Tag Archives: Politics

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.

‘A delicate attention’ from the suffragettes?

This entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt describes the discovery of a bomb hidden in a tree at his Oxfordshire home Nuneham Park in 1907. Harcourt was the First Commissioner of Public Works in the Liberal government of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. He was strongly opposed to the extension of the electoral franchise to women. Writing in his journal, Harcourt reasoned that the planting of the bomb was probably ‘a delicate attention to me from the Female Suffragists.’

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Entry from the political journal of Lewis Harcourt, 23 February 1907.

Nuneham Park was the object of another Suffragette attack in 1912. By that time Harcourt had been promoted to the Cabinet and was serving as Colonial Secretary in H.H. Asquith’s government. Asquith, a regular visitor to Nuneham, also opposed votes for women. Both men were eventually reconciled to female suffrage in 1916. Harcourt recorded in his journal the following discussion at a Cabinet meeting on 9 August 1916:

‘P.M. says his opposition to female suffrage is vitally affected by women’s work in the war. I said the only logical and possible solution is Universal suffrage (including women). This upset most of the Cabinet, but the P.M. agreed with me.’

Lewis Harcourt’s political journal, along with further political papers, are currently being catalogued. Extracts from Harcourt’s political journal will be on display in the Bodleian Libraries’ forthcoming exhibition The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches.

-Matthew Neely

From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

OXFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL EVENT

From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

2:00pm | Monday 24 March 2014 | Bodleian: Convocation House | Tickets £11 | details

Mike Webb will be talking about his book to be published alongside the Bodleian Libraries Exhibition, The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches, 1914-1916 which runs from 12 June to 2 November 2014

step-into your place-poster

 

The ‘wiggish’ tradition in British politics?

You expect to find many things in modern political archives: letters from constituents, ministerial diaries, speeches, policy papers, even photos and hard drives – but human hair?

Unknown woman's hair in the Roy Jenkins archive, [c.1950s]

Unknown woman’s hair in the Roy Jenkins archive, [c.1950s]

These mysterious coils of brunette and ash blonde hair arrived with the archive of the politician and peer Roy Jenkins (1920-2003) wrapped in a paper bag from Bourne and Hollingsworth Ltd., one of London’s great (lost) department stores; a feature on the corner of Oxford Street and Berners Street from 1902-1983.

The hair arrived in a box-file of miscellaneous objects and papers dated from roughly the 1920s to the 1960s which also included the signature stamp used by Roy Jenkins’ father, Arthur Jenkins (M.P. for Pontypool) and a ceremonial key to St. Louis, Missouri given to Roy Jenkins himself.

The Victorians were especially fond of keeping locks of human hair for sentimental reasons and in remembrance, and the Bodleian Library contains many examples, including a necklace made from Mary Wollstonecraft’s hair and a ring containing John Keats’ hair but it’s uncommon to find hair in a post Edwardian collection. It’s not even clear whose hair it was: a woman’s, almost certainly. Jenkins’ mother, perhaps? Hattie Jenkins died in 1953 – could this be her hair?

Hair for remembrance, hair for sentiment, hair for a wig, hair for jewellery? Who knows. The Bodleian will be preserving it: maybe one day we’ll find out.

Happy birthday to…the 1922 Committee

18th April sees the 90th anniversary of the formation of the 1922 Committee or, to give it is full name, the Conservative Private Members (1922) Committee, which held its first meeting on this day in 1923.
 
As Lord Norton makes clear in his just-published The Voice of the Backbenchers. The 1922 Committee: the first 90 years, 1923-2013 (Conservative History Group, 2013), the Committee was not named after the  famous meeting of Conservative MPs held at the Carlton Club in October 1922 which ended the Lloyd George coalition, but after the intake of MPs first elected at the November 1922 General Election. 
 
The 1922 Committee, now effectively the Conservative Parliamentary Party, was convened by Gervais Rentoul, MP for Lowestoft (below) who was subsequently elected as its first chairman,  ‘for the purpose of mutual co-operation and assistance in dealing with political and parliamentary questions, and in order to enable new Members to take a more active interest and part in Parliamentary life.’
 
The minutes of the 1922 Committee dating back to 1923 are held in the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library, Oxford (see catalogue). 
 
Gervais Rentoul, MP for Lowestoft, 1922-1934, and first chairman of the 1922 Committee

A Tribute to Baroness Thatcher of Kevesten

Lady Thatcher, who died on Monday, was part of a distinguished line of twenty six British Prime Ministers educated at Oxford University, where she studied Chemistry at Somerville College between 1943-1947 under the supervision of Dorothy Hodgkin, with whom she continued an occasional correspondence well into the 1980s (Hodgkin Papers, and Additional Hodgkin Papers, Bodleian Library).

