Tag Archives: Conservative Party Archive

The 1923 General Election

 

Junior Imperial League Gazette

Junior Imperial League Gazette, Dec 1923, p.7 [PUB 199/2]

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, surprised many when she announced her intention to call a UK general election to be held this Thursday, 8 June 2017. The ‘snap’ election came as a shock not least because, as she acknowledged in her announcement, since becoming Prime Minister she had made it clear that she did not anticipate any election before the next scheduled general election in 2020. A combination of Westminster ‘game playing’, which might weaken her government’s hand in Brexit preparations and negotiations, and the fact that talks would otherwise reach a critical stage in the run up to the next scheduled election, led Mrs May to conclude that it was in the national interest to hold an election after all and by so doing remove possible uncertainty or instability with regard to the country’s future. So the electorate is being asked to provide Mrs May and her Conservative government with a direct mandate to settle the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, leaving it “free to chart its own way in the world” (regaining control of our money, laws, and borders with the opportunity to strike our own trade deals). Surely few can have missed the campaign mantra ‘strong and stable leadership’ versus a ‘coalition of chaos’ (Labour propped up by the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalist Parties).

So, as we look forward to the results of this week’s ‘snap’ general election it might be interesting to look back to a previous ‘snap’ election, specifically the general election called by Stanley Baldwin in 1923.

Continue reading

The 1968 Sheffield Brightside By-Election: An Archaeologist in the City of Steel

Colin Renfrew Campaign Flyer

Colin Renfrew Campaign Flyer: CCO 500/18/115

Following the death of the Labour MP Harry Harpham on 4 February 2016 the Sheffield constituency of Brightside and Hillsborough goes to the Polls today for the election of a new MP.

Created in 2010 following a review by the Boundary Commission, the constituency is essentially the successor to the Sheffield Brightside. Since its creation for the 1885 General Election Sheffield Brightside had elected a Conservative Member of Parliament only twice: James Hope in 1900 and Hamer Russell in 1931. Indeed, since 1935 it had been a staunchly held labour seat which is perhaps identified in the minds of many today with David Blunkett, its long-standing labour MP, 1987-2015.

The papers of the Conservative Party Archive held at the Bodleian Library allow us to look back to the last by-election of Sheffield Brightside on 13 June 1968 held after the death of Richard Winterbottom who had been elected in the 1950 General Election. Continue reading

John Rathbone MP, 1910-1940

Blenheim iv

[Above, a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV bomber, of the type flown by Flying Officer John R. Rathbone in 1940]

At 4.08am on the morning of 9th December, 1940, Flying Officer* John Rankin Rathbone took off from RAF Bodney in Norfolk, the pilot of a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV bomber, on a mission to bomb the German-occupied port of Antwerp. Sadly, his aircraft was shot down over Antwerp and Rathbone, along with his two crew members, Pilot Officer F.W. McMurray and Sergeant A.M. Birt, were killed. Rathbone became the sixth of 24 MPs who were to be killed in action during the course of the Second World War.

Rathbone was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Bodmin, Cornwall where he was elected at the 1935 General Election. Visiting Nazi Germany as part of a parliamentary delegation in 1938, he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve immediately upon his return home. He was mobilised as soon as War broke out, in September 1939.

20151126_104520

[Above, Rathbone’s election address to his Bodmin constituents, 1935 – Shelfmark: PUB 229/7/8. Election addresses for all Parliamentary candidates, all parties, and constituencies, 1922-1983 are included in the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library].

As an MP he was not exempt from military service, but in his last speech in the House of Commons, on 20th August, 1940, Rathbone criticised the effect on Home Front morale of the arbitrariness by which ‘Reserved Occupation’ status was designated. He also attacked the excessive ‘red tape’ imposed under wartime conditions (‘It should not really be necessary to fill up a form in triplicate, before you can get a window pane repaired.’) , and the inequality of promotion within the Services:

When I think of some of the people who wear stripes and pips and get their promotion by various ways and means, through friends and so on, it makes me wonder whether, not only in the fighting Services but in the Civil Service and in every walk of like, promotion is given, not for birth or money, nor yet for age, but purely for efficiency. This war will not have been worth fighting if we do not at least establish that principle. Promotion in any walk of life, in the Civil Service or in politics, should not be for the length of time a person has served but for the efficiency with which he has served. Promotion should be given on these grounds alone.

