The Conservative Party crisis, 1929-1931
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The thesis covers the politics of the Conservative Party from the general election defeat of May 1929 to the formation of the National Government in August 1931. It relates the internal crisis in the Party to the pressures of the Party rank and file, and to the general political and economic situation, in order to analyse the process by which Party policy evolved. Debate centred upon two questions: protection and India. In the case of the former, the role of its advocates in the press is discussed. Overall, the thesis emphasised the power of the position of the Party Leader, Baldwin. The Party crisis passed through six distinct phases. In the first (May-August 1929) the status quo in policy was preserved; but during the second (September 1929-March 1930), the balance tilted in the direction of advance over protection, but was restrained by the reluctance of the northern regions. A truce with the press followed (March-June 1930) but collapsed in mid-summer, leaving the leaders dangerously out of touch with their followers' views during the fourth phase of acute crisis (July-October 1930). At the end of the latter period the leaders accommodated their position, appeasing all but a small minority of dissidents, and isolating the press campaign. However, the fifth phase (October 1930-March 1931) saw a renewed outbreak of unease, due to the question of India and the leadership failures of Baldwin himself. In the final phase (March-August 1931) Baldwin re-established his position, and the Conservatives seemed set for electoral victory, having united around the policy of reducing government expenditure. The Party did not seek Coalition, but was diverted into joining the National Government by the sudden and serious financial crisis, believing it to be a temporary emergency expedient.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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