Her political career is fully captured in documents held within the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian, from canvassing in Oxford during the 1945 General Election campaign and her tenure as President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946, through her long struggle for election to Parliament, her holding of a range of junior Ministerial and Opposition posts from 1961 leading to her appointment to Heath’s Shadow Cabinet in 1967, as Education Secretary in the 1970-1974 Conservative Government, Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975, and onward through her tumultuous period as Prime Minister, 1979-1990.

Below is a chronological selection of material from the Conservative Party Archive which illustrates Thatcher’s rise through the Conservative Party ranks between 1949-1979.

Margaret Roberts was unanimously selected by the Executive Committee of Dartford on 31st January, 1949 as the only candidate of the 5 interviewed to go forward to the adoption meeting: ‘…Miss Roberts’ platform knowledge and speaking ability are far above those of the other candidates.’

 

 
 

 
Letter from Margaret Roberts to Conservative Party Vice-Chairman Miss Maxse dated 15/02/1949 which accompanied her application form to become a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate. She mentions the rejections which she had received in response to applications for research posts with Unilever and the British Oxygen Company, as well as the forthcoming adoption meeting by Dartford Conservative Association.
 

 

Reference from unknown source [2ndpage of letter missing] to JPL Thomas, Conservative Party Vice-Chairman supporting Margaret Roberts’ application to become a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, 26/02/1949: ‘She is a good speaker, a good Chairman of Committee, gets on well with men (without resorting to the more obvious feminine arts!) and appears to be able to avoid unpopularity with her fellow women.’
 

 

 

Memorandum from Home Counties South East Area Agent Miss Cook to Mr Watson, Chief Organisation Officer, Conservative Central Office dated 14/02/1950 concerning Margaret Roberts’ outstanding performance in Dartford during the 195 General Election campaign: ‘She excels at questions, and always gives a straight and convincing answer. She is never heckled, they have too much respect for her. When the meeting ends people crowd round her – generally Socialists – to ask more questions, really genuine ones.

 

Margaret Roberts’ election address, Dartford, 1950 General Election. She was the only female candidate at that election, and at that time, the youngest ever Conservative woman to stand.
 
 
Margaret Roberts’ election address , Dartford, 1951 General Election. Despite her defeat in 1950 she was re-selected as the Conservative candidate.
 
 
Newspaper cutting from the Daily Telegraph concerning Margaret Roberts’ marriage to Dennis Thatcher, 14/12/1951
 
Article by Thatcher, ‘Wake up, Women’, published in the Sunday Graphic, 17/02/1952, advocating more women in the work-force and especially at Westmister
 
 
Memo from Area Agent Miss Cook to John Hare, Conservative Party Vice-Chairman, following her interview with Margaret Thatcher on 11/06/1952, concerning Thatcher’s renewed desire to become a parliamentary candidate following her marriage: To quote her own words – “It is no use; I must face it: I don’t like being left out of the political stream”.     
 
Letter from Thatcher to Hare dated 02/09/1953, temporarily withdrawing from politics following the birth of twins: ‘I had better not consider a candidature for at least six months’
 
Letter from Thatcher to Hare dated 13/01/1954 withdrawing ‘permanently’ from politics: ‘I have quite made up my mind to pursue Law to the exclusion of politics. Even if a winnable seat in Kentshould become free, as you suggest – I do not wish my name to be considered.’
 
Article by Thatcher entitled ‘Finding Time’, published in the Conservative Party magazine, Onward, Apr 1954 
 
 
 
Letter from Thatcher to Donald Kaberry, Conservative Party Vice-Chairman dated 28/02/1956 concerning her desire to return to politics: ‘…a little experience at the Revenue Bar and in Company matters, far from turning my attention from politics has served to draw my attention more closely to the body which is responsible for the legislation about which I have come to hold strong views.’
 
Memorandum, Home Counties North Area Agent PRG Horton to Kaberry dated 01/08/1958 confirming Thatcher’s adoption as parliamentary candidate by Finchley Conservative Association: ‘I feel that the adoption of Mrs Thatcher will prove a shot in the arm to Finchley and that we shall see great improvements there from now on.’
 
Margaret Thatcher’s election address, Finchley, 1959 General Election
 
Report of a meeting of the Chelsea Conservative Association on the subject of pensions addressed by Mrs Thatcher – under the title, ‘The blonde in the black fur coat’, featured in Light, the magazine of the Chelsea Conservative Association, (Vol. 1, No. 1), Feb 1964. Mrs Thatcher had been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance by Macmillan in October 1961
 
 
 
Margaret Thatcher’s election address, Finchley, 1964 General Election
 
 
 
Margaret Thatcher’s election address, Finchley, 1966 General Election [In Opposition between 1964 and 1966, Thatcher was Opposition Spokesman for Land, Rates and Housing matters
 
