Today, 9th May, is the centenary of the creation of the Conservative and Unionist Party out of the Conservative and Liberal Unionist parties of 1912. The merger took place at the Queen’s Hall in London. Against the backdrop of that ‘merger’, and the need for the Conservative Party to win the next General Election, it is well worth considering the present ‘Coalition’.
In the words of Austen Chamberlain, that amalgamation of 1912 represented the “triumph of our common principles”, namely growth and enterprise and Westminster sovereignty in the national interest. It is ironic that despite the reaffirmation of the present Coalition in 2012 that the workings of the Coalition Agreement effectively prevent the growth that is needed to achieve the reduction of the deficit.
There are other concerns and grave misgivings in relation to the present Coalition Agreement and its various pledges, including the pledge to “establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights” and to “examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament” – pledges in which the present Coalition and the workings of its Agreement have meant the required policy has not been properly achieved. The Liberal Democrats are an obstruction to our vital national interests.
The 1912 merger was initiated by the underrated Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law who, in early 1912, set up a committee – a Special Fusion Committee – with equal representation of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists, to consider the amalgamation of the Conservative Central Office and National Conservative Union (otherwise known as the National Union) with the Liberal Unionist Council. After various consultations, this Special Fusion Committee decided unanimously in favour of complete amalgamation and fusion.
The Special Fusion Committee then referred the matter to the Executive Committee of the National Union, which approved it at its meeting of 15th March 1912 and set up another Joint Committee to draw up alterations to the rules of the National Union for submission to the National Union’s Central Council. The report of this committee was considered by the Executive Committee on 12th April 1912, and passed on to the Central Council, which agreed to the proposals on 18th April 1912, and recommended that a Special Conference be held on 9th May 1912 to consider the proposals.
At the Conservative meeting, Andrew Bonar Law, Walter Long and Edward Carson were among those who spoke in favour of the merger. At the Liberal Unionist meeting, the Marquess of Lansdowne and Austen Chamberlain had spoken in favour of the merger.
There is a mention in the Conservative Party’s official journal of record at the time – ‘National Union Gleanings’ – confirming where both meetings happened. For the Conservatives, at a special conference of the National Conservative Union held in the Queen’s Hall, London and presided over by Sir William J Crump, JP, on 9 May 1912, the following resolution was passed “That the report of the Council be adopted, and that the consequential amendments in the Rules – as printed and circulated and amended – necessary to give effect to the proposals for the complete amalgamation of the two wings of the Party be, and the same are hereby, approved.”
For the Liberal Unionists, at a special conference of the Liberal Unionist Council held in the Memorial Hall, London, on 9 May, 1912, the following resolution was passed “That this meeting of the Liberal Unionist Council accepts the proposal for the amalgamation of the Central Organizations of the two wings of the Unionist Party under the title of ‘The National Unionist Association,’ and approves the proposed Rules of the new Organization as printed and circulated, subject to any modifications in detail which may be approved by the Executive Committee.”
Incidentally, the Liberal Unionists which merged into the Conservative Party in 1912 were founded by John Bright and Joseph Chamberlain, both Members of Parliament for Birmingham. I have recently written a book on John Bright entitled ‘John Bright: Statesman, Orator, Agitator’ (IB Tauris). On the issue of parliamentary reform, it was John Bright who totally repudiated the idea of proportional representation and who suggested on 18 October 1883 the House of Lords should have a limited power of veto that in essence became embodied in the Parliament Act 1911.
However, we now have a Coalition Government (formed in five days). The Deputy Prime Minister and his Liberal Democrat colleagues obstruct the repatriation of powers from the European Union which are needed so that small, medium and other businesses can generate growth in that national interest, and despite the evident failure of the European project as a whole.
The UK economy is back in recession, the European economy is not growing and the reason is that the sort of policies needed in the UK and the European Union to engender growth and therefore deal with the deficit – which the Government rightly say we have to address – cannot possibly be achieved without generating the growth that is needed by repealing legislative burdens and generating policies that the integrationists in Europe – including the Liberal Democrats – simply refuse to allow.
The Coalition itself cannot achieve growth because the Liberal Democrats, as part of those arrangements, have silenced the Prime Minister’s promise to repatriate, among other policies, burdens on business. It is called 57 votes and the keys to No. 10.
Today, it is clear what we must do – we must reaffirm the principles of the Conservative and Unionist Party in the national interest.