Rathbone was born in 1910 and attended Eton and Christ Church, Oxford where he met Beatrice Frederika Clough, whom he married in 1932. After 4 years as an MP he obtained a junior ministerial position as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply in Chamberlain’s government, in July 1939.

Upon mobilisation, he was posted to RAF (Volunteer Reserve) No. 82 Squadron, a light-bomber squadron which had been reconstituted at the outbreak of War. By the time Rathbone joined the squadron it had already seen action in France, and both during and after the Dunkirk evacuation had suffered appalling casualties. Following its re-deployment to RAF Bodney in Norfolk it attacked German-held airfields in France and the Low Countries, and occasionally Denmark. One notorious raid on a German airfield at Aalborg, Denmark, on 13th August resulted in 11 of 12 Blenheims being shot down, with the twelfth surviving only because the pilot had returned early, for which he had been due to face a court-martial before he was killed during another operation the following week.

No. 82 Squadron’s Blenheims were outclassed by the modern fighters being fielded by the Luftwaffe, and the high casualty rate contributed towards Bomber Command’s switch from daylight to night-time bombing. Between July-Dec 1940, Bomber Command lost nearly 330 aircraft and over 1,400 aircrew killed, missing or captured.

Blenheim on ground Blenheims in formation crashed Blenheim

[Above, photographs of No. 82 Squadron’s Blenheims including, bottom, the wreckage of  one which had been shot down being towed away. Reproduced courtesy of  Aircrewremembered.com **]

On 9th December, 1940, while most of 82 Squadron’s Blenheims were engaged in a bombing raid on Bremen docks, the Squadron’s log, now held by the National Archives at Kew, records starkly,

F/O Rathbone and his crew, who were carrying out their first operational flight, were to attack the docks at Antwerp. They did not return from the trip, and nothing was heard from them.

Rathbone and his crew were buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery, near Antwerp, and the grave is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is commemorated by a stained glass window in Westminster Hall and an heraldic shield in the House of Commons Chamber, and is listed on the war memorial in the entrance to Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. A silver alms dish was also donated to Liverpool Cathedral in his memory.

Rathbone_JR

[Above, photograph of Rathbone’s headstone. Reproduced courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project]

The Times reported him as ‘missing in action’ on 13th December 1940, and a memorial service was subsequently held for him at St Margaret’s, Westminster on 29th January, 1941. In the peculiar circumstances of the ‘political truce’ during the Second World War, Rathbone’s widow Beatrice was elected unopposed in his place as Conservative MP for Bodmin at the ensuing by-election on 11th March, 1941. In 1942 she re-married, though an unfortunate and ill-founded rumour that Rathbone was not in fact dead but a Prisoner-of-War circulated for some time and formed the inspiration, with very little change, for Daphne du Maurier’s 1944 play, ‘The Years Between’.

Tragically, Rathbone’s younger brother Henry, a Captain in the Scots Guards, was killed at Cassino, Italy, on 9th November, 1943. Beatrice stood down prior to the 1945 general election, while their son, also called John Rankin Rathbone but known as Tim, went on to become MP for Lewes between 1974-1997.

20151208_153119

[Above, Election Address of Tim Rathbone MP to his Lewes constituents, Feb 1974: Shelfmark: PUB 229/16/8]

*There is some doubt as to Rathbone’s rank at the time of his death, as the service records of RAF officers from the Second World War are not yet available. The Operations Record Book for No. 82 Squadron, completed by the Squadron’s CO Wing Commander Elworthy, listed him as a Flying Officer, as did The Times’ obituary on 13th December, 1940. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists him as a Flight Lieutenant.

