Stephen Leacock: In The Good Time After The War
In The Good Time After The War (1915)
[Footnote: An extract from a London newspaper of 1916.]
HOUSE OF COMMONS REPORT
The Prime Minister in rising said that he thought the time had now come when the House might properly turn its attention again to domestic affairs. The foreign world was so tranquil that there was really nothing of importance which need be brought to the attention of the House. Members, however, would, perhaps, be glad to learn incidentally that a new and more comfortable cage had been supplied for the ex-German Emperor, and that the ex-Crown Prince was now showing distinct signs of intelligence, and was even able to eat quite quietly out of his keeper’s hand. Members would be gratified to know that at last the Hohenzollern family were able to abstain from snapping at the hand that fed them. But he would now turn to the subject of Home Rule.
Here the House was seen to yawn noticeably, and a general lack of interest was visible, especially among the Nationalist and Ulster members. A number of members were seen to rise as if about to move to the refreshment-room. Mr. John Redmond and Sir Edward Carson were seen walking arm in arm towards the door.
The Prime Minister. “Will the members kindly keep their seats? We are about to hold a discussion on Home Rule. Members will surely recall that this form of discussion was one of our favourite exercises only a year or so ago. I trust that members have not lost interest in the subject.” (General laughter among the members, and cries of “Cut it out!” “What is it?”)
The Prime Minister (with some asperity). “Members are well aware what Home Rule meant. It was a plan – or rather it was a scheme – that is to say, it was an act of parliament, or I should say a bill, in fact, Mr. Speaker, I don’t mind confessing that, not having my papers with me, I am unable to inform the House just what Home Rule was. I think, perhaps, the Ex-Minister of Munitions has a copy of last year’s bill.”
Mr. Lloyd George rising, with evident signs of boredom. “The House will excuse me. I am tired. I have been out all day aeroplaning with Mr. Churchill and Mr. Bonar Law, with a view to inspect the new national training camp. I had the Home Rule Bill with me along with the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and the Land Bill, and I am afraid that I lost the whole bally lot of them; dropped them into the sea or something. I hope the Speaker will overlook the term ‘bally.’ It may not be parliamentary.”
Mr. Speaker (laughing). “Tut, tut, never mind a little thing like that. I am sure that after all that we have gone through together, the House is quite agreed that a little thing like parliamentary procedure doesn’t matter.”
Mr. Lloyd George (humbly). “Still I am sorry for the term. I’d like to withdraw it. I separate or distinguish in any degree the men of Ulster from the men of Tipperary, and the heart of Belfast from the heart of Dublin.” (Loud cheers.)
Mr. Redmond (springing forward). “And I’ll say this: Not I, nor any man of Ireland, Dublin, Belfast, or Connaught will ever set our hands or names to any bill that shall separate Ireland in any degree from the rest of the Empire. Work out, if you like, a new scheme of government. If the financial clauses are intricate, get one of your treasury clerks to solve them. If there’s trouble in arranging your excise on your customs, settle it in any way you please. But it is too late now to separate England and Ireland. We’ve held the flag of the Empire in our hand. We mean to hold it in our grasp forever. We have seen its colours tinged a brighter red with the best of Ireland’s blood, and that proud stain shall stay forever as the symbol of the unity of Irish and the English people.“
(Loud cheers ring through the House; several members rise in great excitement, all shouting and speaking together.) There is heard the voice of Mr. Angus McCluskey, Member for the Hebrides, calling – “And ye’ll no forget Scotland, me lad, when you talk of unity! Do you mind the Forty-Second, and the London Scottish in the trenches of the Aisne? Wha carried the flag of the Empire then? Unity, ma friends, ye’ll never break it. It may involve a wee bit sacrifice for Scotland financially speaking. I’ll no say no to a reveesion of the monetairy terms, if ye suggest it, – but for unita – Scotland and the Empire, now and forever!”
A great number of members have risen in their seats. Mr. Open Ap Owen Glendower is calling: “Aye and Wales! never forget Wales.” Mr. Trevelyan Trendinning of Cornwall has started singing “And shall Trelawney Die?” – while the deep booming of “Rule Britannia” from five hundred throats ascends to the very rafters of the House.
The Speaker laughing and calling for order, while two of the more elderly clerks are beating with the mace on the table, – “Gentlemen, gentlemen, I have a proposal to make. I have just learned that there is at the Alhambra in Leicester Square, a real fine moving picture show of the entrance of the Allies into Berlin. Let’s all go to it. We can leave a committee of the three youngest members to stay behind and draw up a new government for Ireland. Even they can’t go wrong now as to what we want.”
Loud Cheers as the House empties, singing “It was a Long Way to Tipperary, but the way lay through Berlin.”