Friday, 27 January 2017

May`s inspiration has to be Disraeli

Pearce and Kenny put forward a strong argument supporting the idea that Joseph Chamberlain "serves as an inspiration for Theresa May`s premiership" (The empire strikes back, 20th January,2017). There is no doubt that he was, especially when mayor of Birmingham, a keen social reformer and "advocate for the industrial as well as the national interest", but the article ignored the more significant similarities between May and Disraeli.
      In his famous Crystal Palace speech in 1872, Disraeli promised to "improve the condition of the people", a pledge not dissimilar from May`s promises on the steps of 10 Downing Street, and one which also had little chance of attaining fulfilment, because of the opposition it would arouse within the Tory party. Too much rhetoric and too little action are criticisms which can be applied to both prime ministers, too, with their "window-dressing" reforms lacking compulsion. May`s lack of legislation to force employers to allow workers` representatives on boards can be likened to Disraeli`s propensity for permissive legislation. An unwillingness to offend private landlords prevented the Artisans` Dwellings Act having much effect beyond Birmingham, in a similar way to it hindering May from capping excessive rents.
   Just as "the Thatcherite right are somewhat uncertain about May", the 1870s` Tory party never fully trusted Disraeli after his 1867 Reform Act, which gave the vote to the urban working class males. The distrust exacerbated after he allowed aggressive and jingoistic speeches by the arrogant Lytton and Bartle-Frere to take the country into unnecessary conflict in Afghanistan and southern Africa, something which has only potential similarity at the moment, but which increases every day Johnson remains as foreign secretary!

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