 
The Conservative Party newsletter Monthly News, Dec 1969, featuring Thatcher’s move from Shadow Transport Minister to Shadow Education Minister
 
 
 
Margaret Thatcher’s election address, Finchley, 1970 General Election
 
 
Profile of Margaret Thatcher MP, the new Secretary of State for Education and Science, July 1970 As published in the Party newsletter, Weekly News (11th July 1970; Vol. 26, No. 22)
 
 
 
 
Margaret Thatcher’s election address, Finchley, Feb 1974 General Election
 
 
‘Control, Enterprise and Savings’ – article by Thatcher published in CPC Monthly Report(No. 101, Dec 1974), as Opposition Spokesman on Treasury and Economic Affairs
 
 
Lead article in Conservative Monthly News covering Thatcher’s replacement of Heath as Leader of the Conservative Party: ‘There is much to do. I hope you will allow me time to do it thoroughly and well.’
 
 
Article in Conservative News on the eve of the 1979 General Election: Margaret Thatcher understands ‘the hopes of ordinary people – of our desire to keep more of the money we earn, to see it hold its value, to own our own homes, to see standards raised for our children at school – and to help our country raise her head high in the world again.’
 

Romney’s riff on Labour Isn’t Working

 
Above: One of the Labour Isn’t Working series of posters from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection. Below: Romney’s campaign poster.
 


Those of you who are following the presidential election campaign in the US may have noticed Romney’s ‘Obama isn’t working’ campaign, launched last year. The campaign’s key poster is, as Romney calls is, a ‘tribute’ to one of the most famous British election posters. Saatchi and Saatchi’s Labour Isn’t Working poster, called the poster of the century in 1999, is still remembered by Conservatives and non-Conservatives alike. It proves one of the most popular images at each year’s Conservative Party Conference, and it appears regularly in the press as the emblem of an era.

Romney’s campaign manager Stuart Stevens wrote a blog post explaining their choice to emulate the Thatcher campaign, which called a ‘historic political poster depicting the negative economic conditions and the government’s failed attempts to correct that path’.

The original poster(s) addressed the rising rate of unemployment in Britain. The dole queue for the photo shoot was made up of Party members from Brent North and Hendon in north London. It was originally designed for an expected autumn 1978 general election; the election didn’t take place until spring 1979, and the poster was reused in various formats then.

A century of political design: Dole Queues and Demons

Saatchi & Saatchi’s famous Labour Isn’t Working poster of 1978

In his forward to Dole Queues and Demons, Maurice Saatchi claims that posters are to politics ‘what poetry is to literature: the only possible words in the only possible order. They should instantly convey the core message in a memorable way. This requires a handful of words, each of which is perfectly chosen, married to an image which reinforces them. When this happens posters can be the single defining medium of a campaign.’

This poster, from 1929, plays on the idea of unpopular government regulators ‘sticking their nose’ into the Englishman’s home


Dole Queues to Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive offers powerful insight into the impact of poster design on a political campaign. From the early Edwardian posters – colourful in both pigment and content – to the pointed posters of Saatchi in the 1980s, many of the political themes have remain the same, but the ways in which they were expressed had the power to make or break campaigns.

Early posters like this one from 1909 often addressed issues like free trade and protectionism (and here, Lloyd George)


Divided into chapters based on political periods, the book offers over 200 examples of posters drawn from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection. The images are accompanied by historical background written by Dr Stuart Ball, political historian from the University of Leicester, with a foreword by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi.

By 1992, Saatchi & Saatchi’s simple and bold posters had become the Party norm. Here, an ‘L’ plate hinted at what the Conservative’s believed to be Labour’s inexperience


The book will be available from the Conservative Party Archive stand at the Party Conference next month (stalls P10 & P11 – Hall 3 in the Party Zone) as well as from the Blackwell’s Bookshop stand. 

Dole Queues and Demons on Huffington Post

Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive was featured in a brief Huffington Post piece and slideshow on ‘The Art of Elections’. It offers a sneak peek into a few of the posters we included in the book, which is now available through the Bodleian Library Bookshop as well as other major retailers.

Image © Conservative Party Archive Trust

Parliament Week

Just a quick note to say that the Conservative Party Archive featured prominently as a part of the Bodleian Libraries’ participation in UK Parliament Week. Parliament Week is a new national initiative supported by both Houses of Parliament that aims to increase awareness of Parliament and its work as well as encourage participation in the democratic process.

The theme for this year was ‘Stories of Democracy’, and the Libraries highlighted items and collections relating to democracy and Parliament in the United Kingdom, from the Magna Carta to the Conservative Party Archive.

All the week’s posts can be found on the Libraries’ Parliament Week pages. The CPA features in the following:

In addition, Conservative Party Archivist Jeremy McIlwaine spoke to Culture 24 about the work and contents of the Archive; the interview is up on the Culture 24 website