Conservative Imperial Political Elite Establishment in the Decolonisation Process of the British Empire

Conservative Imperial Political Elite Establishment in the Decolonisation Process of the British Empire

On another occasion regarding India’s independence Churchill commented: “You will depress the British heartbeat all over the globe.”7 In this article, I would the attitude of the Conservative Party towards colonialism in greater detail, before the studies proceed any further.

The Conservative Party “proclaims the necessity for capital-labour co-operation and a ‘property-owning democracy’. It proclaims the need for free competition in industry and the end of restrictive practices both between employers and among employees. It is the party of social mobility. ‘Quality and not equality’ and ‘opportunity rather than security’ are two of its slogans.”8 The Conservative party’s policies are, on the whole, hard to characterise. “At some periods ideas such as individual freedom will be clearly articulated and may even produce concrete policy proposals designed to promote such values.”9 At some other periods, as the case, in the policy of the Labour Party, and any other party, it may “seem to embody so wide a range of political ideas that few distinctive doctrine features can be detected.”10 The British Conservative Party is the party of the class that has its roots in the landed gentry of the early nineteenth century. They are various groups and institutions such as the Church of England, ancient universities, the Guards regiments and the legal profession. These groups, are collectively known as ‘the Establishment,’ which is traditionally associated most closely with the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party, always overtly felt a strong sense of involvement with the Empire. Such sentiment was evident at the Party’s annual conferences:

“Let us never forget the Imperial spirit, the indefinable, sentimental, if you like, feeling which is the spark that sets our reason aglow; and it is our reason that tells us that the policy which we are now advocating, the policy of Joseph Chamberlain and the policy of Benjamin Disraeli, remains the right one.”11

The “indefinable, sentimental feeling” for most Conservatives is simply pride. For the Conservatives, the British imperial achievement was something to be distinctly proud of. Conservatives credited the Empire with “maintaining over a large part of the Earth’s surface the rule of law, of justice, and the moral influence of the only league of nations which has ever worked. More than this, it was held to provide the whole basis of Britain’s claim to national greatness in modern times; and Conservatives were nothing if not conservers of Britain’s greatness.”12 The Conservatives labelled themselves the “imperial party” and their attitudes towards Empire distinguished their party from other as fundamentally as, for example, towards nationalisation. Cuthbert Alport argued that “socialism by its nature could not comprehend the problems of the Empire, particularly the Colonial Empire.”13 He continued by saying about socialism that: “they nurse a few prejudices and call these a policy, but they regard the responsibilities of the Colonial Empire as a tiresome hinderance to other things.”14

Conservatives had canvassed the idea of Greater Britain, and subsequently Imperial Federation. They had the Liberal of free trade to combine with that of imperial preference. They had done most to formulate and harmonize imperial sentiments with social-imperialism, by which, in effect, the working classes had been offered imperialism as a substitute for socialism.

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