500 AP English Language Questions to know by test day

CHAPTER 2. Biographers and History Writers

 

Passage 2c: Winston Churchill, The Approaching Conflict

 

We are met together at a time when great exertions and a high constancy are required from all who cherish and sustain the Liberal cause. Difficulties surround us and dangers threaten from this side and from that. You know the position which has been created by the action of the House of Lords. Two great political Parties divide all England between them in their conflicts. Now it is discovered that one of these Parties possesses an unfair weapon—that one of these Parties, after it is beaten at an election, after it is deprived of the support and confidence of the country, after it is destitute of a majority in the representative Assembly, when it sits in the shades of Opposition without responsibility, or representative authority, under the frown, so to speak, of the Constitution, nevertheless possesses a weapon, an instrument, a tool, a utensil—call it what you will—with which it can harass, vex, impede, affront, humiliate, and finally destroy the most serious labours of the other. When it is realised that the Party which possesses this prodigious and unfair advantage is in the main the Party of the rich against the poor, of the classes and their dependants against the masses, of the lucky, the wealthy, the happy, and the strong against the left-out and the shut-out millions of the weak and poor, you will see how serious the constitutional situation has become.

A period of supreme effort lies before you. The election with which this Parliament will close, and towards which we are moving, is one which is different in notable features from any other which we have known. Looking back over the politics of the last thirty years, we hardly ever see a Conservative Opposition approaching an election without a programme, on paper at any rate, of social and democratic reform. There was Lord Beaconsfield with his policy of “health and the laws of health.” There was the Tory democracy of Lord Randolph Churchill in 1885 and 1886, with large, far-reaching plans of Liberal and democratic reform, of a generous policy to Ireland, of retrenchment and reduction of expenditure upon naval and military armaments—all promises to the people, and for the sake of which he resigned rather than play them false. Then you have the elections of 1892 and 1895. In each the Conservative Party, whether in office or opposition, was, under the powerful influence of Mr. [Joseph] Chamberlain, committed to most extensive social programmes, of what we should call Liberal and Radical reforms, like the Workmen’s Compensation Act and Old-Age Pensions, part of which were carried out by them and part by others.

But what social legislation, what plans of reform do the Conservative Party offer now to the working people of England if they will return them to power? I have studied very carefully the speeches of their leaders—if you can call them leaders—and I have failed to discover a single plan of social reform or reconstruction. Upon the grim and sombre problems of the Poor Law they have no policy whatever. Upon unemployment no policy whatever; for the evils of intemperance no policy whatever, except to make sure of the public-house vote; upon the question of the land, monopolised as it is in the hands of so few, denied to so many, no policy whatever; for the distresses of Ireland, for the relations between the Irish and British peoples, no policy whatever unless it be coercion. In other directions where they have a policy, it is worse than no policy. For Scotland the Lords’ veto, for Wales a Church repugnant to the conscience of the overwhelming majority of the Welsh people, crammed down their throats at their own expense.