Monday, 8 October 2012

Origins of one-nation conservatism

Ed Miliband, George Osborne and even Wikipedia ascribe the concept of "one nation conservatism" to Disraeli, and in particular to his Manchester speech of 1872. However, Jane Ridley, one of Dizzy's biographers, has stated that he never used the actual expression "one nation". The nearest he comes to it is by exception, in this excerpt from his novel Sybil: "Two nations [...] who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones [and so on]".

It has been an annoying exercise to pin down a phrase which seems to have been with one since childhood. The Web has not been of much help, but thanks to Anthony Sampson's Anatomy of Britain I believe that it was Iain Macleod who fixed the expression in the nation's consciousness when he founded the "One Nation" group of new Conservative MPs on his election in 1950. Macleod explicitly saw himself as a political heir of Disraeli, though one wonders whether he also had in the back of his mind the United States pledge to "one nation under God".

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