By John Charmley (auth.)
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Additional info for A History of Conservative Politics, 1900–1996
By 1910 there were those in the Labour Party who wondered whether this was not hindering their development, but since this is something upon which historians cannot agree even seventy years later, it is hardly surprising that the pact held. 36 As Austen Chamberlain told Balfour in October 1907: 'if the struggle were now, as in former times, merely a contest between Government and Opposition, I should have no misgiving ... But the advent of the Labour and Socialist Party has changed all this. m From this point of view the Liberals could not have had a better cry upon which to campaign in 1910: 'peers versus people' hardly provided the Unionists with an opportunity to split the progressive alliance.
But the question of whether this would have been enough to win an election was never answered. The war which so many Unionists had been expecting for so long finally broke out in August 1914 and it brought with it fresh opportunities for the Party. If Unionism, Tariff Reform and imperial federation all fitted well with a policy which called for a strong defence policy, then this left the Conservative Party relatively well placed to benefit from the advent of the First World War. The whole ethos of Unionism was better suited to the war than its Liberal counterpart.
8 This was sufficient to deny the Conservatives their chance to implement the policy. But even had they been in a position to do so, they would have found another obstacle- the reluctance of the colonies of white settlement to be locked into an economic system which would have condemned them to be be producers of primary products in perpetuity. Beyond that lay the centrifugal forces which would militate against Chamberlain's dreams of imperial federation. Thus it was that Chamberlain's successful capture of the soul of the Conservative and Unionist Party locked it into a policy which was destined to blast the political careers of a generation of Conservative leaders.
A History of Conservative Politics, 1900–1996 by John Charmley (auth.)