The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64
XII.—The Future in the Distance
XII.—The Future in the Distance.
The session is coming to an end; signs of dissolution are everywhere apparent. Mr Hall's Ministry is still in office, and will, no doubt, remain so for the rest of the session. Ministers are in a minority in the House, and they are aware of the fact—but the end is not yet. Members of the late unholy alliance which forced through the Representation Bill, though opposed to the Government, would not vote against them at present for fear of an immediate dissolution following an adverse vote, necessitating another sitting of the House at once. Therefore, things will remain as they are till the elections early next year. Affairs will go on in the House as before—little attempted, still less done—until the electors are once more called on to declare their will. No doubt, soon after the session, the Premier will address his constituents and sound the keynote of the future policy of the Government. But it is difficult to see with what election cry Ministers will go to the country. Local government is what the people want, still the Government will scarcely have the brazen effrontery to offer to the country the Bills lately rejected by Parliament; and yet if not, what policy can they offer? They stand in the somewhat anomalous position of a Ministry whose measures have been defeated, and who yet remain in office—with no fresh policy—nursing the stark forms of their defunct Bills. Sir George Grey, "illustrious conqueror of common-sense," will no doubt pose once more as the champion of [unclear: cer] imaginary down-trodden serfs he will [unclear: rep] sent posterity. His policy will [unclear: emb] the interests of the whole human race, [unclear: more] less. But we are used to his little [unclear: vaga] Mr Ormond will issue his manifesto, too, and will no doubt shadow a plain, business [unclear: li] scheme for local government, which should be acceptable to the people. There will [unclear: be] halting between two opinions; his [unclear: utter] will be clear and distinct; and what is [unclear: m] there will be no departing from them [unclear: T] result of the elections is clothed in the veil of the future; but it may be hazarded that of least one-third of the new Parliament will [unclear: co] sist of new men. We shall miss the [unclear: for] those models of masonry, Messrs [unclear: Gi] Collins, Shephard, and Levestam. [unclear: P] fellows! they fought for their lives, [unclear: W] can blame them? May they rest in [unclear: pe] Few of the leading men will be rejected; but many of those of lesser mark.
A useful member will likely be lost in Mr Sutton. Mr Weston's political career will probably be cut short, and
"Oh, I should have a heavy miss of thee
If I were much in love with vanity,"
Richard Seddon, Hokitika's political [unclear: aspi]—no, aspirant. But I need not go over [unclear: t] roll of those whose adsum will be [unclear: miss] when the new House meets.
Ministers themselves will all return- page 25 [unclear: tous] alteration of boundaries, by the [unclear: ef] Surveyor, no doubt, together with the [unclear: inity] that doth hedge a Minister," has [unclear: ed] perhaps more than one of them.
[unclear: mong] the list of those whom we shall see [unclear: ore,] there are some whose absence will [unclear: be] to the House. If the country wants an [unclear: sing] sacrifice, how willingly could we [unclear: t] with Messrs Moss, Speight, Brown, [unclear: hison,] Reeves, De Lautour, and Thorn-[unclear: But] I fear no good fortune [unclear: awaits] new Parliament.
Having soared into the realms of specula-[unclear: fancy], let us see what the component [unclear: parts] the new House will be. Mr Hall individu-[unclear: and] the Cabinet collectively, will still [unclear: mand] a large following—the largest in the [unclear: se,] perhaps 30. "The only medium [unclear: een] the blacks and the whites" will have [unclear: t] a beggarly following of 12 or so. How [unclear: e] the mighty fallen ! Never again shall [unclear: we] Sir George Grey the leader of a strong [unclear: pact] party in the House; Otago has [unclear: wn] him off forever, Macandrew has declared [unclear: st] him, and even the allegiance of Auck-[unclear: d] itself is divided. The extreme Otago [unclear: ty] will number perhaps a dozen, too, and [unclear: least] 20 men will come prepared to [unclear: support] Omond's proposals and obtain for him the [unclear: ship] of the House.