 **Aircrewremembered.com is keen to hear from any relatives of crews lost with their stories.

The Oldham West by-election: looking back to 1968

CCO 500-18-114 - Michael Meacher (Labour)

[Michael Meacher’s election address, Oldham West, June 1968: Shelfmark: CCO 500/18/114]

Polling Day in the Oldham West & Royton by-election takes place tomorrow,  3rd December, 2015, in the constituency formerly held by the late Michael Meacher, the veteran Labour MP who held the constituency for 45 years, who died in October.

While the Westminster parties prepare for the voters’ verdict in this the first by-election of the 2015-2020 Parliament, the detailed records of Conservative Central Office, deposited at the Bodleian Library as part of the Conservative Party Archive, afford us the opportunity to look back to 13th June, 1968, when the last by-election was held in Oldham. While the conditions of 1968 were very different from today, there are some obvious parallels as well.

The Oldham West by-election took place four years into the Labour Government led by Harold Wilson which had been strengthened by its 1966 election victory. But despite leading what was arguably one of the most socially progressive governments of the 20th century, Wilson was dogged by economic problems and imposed austerity measures in a number of areas – notably introducing prescription charges, increasing National Insurance contributions, and reducing tax allowances. In addition, poor economic growth and the large deficit had resulted in Wilson’s decision to devalue Sterling the previous year.

Taken against this backdrop, some kind of protest vote was probably inevitable. But the scale of the by-election defeats which Labour suffered took all the parties by surprise, and paved the way for the Conservatives return to power at the 1970 general election. The Oldham West by-election was the eighteenth of the 1966-1970 parliament, and the sixth of eleven by-elections to be fought in 1968 alone, of which eight resulted in Conservative victories, including five which were gains from Labour.

Oldham West & Royton, as it is now, was created as a parliamentary constituency only in 1997, formed primarily out of Oldham West. Since the late 19th century, Oldham had demonstrated a marked preference first for the Liberals until the early 1920s and then for Labour (one of the few exceptions to this was Winston Churchill’s election there as a Conservative in 1900, though he subsequently crossed the floor to the Liberals in 1904). Since 1945, Oldham West had been represented continuously by Leslie Hale. A highly popular MP locally, at the 1966 general election he had been returned with an increased majority of 7,572. The by-election was caused by his decision to retire.

Oldham clearly had its problems by the end of Hale’s tenure. Traditionally the centre of the UK Cotton Industry, and at one time the most productive cotton spinning mill town in the world, by 1968 this was an industry in decline. A public opinion survey commissioned by the Conservatives and undertaken by the Opinion Research Centre (ORC) between 9-13 February, 1968 found that Cotton was rapidly being overtaken by Engineering as the main industry in Oldham, with 65% of those surveyed feeling that the Labour Government had failed to provide sufficient support to the Cotton Industry. Perhaps surprisingly, Tommy Thompson, Head of Communications at Conservative Central Office, advised against focusing the Conservative campaign on this point. In a note to the Party Chairman dated 1st March, 1968, he said,

I think there is always a tendency, perhaps, to be slightly nervous about old and dying industries – and often to over-compensate by paying too much attention to them….[It] suggests to me that our campaign should concern itself more with the importance of the new industries rather than bemoaning the decline of the old.

[Source: Memorandum from Tommy Thompson, Head of Communications at Conservative Central Office to the Party Chairman, 01/03/1968: shelfmark: CCO 500/18/114]

While the survey found that 74% of voters felt they would be affected by the economic problems facing the country, and 50% were worried about rising prices and the cost of living, generally, Oldham’s voters felt that the Labour government had handled the issues of education, the NHS, road and traffic, well. Surprisingly with the furore going on elsewhere concerning Immigration following Enoch Powell’s inflammatory ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, only 2% of those surveyed considered this to be a problem for Oldham. In his Preliminary Report on the Oldham by-election, dated 15th February, Tony Garner, the Central Office Agent for the North West Area, advised the Conservatives to run a ‘softly-softly’ campaign, intended to avoid rousing the Opposition, while at the same time encouraging full mobilisation of the Conservative vote. Agreeing with this, Tommy Thompson recommended that the one exception should be over Defence:

