Disraeli and One Nation

One Nation Conservatism is now an established philosophy in the Conservative Party. David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson have all claimed to follow it. But in the middle of the 19th Century it was anything but secure.

The Industrial Revolution and increasing urbanisation had led to demands for greater representation in Parliament. The Great Reform Act (Representation of the People Act 1832) abolished many rotten boroughs and added 200,000 of the middle classes to the franchise. In 1867 the Second Reform Act doubled the electorate.

The Tory Party and after 1834, the Conservatives, suddenly now had to win over new voters. Burke’s ideas needed updating. Previously the Nation had been viewed with suspicion as anti-imperialist and revolutionary. That is displayed in the French Revolution when Louis’ Divine Right to Rule was stripped from him in the name of the French Nation. However it was rightly seen that both the rich and the poor all were effectively part of a national family and so everyone should be provided for to some extent (by the state).

This was in contrast to classical liberals who reasoned everyone had freedom of opportunity – so the poor should just be left to starve. This approach had meant misery in manufacturing cities and fomented unrest and radicalism. Therefore the idea of the Nation was needed to stall socialists who advanced the misguided idea that there is a international working class solidarity.

Many other reforms happened under the more interventionist government of Disraeli such as Parliamentary reform, Factory Acts and the Artisans Dwelling Act that regulated housing.

Here’s a short video covering the most important points!



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