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

Therefore, the Conservatives during the Second World War, and in particular the Colonial Secretary, Oliver Stanley, who had foreseen the post-war economic crisis, and as a result of his beliefs (as a matter of principle) in the need for one, and his broad agreement with the goals and methods of Labour’s policy, managed to provide the basis for a bi-partisan colonial policy.

By the time MacMillan left office, in 1963, it became clear that the aspirations of traditional Conservatives for mainly economic unity was continuing by the creating of the Modern Commonwealth. Therefore, the principle of Imperial Preference was protected, by both the Labour and Conservative political elite, between 1945-63. (It was originally implemented at the Ottawa Conference of 1932, where Britain arranged bilateral trading agreements with individual Empire countries, wherein reciprocal tariff preference was given. The aim was to boost intra-imperial trade – in food, raw materials and manufactured goods – at the expense of foreign competitors). In 1961, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Home, described the political purpose of the Modern Commonwealth, as seen by the Conservative Party:

“In our Empire building, we came to grips at close quarters with problems of race and colour, in which there was the certainty of conflict unless by some bold act the danger could be laid. The way we chose with our eyes open to the risks, was to bring the Asian and African colonies to independence, and then into the Commonwealth as equal partners… The Association is growing and has its imperfections, but it is possible that by that act of faith we ensured the ultimate defeat of Communism.”28

India as a case presented the most complicated questions to the Labour programme of decolonization. The path to independence for other nations, mainly in Asia, between 1945-51, was not as difficult as India’s had been.

Therefore, before moving onto defence, Kenya and Uganda will be the subject of our case studies in respect of decolonization of the Empire between 1951-63. Granting independence to other areas in Africa, or elsewhere outside Africa during that period presented less complication to the Conservative Governments of 1951-55, 1955-57 and 1957-63.

Kenya presented the greatest embarrassment to the British Colonial authorities. There were a total of 200,000 immigrant Indians and Arabs, and 60,000 European settlers. Additionally, there were 6 millions from different African tribes in that country. The European settlers, many with privileged status in a land of cheap labour and who had farmed 16,000 square miles of the Highlands of Kenya, about a quarter of the country’s arable land, had laid claim to the country on the basis that the prosperity as created by them. These white settlers were confronted with the native African tribes asserting that they had left the Highlands unoccupied only temporarily. The resentments grew into great bitterness and almost catastrophe. The Africans in Kenya felt that the impact of missionary teaching was leading to the breakdown of African customs. In Nairobi, the factories were encouraging a concentration of African workers. However, it was Jomo Kenyatta’s return to Kenya, in 1946, after seventeen years in London and Moscow, that had reinforced opposition to the European settlers. He became the leader of the Kikuyu tribe and, ultimately, also of the other tribes.

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