It is necessary, for the faithful, to appear to be bashing the Government pretty hard and the defence aspect of the cuts is one which, while satisfying the hard core party boys, is fairly harmless. If, for example we can point pretty strongly at the waste of money which has turned the RAF into a Eunuch…it might damage the Government…

20151127_113412(rev)

[Extract from memorandum by Tommy Thompson, Head of Communications at Conservative Central Office, to members of the Party’s Policy Initiatives & Methods Committee dated 14th February, 1968, concerning the strategy for dealing with the by-elections: Shelfmark: CCO 500/18/114]

From the outset, a major hindrance to the Conservative campaign was felt to be the Party’s own candidate. Bruce Campbell, a veteran of Dunkirk who had seen service across the Middle East and Italy during the Second World War, had stood unsuccessfully in Manchester Gorton during the 1955 General Election, and Oldham West in 1966, where he was kept on by the local Conservative association to fight the by-election. But despite his previous experience, Central Office had no confidence in him. Richard Webster, Director of Organisation at Conservative Central Office, reporting on the situation to Deputy Party Chairman Sir Michael Fraser on 6th February, stated,

Mr Campbell is not an impressive figure. He appears to be very lacking in personality though probably a nice enough chap. In addition, even the Chairman tells me he is an appalling speaker.

This opinion was supported by Tony Garner a week later:

Mr Campbell is not a strong Candidate. Although he is an eminent barrister he is a poor speaker and seems to lack personality. However, he is highly thought of in Oldham and there is no question of any alternative.

He went on,

The Candidate’s political knowledge is limited and it will be necessary to have someone attached to him from Research for the period of the Election.

Chris Patten was mentioned as a possibility, but with Conservative Research Department personnel stretched due to the spate of by-elections then being fought, he was directed to Meriden, where that by-election was due to be held on 28th March.

PUB 229-1-18 - Bruce Campbell (Conservative)1 PUB 229-1-18 - Bruce Campbell (Conservative)2

[Election address of Bruce Campbell, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Oldham West, June 1968: Shelfmark: PUB 229/1/18]

To add to the Conservatives’ woes, their experienced local Agent was ineligible to take on the duties expected of him as an Election Agent during the campaign as he was then serving as the Mayor of Oldham. A temporary replacement had been brought in but after a 4-month delay in determining the date for the by-election, he had left, and the post was then filled by Mrs Blaby, a ‘qualified Women Organiser employed by the Area’.

As today, much was made of Labour’s seeming inability to attract many of its ‘big-hitters’ to campaign in Oldham in 1968. Webster wrote on 5th June, just over a week before polling,

They claim that they have 17 MPs canvassing. With the exception of one press officer from Transport House no other officials other than the Area Agent for Yorkshire have been seen….[They] do not strike me as being very high powered lists of speakers and the obvious missing links are Roy Jenkins, Barbara Castle, Michael Stewart, Anthony Crossland, Jim Callaghan, Richard Crossman, Dennis Healey, etc.

In contrast, the Conservatives persuaded a number of its Front-Benchers to assist in Oldham, including Bernard Braine, Selwyn Lloyd, Anthony Barber, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Alec Douglas-Home, and Margaret Thatcher.

The Conservative investment in Oldham paid off. Despite Central Office’s concerns about its candidate, Bruce Campbell was elected with a majority of 3,311, and a swing to the Conservatives of 17.7%.

