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¿""to POLITICS. i The holiday season at the close of the year brings statesmen and parliamentary men to a quietude unequalled, perhaps, by any other season of the year. This short respite from the wear and tear of public life is as necessary to the actors as it is desired by the country after the activity which was displayed during the autumn. Each party has worked hard, and towns and villages have been the scenes of the one striving to outshine the other. Several bye-elections took place, but no party can claim any great preponderating victory. South Molton is fairly balanced by East Dorset. Mr Smith's victory in the Strand, a walk over in Leeds, another in Sussex, and another in Armagh, Sir James Fergusson's victory in Manchester-all these Unionist successes—demonstrate the patent and latent forces of the Government, which only need the invigorating effect of a general election to break forth with redoubled power and activity capable of placing the Unionist'Government again in office. In Ireland that Nationalist party is hopelessly divided, and the schism extends far and wide. The part played by Roman Catholic priests in all Irish elections has proved to the electors of this country, plainly and undisguisedly, that the Church of of Rome is the most powerful political engine in-Ireland, and that a parliament on College Green would be merely the delegated authority y 0 of the Catholic hierarchy. This is not a very pleasant revelation for the Nonconformist party, who were sufficiently shocked, a few months ago, by Mr Gladstone's Bill to enable Roman Catholics to hold the offices of Lord Lieutenant and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Mr Gladstone is never weary of saying that Ireland blocks the way to all reform, and that the Irish Question must be permanently settled before he can proceed to legislate for the rest of the United Ringdom. 0 But what sort of Bill is he going to produce to satisfy Ireland ? Messrs Dillon, O'Brien, and Davitt will have something to say in the matter. England also will guard the interests of the Empire with a careful eye. The anti-Parnellites all will be as anxious as the Parnellites to bid as high as possible for complete I separation and so the old round of plot and counterplot will be re-commenced. The Radical wing of the opposition have also shown unmistakable signs of impatience at the insistence of Home Rule as the only means of the salvation of Liberalism Mr Schnadhorst's Rural Conference is an indic- tion of how profoundly dissatisfied the bulk of Mr Gladstone's following is at the plight in which they find themselves on the eve of a general election. But the baits were too eagerly strewn to catch the rural birds. The agricultural labourer is not to be woed and won in a hurry nor is the enthusiasm of a picked conference of stalwart delegates to be interpreted as the voice of rural England. The Unionists have something to say and do on rural reform, they can point to past suc- cessful efforts on behalf of Hodge and his family, and by the end of the next session of Parliament they will have done something more and need not be afraid of meeting the enemy at the gate.