The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right 1945-1975

The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right 1945-1975

Mark Pitchford
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right 1945-1975
    Book Description:

    This book reveals the Conservative Party’s relationship with the extreme right between 1945 and 1975. Commentators frequently cite the relationship between the Conservative Party and the extreme right. For the first time, this book shows how the Conservative Party, realising that its wel-documented pre-Second World War connections with the extreme right were now embarrassing, used its bureaucracy to implement a policy of investigating extreme right groups and taking action to minimise their chances of success. The book focuses on the Conservative Party’s investigation of right-wing groups, and shows how its perception of their nature determined the party bureaucracy’s response. It draws on extensive information from the Conservative Party Archive, supported by other sources, including interviews with leading players in the events of the 1970s. The book draws a comparison between the Conservative Party machine’s negative attitude towards the extreme right and its support for progressive groups. It concludes that the Conservative Party acted as a persistent block to the external extreme right in a number of ways, and that the Party bureaucracy persistently denied the extreme right within the party assistance, access to funds, and representation within party organisations. It reaches a climax with the formulation of a plan threatening its own candidate if he failed to remove the extreme right from the Conservative Monday Club. This book examines a topic that is of enduring interest. It will appeal to students and enthusiasts alike, and become a standard textbook for undergraduates and postgraduates.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-412-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The Conservative Party is a political phenomenon. A ‘Tory’ party has existed for over three hundred years, surviving changes that resulted from industrialisation, adapting to the Great Reform Act of 1832, and subsequently introducing its own progressive electoral reforms under Disraeli. A party of landowners, property, and privilege, the Conservative Party not only weathered the century when full democracy emerged but dominated it. It won nineteen of the twenty-six general elections between 1900 and 1997, eleven outright, and gained over 40% of the vote in those it lost. Perhaps most startling is the Conservative Party’s domination of politics in the...

  6. 1 The shock of opposition, 1945–51
    (pp. 10-38)

    The Conservative Party entered the 1945 General Election suspicious of its leaders and split over social policy. The direction of Party policy was uncertain, with the Tory Reform Group, Progress Trust, Imperial Group, and numerous smaller bodies fighting for predominance in a party with a moribund and bankrupt machine. The progressive Tory Reform Committee had already welcomed publication of the Beveridge Report advocating extensive social reform, but right-wing Conservatives had attacked it, noticeably in publications connected with the extreme right such as theNational ReviewandTruth. The right of the party relished the opportunity to end the wartime coalition...

  7. 2 Consensus Conservatism and extreme right revival, 1951–57
    (pp. 39-68)

    Defeat at the 1950 General Election went some way to exorcise the Conservative Party’s shock at the 1945 defeat, and held the promise that success was near. Labour’s 145-seat majority was now a mere five. A number of high-calibre individuals among the 1950 intake of new MPs reinvigorated the Conservative parliamentary party. Some quickly formed the One Nation Group, which was a modernising organisation that played a pivotal role in reshaping Conservatism. Not that the Conservative leadership lacked advantages; Eden’s war record meant he was the expected and accepted successor to Churchill, which meant that the Conservative Party succession looked...

  8. 3 Macmillan and Home: ‘pink socialism’ and ‘true-blue’ Conservatism, 1957–64
    (pp. 69-124)

    When Harold Macmillan succeeded Eden in January 1957, he advised the Queen that his new government might not last six weeks. Macmillan said this only half in earnest, which revealed his nervousness after the Suez fiasco. His first objective was to steady the Conservative Government after Suez, and he could not afford to lose many by-elections. Therefore, Macmillan maintained his predecessors’ cautious economic policies and avoided confrontation with organised labour. The economy continued to grow. After losing three by-elections early in 1958, the Conservative Party did not lose any more. Macmillan appeared to be a more languid version of previous...

  9. 4 Edward Heath: a rightwards turn and the coalescence of the extreme right, 1964–70
    (pp. 125-180)

    In some respects, Britain in 1964 differed greatly from when the Conservative Party was last in opposition. Earnings had increased, prices appeared stable, unemployment remained low, and consumer goods were plentiful. Affluence had replaced austerity as the country’s leitmotif: according to one Nye Bevan obituary, the hum of the spin-dryer drowned the sounds of class warfare.¹ Computers were beginning to impact on British business too, leading to fears about jobs. Art was finding new expression in Pop and Op Art. The Public Libraries and Museum Act (1964) had precipitated an explosion in reading that continued throughout the decade. The opening...

  10. 5 ‘Heathco’ meets the extreme-right’s challenge, 1970–75
    (pp. 181-218)

    While historians often portrayed the 1940s and 1950s in Britain as decades of radical rebuilding, growth, and prosperity, and the 1960s as a cultural golden age, the 1970s have attracted a less flattering description. Christopher Booker judged that the 1970s were a ‘sober, gloomy’ decade, little more than ‘a prolonged anti-climax to the manic excitements of the Sixties’.¹ Shrapnel stated that crises became a daily condition of life, and described the 1970s as a decade of increasing introversion when Britain developed a new insularity and withdrew into itself.² Whitehead accepted Shrapnel’s judgement, concluding that, ‘The Seventies will be remembered for...

  11. Conclusion: keeping it right
    (pp. 219-228)

    The Conservative Party had a sanguine attitude towards indigenous fascism and extreme-right movements before the Second World War. However, the war made association with right-wing extremism unacceptable as it associated it with the horrors of Fascism and Nazism. A title that included labels such as ‘Fascist’, ‘Nazi’ and ‘National Socialist’ was no longer acceptable for political movements. Very few groups or individuals identified themselves with these pariah terms and ideologies. No organisation with such a title appeared in the Conservative Party Archive as one of the outside organisations that Central Office investigated. The same is true of groups tainted by...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-238)
  13. Index
    (pp. 239-248)