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

By Philip N. Murphy | Go to book overview

8
Conservative Factions, Tendencies, and Ideology

Conservative Political Thought

Most Conservatives who regretted the contraction of British imperial rule in Africa had no coherent ideological defence of Empire with which to challenge the so-called 'Wind of Change'. Nor was there a consistently 'right-wing' pressure group within the party which could incorporate the issue into a broader programme of resistance. Indeed, a major feature of Conservative party politics in general, at least until the mid-1960s, was its ideological fluidity. Finer, Berrington, and Bartholomew's study of the 1955-9 Parliament found it impossible to distinguish a clear left-right division.1 Instead, they discovered 'a collection of evanescent pressure groups' which existed to promote or impede a particular policy.2 Ghosh described a similar system of alignments operating in the Tory party in the 1930s:

In the absence of a deep-seated ideological cleavage, political alliances or factional groupings tend to have a temporary and ad hoc character.3

Rose drew a distinction between 'factions' and 'tendencies'.4 'Factions' he defined as ideologically motivated groups of individuals bound together by a cohesive and disciplined organization with the aim of advancing a range of policies. 'Tendencies', by contrast, are stable sets of attitudes which individuals may choose to embrace or abjure at given moments. These, rather than their adherents, can safely be defined in terms of a left-right axis. Rose argued that while left- and right-wing 'tendencies' could be identified within the Conservative party as it appeared in 1964, 'factions' failed to cohere around them:

____________________
1
S. E. Finer, H. B. Berrington, and D. J. Bartholomew, Backbench Opinion in the House of Commons, 1955-1959 ( 1961), 104.
3
S. C. Ghosh, "Decision Making in the British Conservative Party: A Case Study of the India Problem, 1929-1934", Political Studies, 13 ( 1965), 198-9.
4
Richard Rose, "Parties, Factions and Tendencies in Britain", Political Studies, 12 ( 1964), 33-46.

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