Party Organisation

  • Neal Blewett


Party machines are often scapegoats for electoral defeat, and much of the abuse that was showered on the Conservative organisation in the aftermath of the 1910 defeats was both unfair and exaggerated. ‘I have no doubt’, wrote Balfour in January 1911, ‘that the Central Office and all connected with it has been unjustly attacked. But I have also no doubt that the system which has been practically unchanged for 25 years requires overhauling.’1 Others were markedly less restrained. Lord Malmesbury, who had considerable experience of the organisation in London and the Home Counties, attributed blame for defeat in December to ‘an enormous extent’ to ‘the rottenness of our party organisation’.2 The theme was elaborated in Blackwood’s Magazine:

Conservative organisation, bad at best, is reduced to chaos by a fight at short notice…. There is no supervision of local associations, no attempt to make backward localities efficient, no selection of the right men for the right seats…. It would be worth the Conservative Party’s while to stay for ten years out of office, if thereby we could scrap the present party machinery and learn the rudiments of sane business. 3


Trade Union Local Organisation Local Association Liberal Party Principal Agent 
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  1. 4.
    R. B. Jones, ‘Balfour’s Reform of Party Organisations’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, xxxviii, no. 97 (May 1965) 99, Sandars to Short, 3 Oct 1910.Google Scholar
  2. 22.
    The Times, 16, 23, 30 Jan 1911; National Union, minutes, special Conference, 27 July 1906; and Jones, Bull. of the Inst. of Hist. Res., xxxviii, no. 97 (May 1965), 99.Google Scholar
  3. 42.
    J. Ellis Barker, ‘How the Unionists Might Win’, Fortnightly Review, lxxxvi (Nov 1909) 804.Google Scholar
  4. 48.
    Arthur A. Baumann, ‘Money and Brains in Politics’, Fortnightly Review, lxxxvi (Oct 1909) 598–604. Baumann had had considerable experience as an unsuccessful Conservative candidate.Google Scholar
  5. 85.
    On the Liberal organisational structure in this period see Spender, Hudson, ch. iii; King, ‘Liberal Party 1906–14’, ch. i; and Viscount Gladstone, ‘The Chief Whip in the British Parliament’, American Political Science Review, xxi, no. 3 (Aug 1927) 519–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Neal Blewett 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neal Blewett
    • 1
  1. 1.Flinders University of South AustraliaAustralia

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