Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951-1964

By Philip N. Murphy | Go to book overview

2
The Conservative Party and Empire, 1945-1951

Post-War Readjustments Kahler makes the important point that Conservative loyalties centred upon three different British 'Empires': the empire of prestige which determined Britain's image of herself as a world power, the empire of 'kith and kin' consisting of the white dominions and the European settlers of East and Central Africa, and the economic empire of tariff barriers and the sterling area. 1 As this chapter demonstrates, despite the onset of the Cold War, the loss of India, and the advent of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Conservative party was slow to disengage itself from this tripartite conception of Empire. Although the party attempted to adapt to the increasing demands of African nationalism after 1945, its efforts to formulate principles upon which constitutional development might be based were rendered largely obsolete by the pace of constitutional advance from 1948 to 1951. Furthermore, the hopes and fears aroused by the result of the 1951 British general election within the African colonies suggest that the party had yet to shed its 'die-hard' imperial image.

The exigencies of the Second World War forced senior Conservatives to agree upon a statement of the objectives of British colonial policy. Although the declaration was sufficiently vague to allow for considerable differences of interpretation, even this limited degree of consensus was not apparent at the beginning of the war. In 1938 the Colonial Secretary, Malcolm MacDonald, had declared that the objective of British imperial policy was 'the ultimate establishment of the various colonial communities as self-supporting, self-reliant members of the great Commonwealth of free peoples and nations'. 2 Even though MacDonald did not envisage

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1
Miles Kahler, Decolonization in Britain and France: The Domestic Consequences of International Relations ( 1984), 131.
2
R. D. Pearce, The Turning Point in Africa: British Colonial Policy, 1938-1948 ( 1982), 23.

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Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951-1964
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