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The Tory Party had many factors that were contributing to their failures before 1834, and it is important to look at whether the fact that Peel took control of the Party and began to shape it into the Conservative Party is the reason for recovery, or whether other reasons were more important, and Peel did a job that any other politician at the time could have. The Tories had many issues before 1834 which were obvious reasons for failure; however there is a question as to whether Peel’s rise to power was the actual solution to these.
The Tory party was leaderless and not united, which in turn led to poor organisation in both Westminster and constituencies which was deadly to a party considering the increase in the electorate via reforms. The increase electorate also proved to be an obstacle for the Tories as they were very unpopular, and were in desperate need of a new image if they were to survive, considering their defeat in the 1831 elections and the large popularity of the current Whig government.
All of these factors are important to consider when studying Peels importance, and what he did to alleviate these problems for the Party, if anything. The issue of the lack of unity is partly also down to the lack of leadership in the Party, but is also connected to events prior to Peel’s time in power. The division within the Tory party came about after many unpopular decisions were made; including Peel giving in to Roman Catholic Emancipation and Wellington’s statement that the Parliamentary system did not need reform.
After the Reform Act of 1832, the Tories were divided into three sections. The Canningite Tories, the Ultra’s and Wellington and Peel supporters. The Canningite Tories spilt with the Tories and joined the Whigs in 1829, which left the future Conservative Party in two factions. The Ultra’s were angry with Wellington and Peel over granting the Roman Catholic Emancipation and it would be a long time before the two sections of the Party had a common cause or leader. When Peel took power of the Tory Party he knew that to be successful, his envisioned Conservative Party needed to be united.
He also took the stand that any Conservative government should naturally have Conservative support, and felt that he needn’t make any concessions for the Ultra’s in the attempt to gain their support which is one of the main reasons it took until 1834 for the Ultra’s to begin accepting Peel as the indispensible leader of the Party. Peel did not go out of his way to unify the Party, but measures such as the Tamworth Manifesto of 1834 did much to gain back the lost Canningite’s as it showed that Peel was willing to accept change providing it would not plunge the country into chaos similar to that seen in France during the revolution.
With the Ultra’s slowly coming to terms with Peel’s leadership, and the Tamworth Manifesto bringing back support in from the Canningite’s and lower classes who felt that this new Conservative government was not the reform refusing Party led by Wellington, and the Upper Classes who felt that there was no risk of revolution. The Tamworth Manifesto helped Peel’s Conservatives gain the support that Wellington’s Tories lost after 1832, but this piece of Party policy could have been created by any politician who saw that the Tories would fail and needed to make some concessions to gain back former support.
The Tory Party had become increasingly unpopular with the increasing electorate, and did not seem able to organise themselves in a sufficient manner to gain a relative gain of votes to voters. This is because of the Reform Act of 1832 created a larger number of genuine elections in constituencies due to the removal of many Rotten and Pocket Boroughs. This meant that many of the Middle Class could vote and Parties were required to have policies to please them; mainly the ideas of reform.
The Tory party were viewed as the party that would not grant reform, so the Whigs gained the largest increase in support from the change in the franchise. A new look to the Conservative Party was needed, and Peel was responsible to provide it considering he was the leading member of the Party. Peel’s most obvious action in creating a new image for the Tory party was the gradual name change to the Conservative Party. The greatest step towards actually convincing those that mattered that the Conservative Party had changed was the Tamworth Manifesto.
Although the Manifesto was only meant for Peel’s constituency, copies of it were sent to London newspapers and when published they were received well. This is also proof that the Conservative Party were becoming organised, with Peel letting the Middle Classes know of his actions and intents, which was unlike him previously. Peel was also closer with his Party, and where he was once distant he now spoke with his MP’s and inspired loyalty from them in return, especially other leaders whom he often invited to his manor house to discuss politics.
These actions were instrumental in the revival of the Conservative Party. Without the unity created from Peel’s change in attitude to organisation, the Party would not have been able to flourish when things began to go badly for the Whig government. Peel was able to change common opinion on the Tory party as well as creating stronger links between Conservative MP’s, including Ultra’s and the former Tories who had rejoined after the stance of no reform was dispelled.
Although Peel’s influences upon the Tory party, and it’s conversion into the new and up to date Conservative Party are undeniable, but would they really have made any difference if the Whig party had also been successful. It is a general rule in politics that if the ruling party have a prosperous time in power it is very difficult for the opposition to take control in the next election, and it is only when things begin to go downhill that progress can be made. By the late 1830s the Conservatives had been making progress in the electorate, but was their final success thanks to Whig failure?
The people needed to be able to trust the leading party, but the Whigs had lost the people’s confidence. This was due to their work with both the Irish and Radicals, and the fact that they had gotten themselves into debt whilst in power which was a very unrespectable status to be in at the time. Peel was actually a financial expert which helped in gaining support from those who felt the Whigs were no longer a reasonable option after creating a deficit budget of i?? 6 million.
Along with the debt, the Whigs also proposed a fixed corn duty which was aimed to please the poor but allowed many merchants and manufacturers to sell their products abroad. This pushed many of the former Tory voters back to the new and improved Conservative Party. It cannot be denied that Peel made vital changes to the Tory party that was outdated and looked to the past for guidance, and created the Conservative Party that gained lost supporters and new ones too. The question is how much of a role he played in the revival of the Party.
I feel that although Peel made simple and steady choices in the changes of Conservatism, he made the decisions based on public opinion and his own views which he never changed to suit anyone else. These choices, although simple and steady were cautious and exactly what was needed. His choices were well made, and the failure of the Whigs was all that was needed by the time the 1841 elections came about to allow the Conservatives take power thanks to Peels development of an almost dead party in 1930 into the Party the majority of voters wanted by 1941.