chapter  11
38 Pages

DISINTEGRATION

The Conservative party entered the general election campaign of January 1910 with tariff reform the coping stone of an ambitious and radical policy structure. This structure-‘the full tariff programme’—was a product of an attempt to construct a coalition of social forces that could defend the interests and institutions identified with Conservatism against both external threat and internal disruption. Conservatives, grudgingly in some cases, had come to accept this programme as the best hope for Conservatism in the early twentieth century. But between January 1910 and the outbreak of the Great War the unity constructed on the basis of the ‘economics of political integration’ was destroyed. The apparent failure of the full programme to deliver electoral success in 1910, and in particular the party’s inability to make a breakthrough in the electoral cockpit of England, Lancashire, was a root cause of the party’s retreat from the full programme. Even the confidence of some of the most committed Radical Conservatives was dented, with Benjamin Kidd telling Alfred Lyttelton that

the fighting centre of the opposition to Tariff Reform is the Lancashire cotton trade. It cannot be otherwise for Lancashire must selfishly fight to the death against protection for native manufacturers in India… Lancashire will fight the case to the bitter end… [and] all this talk of converting Lancashire is therefore nonsense.1