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

Britain had little choice but to accept aid on the terms the Americans proposed. Churchill made a compromise by making two of the leases a ‘gift’ from the British Government. At least the deal was signed and the United States effectively agreed to supply arms to Britain as America’s own front-line defence.

As the war progressed, America became more and more involved in it and, as a result, her demands for ‘something in return’ from the British grew. As Elliott Roosevelt, the President’s son, who was present at the conferences, remarks on his father’s suspiciousness towards Churchill: “He felt that in the period following the war…Churchill believed that Great Britain would have a bigger Empire and greater influence, that he would take advantage of the help given by America, and that we would still be in a secondary role.”17 America, was determined, in blunt terms, to bring imperialism to an end. Therefore, she used her financial power to impose her will on Britain during and after World War Two. ‘One thing we are sure we are not fighting for is to hold the British Empire together,”18 said a widely read weekly magazine in the United States. Churchill replied to similar accusations: “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”19 The disputes went on. More financial and military aid to Britain produced more American demands to Britain in return. Eventually, the disagreements came to a head over India.

India was angry over Britain declaring war on India’s behalf and putting almost two million of her men under arms, without consulting India’s leaders. Consequently, in 1942, Roosevelt pressed Churchill to announce that India would be given independence and to set up an interim government. One State Department official put it, “why should India defend a freedom she hasn’t got?”20 Many of the British Cabinet agreed that concessions were essential. Therefore, reluctantly, Churchill, in 1942, sent Sir Stafford Cripps on his mission to negotiate with the leaders of the Indian Congress Party about independence. Although, it was the succeeding labour Government which proceeded with Indian independence, their policy had the approval of most of the Conservative leadership; after all it was Churchill, a traditional imperial Conservative who had initiated talks of independence in 1942, as a result of the circumstances of the War – and no less difficult circumstances, notably of an economic and financial nature, continued after 1945 and into the Fifties.

Having examined, the causes of decolonization of the British Empire, and the reactions of the Conservative Government during and after the War in the United kingdom, the article will be continued by examining ways in which the Conservative leadership between 1951-63 sought to maintain Britain’s influence and protect her interests while carrying on with the process of giving self-government to the colonies.

There was, in fact, a good deal of justification for Disraeli’s claim when, as noted earlier in this chapter, he said that governments often continue with their predecessor’s policies. This, indeed, proved to be the case.

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