Weekend Talking Point Weekly News

[How the by-election victories were reported in 1) the Conservative Party’s internal newsletter for Party activists – Weekend Talking Point; and 2) the main Party newsletter, Weekly News, June 1968: Shelfmarks: PUB 216/5 and PUB 193/22]

The Conservatives’, and Campbell’s, success in Oldham was short-lived, however. Despite the 1968 by-elections anticipating the national swing to the Conservatives at the 1970 General Election, Campbell bucked the trend and lost his seat, and Oldham returned to Labour control for the next 45 years. Campbell himself returned full-time to the Law and ultimately became a Circuit Judge. In 1983, he was caught by Customs attempting to smuggle whisky and tobacco into Ramsgate aboard his yacht, following which he received the ignominious accolade of being the first judge to be struck off by the Lord Chancellor.

Opinion Polls and the General Election – a case study from 1950

[Note: originally posted on a different blog on the day of the 2015 General Election, 7th May, 2015]

1951-04

[Conservative Central Office staff recording the results of the 1950 General Election as they come in]

As we near the end of polling on Election Day 2015 with the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck and each predicted to win 34% of the vote, psephologists around the country will be anxiously awaiting the final test of their opinion polling techniques. Opinion polls have been a major feature of this election campaign, but rarely have they been completely accurate in predicting the outcome of an election, and typically the polling methodology used has received almost as much analysis as the election result itself.

The February 1950 general election proved no less of a headache to pollsters. After 5 years of a Labour government following a strict austerity programme, the Conservatives under Churchill were confident of victory. Demonstrating the growing interest in scientifically-based opinion polling, Conservative Central Office set up its own Public Opinion Research Department (PORD) at the end of 1948. The PORD, whose surviving records form part of the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library, produced summaries of public opinion based upon intelligence reports sent in by Area Agents around the country who reported on reactions to Party broadcasts and local election rallies, as well as opinion polls published in the Press. Its monthly summaries were circulated to Party officers, shadow Ministers and MPs, while a ‘Confidential Supplement’, which contained much more sensitive information, had a more restricted circulation of the Chief Whip and a select group of shadow Ministers, including Churchill.

In its first ever report on public opinion in January 1949, PORD identified the key issues affecting the electorate at that time, all mostly related to austerity:

user comment

user comment

[Public Opinion Research Department: Public Opinion Summary No. 1, Jan 1949: Shelfmark: CCO 180/2/1]

Though noting in this report that 44% of those polled by Gallup in December 1948 advocated the formation of a National Government, PORD consistently predicted a good result for the Conservatives in the year prior to the general election.

As Election Day drew closer, PORD’s forecasts reduced the Conservatives’ presumed lead only slightly, despite noting in December 1949, that,

Conservative defeatism and despondency is spreading, and with it there has been a rise in the Socialists confidence of coming victory’ and, ‘Although there is no vestige of evidence in any of the public opinion polls to support the expectation of a Socialist victory, the City of London continues to reflect the Conservative pessimism. Wall Street is apparently following the City’s lead, and extending its view across the United States.

[Source: Public Opinion Research Department: Confidential Supplement to Public Opinion Summary No. 12, Dec 1949: Shelfmark: CCO 4/3/250]

On 11th November, 1949, it predicted 49.3% for the Conservatives and 41.4% for Labour, which would have resulted in a comfortable majority of 109 MPs in Parliament. This changed to 49.1% and 41.4% respectively by December, but in its last report on the evening before the election it dropped this substantially further to 46% and a 41-seat majority. The result, when it came, was 43.5% for the Conservatives, 46.4% for Labour, and a Labour majority of 5.

Analysis of the results, and the poor polling, was quick to follow:

user comment

user comment

user comment

user comment

[Public Opinion Research Department: General Election Analysis No. 1, Mar 1950: Shelfmark: CCO 180/2/1]

PORD blamed the defeat primarily on Labour’s success in reeling-in the majority of undecided voters at the last minute, and the ‘violent blasts of all-out propaganda from the Socialist machine’. Indeed, some of intelligence reports received by PORD testify to some of the tactics employed locally by the ‘Socialist machine’, such as the ruse by Labour supporters in Darlington to keep Conservative canvassers occupied:

CCO 4-3-250(7) - Darlington

[Public Opinion Research Department; Area Agents’ Intelligence Reports, Feb 1950: Shelfmark: CCO 4/3/250]

But PORD also acknowledged the Party’s failure to capitalise on the Women’s vote, which was due ‘undoubtedly [to] the predominating political influence of the menfolk’ and a ‘widespread and continuing disbelief in the secrecy of the ballot.’

