16 June 2014

Chamberlain and trout fishing

To mark the start of the new coarse fishing season today, Gleanings and Memoranda publishes 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.


31 December 2013

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, Gleanings & Memoranda looks 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.

26 December 2013

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]

14 November 2013

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, Gleanings & Memoranda 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 the care of the Conservative Party Archive (CPA) 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.

17 July 2013

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, Gleanings & Memoranda 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]

18 April 2013

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

10 April 2013

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 (see 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 [2nd page 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 Kent should 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.'