—how many votes can any one of them lead? At the coming general elections there will be no name to conjure with. A story is told that a young man in England was asked, after the recent general election, how he managed to get out of any difficulty, in his miserable halting speeches? His reply was, "Whenever I didn't know what to say, I always jerked out two words, 'Mr Gladstone,' and the cheering was so hearty and long it gave me time to think Fancy any novice in like plight calling [unclear: on] "Mr Hall" to save him?