Parliament is rising for another longish recess. We shall go on like this, I suppose, sitting for a few weeks and adjourning until the end of the war.
It cannot be said that the sitting now about to conclude has produced any sensational results, but a great many questions of interest have been well aired and some grievances have been remedied. The House of Commons contains so many men of business ability and of wide public experience that its deliberations cannot fail to react usefully on the national situation, even at a time when the best energies of every one of us are directed to one supreme object, namely the successful prosecution of the war.
Throughout our discussions in the House of Commons the party truce had been most loyally observed, Sharp things have been said about this or that item of policy, but they have not been merely party criticisms. More than once, on the other hand, I have enjoyed the novel experience of hearing a too much heckled Minister encouragingly cheered from both sides of the House. The fact is that there is no illusion whatever in the House of Commons as to the deadly seriousness of the work in which the nation as a whole, and irrespective of party, is now engaged.
In the smoking room we sometimes debate whether party politics will ever be the same again. Not quite the same, I think. It would be a good thing for all parties is we could rid ourselves of the petty spitefulness and unseemly personalities that have disfigured our politics during the last few years. This happy result might well be achieved without an disadvantage to the political ideals that animate the great parties. Men will continue to differ about policy as long as the world lasts, but it will be all to the good if they learn to quarrel in a decent and sportsmanlike fashion.
As far as the war is concerned, the special feature of the last week or so has been the comparative failure of the German piratical campaign against our commerce. Germany has made a desperately bad start as an ambitious naval power. She has achieved very little with her formidable fleets, and she has made herself responsible for a revival of illegal methods of naval warfare that has gone far to alienate from her any lingering sympathies of neutral Powers. It is not not only our interest and the interest of our Allies, but the direct concern of all other nations in the world that he position as a military and naval power should be utterly destroyed.
The refusal of our own Government to regard the officers and crew of the German submarine U8 as honourable prisoners of war might have been expected to open German eyes to the wickedness of their new naval policy is it were not abundantly clear that they definitely resolved to stick at nothing, however base and however contrary to the usage of civilised peoples, in their unavailing efforts to break through the blockade that we have imposed on them. These proceedings,we may be sure, are being watched with anxiety by every other power in the world.
To the smaller nations especially it must be a matter of grave concern that the second naval power should resort to methods that, if ultimately successful, would put all seaborne commerce at the mercy of cut-throats and buccaneers. We at least are in a position to say that although for a hundred years and more we have possessed a giant's strength on the seas we have never used it tyrannously.
It is a pleasure to turn from this aspect of the war to the operations that we and our Allies are conducting in the Dardanelles. Nothing in my times has fired the popular imagination so much as the spectacle of the great combined fleet steadily pounding its was to Constantinople through the most difficult and strategic channel in the world. How immense is out naval superiority over our enemies is demonstrated by the fact that we have been able to detach for these operations the Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful ship of war in existence. We are engaged in an enterprise that may well be described as romantic. It is calculated, if successful, to exercise a profound influence on the war.
The Parliamentary recess will be very little of a holiday for most of us. Over 200 Members of Parliament are wearing the King's uniform, and there are very few others who are devoting their services in one way or another to important matters arising out of the war.
House of Commons,
Wednesday, March 10th, 1915
[The Luton News, Thursday, March 11th, 1915]