The Success of the Conservative Party 1918-1964 Was Due to the Appeal of Its Leaders Essay
The success of the Conservative Party 1918-1964 was due to the appeal of its leaders. ” To what extent do you agree? To assess the appeal of the Conservative leaders, it is first necessary to define appeal. Appeal is the extent to which the image and personality of the leader appeals to the needs of the electorate at the time. Whilst appealing leaders such as Winston Churchill were successful in leadership, others such as Antony Eden who was arguably the most appealing were not as successful so it is clear that the factor of appeal alone cannot lead to success.
Therefore other factors such as the strength of the cabinet or weakness of the opposition generated this success, or arguably the appeal itself necessary for the success. Appeal of course was an important ingredient in the success of many Conservative leaders, and the ‘old guard appeal’ that vindicated Winston Churchill in 1939 when his predictions concerning Nazi Germany shamed the appeasement policy of pacifist Neville Chamberlain and subsequently led him to becoming approached by Ministers to form a National Government for the war.
Churchill’s ability as an orator especially in the use of the radio rallying voters surpassed even that of Stanley Baldwin who had cunningly used it to deliver Conservative Propaganda during the 1926 General Strike. Through speeches such as the “Blood, Sweat and Tears” (1940), through his appeal he in the long-term imposed a spirit of patriotism which encouraged collectivism that not only made the rationing of 1940-1951 possible and unopposed, but also created a foundation for the “Middle Way” of politics that would create the political appeal necessary for MacMillan to dominate the period 1957-1964.
While Winston Churchill’s appeal came from the stoic and headstrong attitude which he used to organise the war arguably this very appeal denied him the appointment as Prime Minister in 1945. He condemned the reconstructive measures of the Beveridge Report in 1942 “as requiring a Gestapo state to run” which ultimately led to an uncharismatic and arguably unappealing Prime Minister Clement Attlee to reach the first Labour majority in 1945. While Churchill’s appeal was high, arguably other factors such as denying the worth of social reconstruction would in the short-term quash his appeal.
The same could be said of Antony Eden’s term 1955-1957 who was a fresh-faced Tory Minister with extensive foreign secretary experience and who was part of the Tory “Glamour Boy” faction. Appointed in 1955 his failures during the Suez Crises in 1956 destroyed his credibility after he demonstrated similar right-wing war mongering attitudes that Churchill displayed during his 1945 election campaign. Arguably, the fact that these two Prime Ministers were appealing amplified the effect of their mistakes making them even more disappointing in the public eye.
Furthermore, it could be argued that the weakness of the opposition (Labour or Liberals) created the success for the Conservatives 1918-1964 or arguably was the source of the appeal itself. For example the decline of the Liberal Party during 1918-1922 when the Asquith-Lloyd George split occurred coupled with his Presidential style of leadership as well as his policy blunders answering the Irish Question 1920-1921 hugely alienated a large portion of the Liberal electorate who were subsequently up for the taking.
And while it could be argued that the appeal of “honesty and trustworthiness” that Baldwin generated stepping down in 1923 when not receiving a majority in the subject of tariff reform gained these voters; it was the ultimately the failures of MacDonald in 1923-1924 that proved the Labour was not fit to govern which gave the Conservatives the alienated Liberal voters that caused their dominance.
The Conservatives were able to capitalise on the variety of mistakes of the Labour Government 1923-1924 where they garnered a collective image of communism due to the 1924 Zinoviev Letter and the image of corruption from the 1924 Campbell Case withdrawal which collectively increased the appeal of Baldwin during the 1926 General Election which subsequently granted him an extra 100 seats. Similarly, the same could be said in 1951 when Churchill regained his appeal and won the General Election.
The austerity, rationing and high taxation of Stafford Cripps Chancellor of the Exchequer which lasted 1945-1951 weakened Labour by making their Government appear unappealing and having the short-term impact of making Churchill regain his appeal, especially after he ended rationing 1951 and began pursuing a “middle-way of politics” which would in the long-term ultimately be pursued by future Prime Ministers such as MacMillan.
MacMillan himself was not appealing, but by similarly pursuing this middle-way of politics by continuing social welfare and being associated with the high living standards where “Britain never had it good” 1957-1964 MacMillan generated the appeal. Of course, the efforts of a Prime Minister by themselves often did not form success, often Cabinet Ministers made up for a lack of appeal in the PMs to generate their success. The best example of his was Baldwin during 1924-1929. While he was a solid leader ending the General Strike 1926 in 9 days as a result of his 1925 Red Friday Subsidy, he was sedate and undynamic as a policy maker. His foreign secretary and minister of health made up for this lack of appeal, for example the former introduced the Locarno Treaty 1925 and the latter the 1929 Local Government Act which gave greater power to local authorities and was hailed “the first of its kind in Europe. Likewise MacMillan during Chuchill’s second term 1951-1955 introduced his Housing Plan in 1951 which constructed 300,000 homes a year until 1957 which established when MacMillan became PM in 1957 the “property owning democracy” he so often referred to. Baldwin and Churchill’s lack of dynamic policy-making appeal was shown to be fixed by their talented Cabinet Ministers which in effect created the appeal of the Leaders in these governments who inevitably associated the success with the figure heads in Government.
Indeed, overall the factor of appeal can be likened to ‘you can’t have style without substance’. MacMillan as a Prime Minister embodies this argument for all the Tory PMs, while not necessarily appealing or charismatic his middle way consensus politics, and the high living standards created by the artificial stop and go stagflation economic measures in 1957-1964 collectively created the same appeal that caused him to have one of the largest Conservative majority Governments in the period 1918-1964.