Despite the setback, the Labour majority was only 5, and the 1950 General Election saw an overall swing to the Conservatives of 3.8%. Indeed, internal Party communications immediately following the election were surprisingly upbeat, focusing on the inevitability of another general election in the near future (which took place on 25th October, 1951), and one could almost be forgiven for believing that the Conservatives had won the election:

20150506_134227

[Editorial of the Conservative Party Newsletter, Tory Challenge, Mar 1950: Shelfmark: PUB 214/3]

20150506_134256

[Introduction to Tory Challenge, Mar 1950 by Party Chairman Lord Woolton: Shelfmark: PUB 214/3]

Opinion polling has come a long way since 1950, although even in 2010 most pollsters under-estimated the final result achieved by both Labour and the Conservatives, and the 1992 election suffered probably the worst predictions of modern times. The PORD barely survived its dismal predictions at the 1950 election, being wound up in 1953. Its work continued though, being taken up by the Conservative Research Department, and records of 60 years’ of opinion poll analysis survive and are available for research in the Conservative Party Archive.

Chamberlain and trout fishing

To mark the start of the new coarse fishing season today, we are featuring extracts from 80 year old correspondence between Neville Chamberlain and Joseph Ball which was recently ‘discovered’ in the Conservative Party Archive, testifying to their shared love of fishing.
The letters, between Chamberlain and the Director of the Conservative Research Department date from May-October 1934 and ostensibly concern the formation and progress of the committee set up by Chamberlain to re-invigorate the National Government, then still led by Ramsay MacDonald, with policy ideas to take forward as Government policy for the 1935 General Election.
While the exchange between the two certainly make reference to the Cabinet Conservative Committee, as it was known, much of the content focusses on trout fishing on the rivers Test in Hampshire and Lugg in Herefordshire.
Under the guidance of Chamberlain and Ball, the Cabinet Conservative Committee continued its deliberations until July 1935. The series of memoranda and reports it produced helped ensure a Conservative and National Government victory at the general election in November 1935. The result of the election, which saw MacDonald lose his seat and Baldwin replace him as Prime Minister, confirmed the dominant position of the Conservative Party within the National Government. Chamberlain himself took over the helm from 1937.
Chamberlain’s love of fly-fishing was well known. Amidst the public adulation with which he was greeted after his return from the Munich Conference after having pacified Hitler over Czechoslovakia in September 1938, Downing Street was inundated with gifts, including several fishing rods and numerous salmon flies.

The Admission of Foreign Paupers – a reminder from 1892…

With the UK due to open its doors to Romanians and Bulgarians from 1st January, 2014, we look back to 1892, when an earlier wave of immigration was causing consternation and became an election issue for the Conservative Party.

Lord Salisbury’s Conservative Government had been in power since 1886 when this 7-page election pamphlet was published on the subject of immigration during the General Election campaign in June 1892:

 

The majority of the destitute immigrants referred to in the pamphlet, were Russian and Polish Jews fleeing the pogroms of the Russian Empire, which had been going on since 1881.

By the late 1880s, the widespread British sympathy initially expressed towards the Jewish refugees was giving way in some quarters to hostility, as the immigrants tended to concentrate in the East End of London, contributing to overcrowding and insanitary conditions, and increasing competition for jobs:

‘The mode of living of these immigrants is wretched in the extreme. Their food is of a poor nature, and they are able to maintain existence on much less than an English workman. They are for the most part an inoffensive race, and moral in their habits. In physique they are, as a rule, undersized, but their health is not bad, and they are capable of hard work. They are very industrious and work long hours for low wages’.

