The former is by much the more effective; and should always be preferred to mere unreasonable opposition, because it will bring you the reputation of being more advanced than any so-called reformer.
The following are the main types of argument suitable for the Conservative Liberal.
'The present measure would block the way for a far more sweeping reform'. The reform in question ought always to be one which was favoured by a few extremists in 1881, and which by this time is quite impracticable and not even desired by any one. This argument may safely be combined with the Wedge argument: 'If we grant this, it will be impossible to stop short'. It is a singular fact that all measures are always opposed on both these grounds. The apparent discrepancy is happily reconciled when it comes to voting.
Another argument is that 'the machinery for effecting the proposed objects already exists'. This should be urged in cases where the existing machinery has never worked, and is now so rusty that there is no chance of its being set in motion. When this is ascertained, it is safe to add that 'it is far better that all reform should come from within'; and to throw in a reference to the Principle of Washing Linen. This principle is that it is better never to wash your linen if you cannot do it without anyone knowing that you are so cleanly.
The third accepted means of obstruction is the Alternative Proposal. This is a form of Red Herring. As soon three or more alternatives are in the field, there is pretty sure to be a majority against any one of them, and nothing will be done.
The method of Prevarication is based upon a very characteristic trait of the academic mind, which comes it in the common remark, 'I was in favour of the proposal until I heard Mr ----'s argument in support of it'. The principle is, that a few bad reasons for doing something neutralise all the good reasons for doing it. Since this is devoutly believed, it is often the best policy to argue weakly against the side you favour. If your personal enemies are present in force, throw in a little bear-baiting, and you are certain of success. You can vote in the minority, and no one will be the wiser.
Liberal Conservative Obstruction is less argumentative and leans to invective. It is particularly fond of the Last Ditch and the Wild Cat.
The Last Ditch is the Safe Side (see section II), considered a place which you may safely threaten to die in. You are not likely to die there prematurely; for, to judge by the look of the inhabitants, the climate of the Safe Side conduces to longevity. If you did die, nobody would much mind; but the threat may frighten them for the moment.
'Wild Cat' is an epithet applicable to persons who bring forward a scheme unanimously agreed upon by experts after two years' exhaustive consideration of thirty-five or more alternative proposals. In its wider use it applies to all ideas which were not familiar in 1881.
There is an oracle of Merlin which says, 'When the wild cat is belled, the mice will vote Placet.'
The argument, 'that you remember exactly the same proposal being rejected in 1867,' is a very strong one in itself, but its defect is that it appeals only to those who also remember the year 1867 with affectionate interest, and, moreover, are unaware that any change has occurred since then. There are such people, but they are lamentably few; and some even of them are no longer Young Men in a Hurry, and can be trusted to be on the Safe Side in any case. So this argument seldom carries its proper weight.
When other methods of obstruction fail, you should have recourse to Wasting Time; for, although it is recognised in academic circles that time in general is of no value, considerable importance is attached to tea-time, and by deferring this, you may exasperate any body of men to the point of voting against anything. The simplest method is Boring. Talk slowly and indistinctly, at a little distance from the point. No academic person is ever voted into the chair until he has reached an age at which he has forgotten the meaning of the word 'irrelevant'; and you will be allowed to go on, until everyone in the room will vote with you sooner than hear your voice another minute. Then you should move for adjournment. Motions for adjournment, made less than fifteen minutes before tea-time or at any subsequent moment, are always carried. While you are engaged in Boring it does not matter much what you talk about; but, if possible, you should discourse upon the proper way of doing something which you are notorious for doing badly yourself. Thus, if you are an inefficient lecturer, you should lay down the law on how to lecture; if you are a good business man, you should discuss the principles of finance and so on.
If you have applied yourself in youth to the cultivation of the Private Business habit of mind at the Union and other debating societies, questions of procedure will furnish you with many resources for wasting time. You will eagerly debate whether it is allowable or not to amend an amendment; or whether it is consonant with the eternal laws for a body of men, who have all changed their minds, to rescind a resolution which they have just carried. You will rise, like a fish, to points of order, and call your intimate friends 'honourable' to their faces. You will make six words do duty for one; address a harmless individual as if he were a roomful of abnormally stupid reporters; and fill up the time till you can think of something to say by talking, instead of by holding your tongue.
An appeal should be made, wherever it is possible, to College Feeling. This, like other species of patriotism, consists in a sincere belief that the institution to which you belong is better than an institution to which other people belong. The corresponding belief ought to be encouraged in others by frequent confession of this article of faith in their presence. In this way a healthy spirit of rivalry will be promoted. It is this feeling which makes the College System so valuable; and differentiates, more than anything else, a College from a boarding-house; for in a boarding-house hatred is concentrated, not upon rival establishments, but upon the other members of the same establishment.
Should you have a taste for winter sports, you may amuse yourself with a little Bear-baiting or Bull-fighting. Bulls are easier to draw than bears; you need only get to know the right red flag for a given bull, and for many of them almost any rag will serve the turn. Bears are more sulky and have to be prodded; on the other hand they don't go blind, like bulls; and when they have bitten your head off, they will often come round and be quite nice. Irishmen can be bulls, but not bears; Scotsmen can be bears, but not bulls; an Englishman may be either.
Another sport which wastes unlimited time is Comma hunting. Once start a comma and the whole pack will be off, full cry, especially if they have had a literary training. (Adullamites affect to despise commas, and even their respect for syntax is often not above suspicion.) But comma-hunting is so exciting as to be a little dangerous. When attention is entirely concentrated on punctuation, there is some fear that the conduct of business may suffer, and a proposal get through without being properly obstructed on its demerits. It is therefore wise, when a kill has been made, to move at once for adjournment.