A FORTNIGHT OF QUIET WORK.
The House did very good work during the last fortnight in March. This has a corollary more satisfactory to the public than to the journalist; for, whenever business is progressing, it invariably means that the proceedings have been extremely dull. It is a well-known phenomenon of the House of Commons, that the moment there is a chance of anything like a personal scene—though the encounter be of the smallest possible moment and affect nothing beyond two personalities of no particular importance—it is well known that whenever such scene is promised, the benches of the House of Commons prove too small for the huge crowds that rush to them from all parts. Mr. Fowler introduced one of the most revolutionary measures ever brought into the House of Commons—revolutionary I mean, of course, in the good sense—and yet he delivered his new gospel of emancipation to a House that at no period was in the least crowded, and that was never excited. Happy is the country that has no annals, fruitful is the Parliament that has no scenes.
[Sidenote: Uganda again.]
But there were signs of something like storm at certain portions of the sitting on March 20th, for there stood on the paper the Estimate which raised the difficult question of Uganda, and on that question, as everybody knows, there is a yawning gulf between the opinions of Mr. Labouchere and a number of Radicals below the gangway, and the occupants of the Treasury Bench. Of Mr. Labouchere the saying may be used, which is often employed with regard to weak men—Mr. Labouchere is far from a weak man—he is his own worst enemy. His delight in persiflage, his keen wit—his love of the pose of the bloodless and cynical Boulevardier—have served to conceal from Parliament, and sometimes, perhaps, even from himself, the sincerity of his convictions, and the masculine strength and firmness of his will. Somehow or other, he is least effective when he is most serious. His speech on Uganda, for instance, was admirably put together, and chock full of facts, sound in argument, and in its seriousness quite equal to the magnitude of the issues which it raised. But no man is allowed to play “out of his part”—as the German phrase goes. Labby has accustomed the House to expect amusement from him, and it will not be satisfied unless he gives it. When, therefore, he does make a serious speech, the House insists on considering it dull, and rarely lends to him its attentive and serious ear.
[Sidenote: Which is the buffoon?]