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

As chief opposition spokesman he supported the general line of Labour policy. His support was more than just a matter of principle. Indeed, he was pleased to see Labour pursuing policies which he felt he could regard as a continuation and development of his own.

Stanley always retained constant respect and confidence of his traditionalist colleagues. As did Harold MacMillan, his close friend, he appealed to both Labour and the traditional Conservatives, such as his other close friend, Winston Churchill. Stanley’s speeches at post-war- party conferences clearly demonstrated his sincere devotion to the Empire. They also expressed his liberalism.

“We want an economic unity, an economic exchange between the   various parts of the Empire, brought about by how it may be, and do not let us exalt what is only one of the means of attaining our desire into being the object itself: and, quite clearly, Imperial Preference, if by that you mean merely a differential tariff, is by no means the only and often not the most efficacious way of serving our Empire trade; and if you are taking the broad future, Empire Preference merely as a symbol, as a symbol of an Imperial economic unity which is now being subjected to external attack, then I think all of us stand four-square by the doctrine that we must be allowed to make, within our own Commonwealth and Empire, the arrangements which appear best to us.”25

However, in four successive conferences, Stanley stressed a particular point. He warned those in the Conservative party who still demonstrated enthusiasm in assuming that the Empire was still waiting for British leadership, of the growth of national consciousness in many territories. In the 1949 Conference, he said that it was no longer a case of

“dictation by this country, and obedience by the other parts of the Commonwealth… Even in the colonies where the machinery of government is still in our hands, even there you find everywhere growing up a public opinion which has got to be consulted, and a public opinion which can only be ignored at the cost of terrible troubles in the future.”26

This was proved to be the case when, in 1960, Harold MacMillan, in his speech to Members of both Houses of Parliament of the Union of South Africa, in Cape Town, said:

“The growth of national consciousness in Africa is a political fact and we must accept it as such. That means I would judge, that we must come to terms with it. I sincerely believe that if we can not do so we may imperil the precarious balance between East and West… the great issue in this second half of the twentieth century is whether the uncommitted peoples of Asia and Africa will swing to the East or to the West. Will they be drawn into the Communist camp?”27

Thus, it was due to his political vision that Stanley began to think of uncontroversial fields of economic development, and moved to achieving these policies while being the Colonial Secretary in the war period. (i.e. the Development Act which, later, as we have seen, the Labour Government sanctioned as the Colombo Plan).

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