The various elements of opposition, though [unclear: cting] in themselves, will combine [unclear: with] one object—that of unseating the present [unclear: try,] and a vote of want of confidence [unclear: at] beginning of the session, if carried by Mr [unclear: nd,] will effect that object. Not on any [unclear: d] question of policy will the Ministry be [unclear: ated,] for their policy contains nothing [unclear: d;] but from its mere narrowness [unclear: and] weakness and incapacity will the [unclear: et] fall. From the figures I have [unclear: ded] above, it will be seen that Mr [unclear: ed's] following will not be in itself suffi-[unclear: t] to support him in power; and two alter-[unclear: es] will be open to him—a coalition [unclear: with] George Grey and the Macandrew party, [unclear: a] coalition with the majority of the Govern-[unclear: t] party. The first is impossible: fire and [unclear: ter]-right and wrong—could as soon [unclear: blend] Mr Ormond and Sir George Grey. The [unclear: promising] honesty and steadiness [unclear: of] one, the contradictoriness and extreme [unclear: cal] tendencies of the other, could [unclear: never] nor would we have it so. The [unclear: least] of such a pact would lose Mr Ormond not [unclear: y] the Premiership but probably his seat. [unclear: the] other coalition I have mentioned [unclear: there] be no objection. Mr Ormond's views and [unclear: e] of the Government party are coincident; [unclear: it] cannot be thought that the latter [unclear: ever] it persuaded of the desirability of the late local government measures, and on no other question has any antagonism been shown. This is what, will happen; it is what the House looks to. It will satisfy the country, and if Mr Hall can once be politely bowed out, the party will hail Mr Ormond's advent to power with satisfaction.
There is, and for many years can be, no hope of defined parties in our Parliament. The constant changes going on in every direction, the growth of population, of cultivation, of industry in every direction, prevents any chance of the establishment of a Conservative tone for years to come. A young and progressive country will always be Liberal. If the "Great Liberal Party," which at one time did seem to possess coherence, cannot hold together, how much less should any less for-midable formation? We must look for parties which depend on the strength of their respective leaders, and which are more or less influenced by each new measure of importance introduced in the House. Let us, therefore, get a strong Ministry somehow, irrespective of party, so that it be competent. And of such a coalition as I speak could an undoubtedly powerful administration be formed.
The two men who will have to retire are Mr Hall and Major Atkinson; but Messrs Rolleston, Whitaker, Dick, and Johnston might be selected as members of the new Ministry. With Mr Stevens as Treasurer, we should see the introduction of new blood and broad views. With Mr Richardson in charge of the Public Works we could rest satisfied with the proper administration of that office. Mr Reader Wood would bring eloquence and Mr Pitt sound common-sense; while Mr Bryce, once more in the Native Office, would give confidence to the whole colony. Out of such materials as these, with Mr Ormond's strong hand ruling in the Premiership, an Executive could be formed which would last some time. An Executive with honesty and abiity to legislate for the good of the colony with determination to succeed, and with strength to carry its measures, and the country might obtain that "political rest" for which our present Treasurer thinks it stands so much in need.
"So let the change which comes be free'
To ingroove itself with that which flies,
And work, a joint of State, that plies
Its office moved with sympathy."
Lord Beaconsfield once enunciated this doctrine: "In politics it is always the unexpected that happens." A few brief weeks ago any suspicion as to the stability of the present Ministry would have been considered absurd; but the events of the session have justified it, and now indications are palpable that the last page 26 days of the present Government have come, and that the one person competent to construct another cabinet is, as I have from the first attempted to point out, Mr J. D. Ormond.
If the past has been tinged with indecision of purpose, poverty of constructive power, weakness of administrative control, and at the same time tenacity of office, the future [unclear: sh] us a brighter promise of a Government [unclear: whi] shall possess power to design, and [unclear: strength] carry out, a statesmanlike policy [unclear: commen] itself to the country by its earnest [unclear: deter] tion to promote the welfare of the people.