Although statistics at the time were unreliable, an estimated 12,062 foreign immigrants had arrived in the UK through the Port of London alone during 1888. Of these, about ‘one-third are poor, and about one-sixth absolutely destitute, without any baggage, and clad in the most wretched manner.’ By 1891, the total number of immigrants had reached 28,000.

Salisbury, as Prime Minister, had appointed a Commission of Inquiry under the chairmanship of the Conservative MP Sir John Colomb, in 1888, to look into the problems of unrestricted immigration into the UK.

Colomb reported in 1889 and, although he acknowledged that native English workers’ conditions had deteriorated as the result of foreign workers’ willingness to work for less pay, and that there was over-crowding with resulting insanitary conditions in Tower Hamlets, Mile End and Whitechapel, he was unwilling to recommend restricting the immigration of foreign paupers.

The following year, a House of Commons Select Committee found the immigration of foreign paupers to be a contributory factor in the notorious ‘Sweating System’, whereby paupers were forced into virtual servitude by their destitution, though it too was sympathetic to the suffering of foreign pauper immigrants in their journey from Russia:

‘On arriving here they are quickly despoiled of any little worldly goods they may have brought with them, and have to depend for immediate support upon friends and have, as slaves, to work for those who have given them shelter, until six months’ residence qualifies them for relief from the Jewish Board of Guardians’.

Any money they might have is ‘very soon cased by the loafers, and touts, and runners, that hang about the docks for the purpose of trying to show them lodgings, or a place to rest themselves for the night’. Testimony from the Rector of Spitalfields, subsequently the Bishop of Bedford, stated that some paupers were to be found working 19-hour days in sweat shops in return merely for shelter.

As the result of these various Inquiries, proper lists of immigrants arriving at ports around the UK were ordered to be kept for the first time.

Similar increases in numbers of immigrants were being reported in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull and Newcastle, although it was noted that as many as were staying in the UK were moving on to the United States, Brazil and Argentina.

On May 6th 1892, Balfour stated in Parliament that the Government was considering legislation to deal with the problem, but although the Conservatives won the general election that July, they failed to secure a majority and Salisbury’s government was defeated within the month.

Immigration of foreign paupers continued to be an issue for British politics and what was probably the first restriction on immigration into Britain eventually came onto the Statute Book with the Aliens Act of 1905.

New releases under the 30-year rule…

The list of files from the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library which will be declassified on 1st January, 2014 under the ’30-year rule’ is now available, here.
 
274 files have been opened up for research, encompassing all files deposited under general access restrictions whose end-date is 31st December, 1983 or earlier that year.
 
Being an election year, many of these files from 1983 are naturally devoted to the 1983 General Election preparations. More are preoccupied with the major policy review undertaken by the Conservative Party as it neared the end of Thatcher’s second Government, the focus of these policy groups indicating the priorities for inclusion in the next election manifesto: Promotion of Enterprise; Inner Cities; Transport; Europe; Law and Order; Tax and Social Security; Education; Employment Policy; Family; and Nationalised Industries.
 
Papers from the Party’s International Office provide an insight into the formation of the International Democrat Union (IDU) –  the alliance of centre-Right Conservative and Christian Democrat political parties – in London in 1983. The Conservative Party was a founding member of the IDU, which provided an international dimension to the European Democrat Union which was founded in 1978. Similarly, papers are now available on the Conservative Party’s bilateral relations with other centre-Right parties, notably in France, West Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada and the United States.
 
As with previous years’ releases, the sheer bulk of the papers now available originate with the extensive research undertaken by the Conservative Research Department. The original letter books of CRD Desk Officers and Subject Specialists which are now released, cover the policy areas of Agriculture, Defence, Economic Policy, the Environment, Europe, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Health, Trade & Industry, and Transport. The numerous and detailed briefs prepared by the Research Department for Conservative MPs prior to parliamentary debates provide evidence of the Conservative Party’s approach to the whole range of parliamentary business during this period. 
 
Together these papers form the essential core material for anyone studying the early Thatcher years. Anyone interested in consulting these papers may do so by contacting the Archivist.

 

 

Mrs Thatcher’s New Year message, published in the January 1983 edition of Conservative Newsline [Shelfmark: PUB 124/4]
‘Notes on Disarmament and East/West Relations’ by Robin Turner, the Conservative Research Department Desk Officer for Defence and Foreign Affairs, 15th November, 1983. In 1983 the Cold War was at its height and saw not only US Cruise missiles being sited in the UK for the first time, but discussions over replacement of the UK’s Polaris nuclear deterrent by Trident. [Shelfmark: CRD/L/4/56/16]

Conservative speeches ‘erased’ by the Party safe at the Bodleian Library!

Following the furore over the past two days concerning the revelation in Computer Weekly that the Conservative Party has ‘attempted to erase a 10-year backlog of speeches’ by removing them from its www.conservatives.com website, the Conservative Party Archive seeks to allay the fears expressed by a number of historians and political commentators.
Both the BBC and The Guardian amongst others have reproduced this story, giving the impression of a deliberate attempt by the Conservatives to purge ten years’ worth of past speeches likely to cause embarrassment. However, as disappointing as it may seem to many conspiracy theorists, these speeches are all safely in our care at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and still freely available to anyone who wishes to consult them.
Following on from The Guardian’s reassurance to its readers yesterday that David Cameron’s speech to the Google Zeitgeist Europe Conference in 2006 can still be found on the Guardian’s website, we would like to add that it, this speech (reproduced in full below in its original form), as well as transcripts of tens of thousands of other Conservative Party speeches, can still be found in the Conservative Party Archive, as you would expect. And the Bodleian, with its 400 year-old pedigree, is unlikely to fall prey to the short-term whims of website editors:
[David Cameron’s speech to Google Zeitgeist Europe, 22/05/2006] 
These speeches have been transferred periodically by Conservative Campaign Headquarters since the CPA was established at the Bodleian in 1978. The most recent transfer of speeches was made in May 2010.
Further, over the past couple of years the CPA has been putting together a database of these speeches which will shortly be made available online via our own website, with the intention of opening up these speeches more fully to academic research. This database contains not only those speeches back to 2000, but all those held back to the late 1940s. Earlier speeches dating back to the 1893 are also held, being dutifully recorded and published in the Party’s official journal of record National Union Gleanings (from 1912, known as Gleanings & Memoranda, from which this blog takes its name). Extracts from the draft database, providing lists of speeches held by specific individuals, are already available upon request, prior to it going live.
Ultimately, when funds allow, the intention is to enable free-text searching of all the Party’s vast number of speeches, online, and free-of-charge.
Both the Conservative Party Archive Trust and the Bodleian Library are committed to improving access to, and promoting use of, the rich documentary heritage of the Conservative Party which is in its care.

Everest expedition remembered…from the pages of ‘The Imp’

In this 60th anniversary year of Hillary and Tenzing’s successful ascent of Everest in 1953, The Conservative Party Archive looks back to an attempt made 20 years earlier, which was publicised in the May 1933 issue of The Imp. 

In May 1933, Hugh Ruttledge, then a 43 year-old with a long career in the Indian Civil Service was chosen to lead the first British attempt on the mountain since the ill-fated expedition of Mallory and Irvine in 1924 which had cost both men their lives. The Imp was the monthly newsletter of the Junior Imperial League – the Conservative Party’s youth wing which was re-modelled after the War as the Young Conservatives.

Interestingly, Ruttledge, who went on to lead a second attempt on Everest in 1936, had rejected Tenzing Norgay for the Sherpa team which accompanied him.

[The Imp and the records of the Junior Imperial League from its creation in 1906 until its reorganisation as the Young Conservatives in 1946, are held in the Conservative Party Archive, at the Bodleian Library, Oxford]