By John Charmley (auth.)
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Additional info for A History of Conservative Politics, 1900–1996
5 Carson, however, saved the day by persuading even some of the keenest tariff reformers to sign a memorial asking Law to stay on and to postpone food duties until after another election. Law accepted this for the same reason that most of his opponents did - none of them believed that another leader could command party unity in the same way as he could- especially over Ulster. 6 But the memorial did mark the point at which the Conservative and Unionist Party pledged itself to Imperial Preference, and henceforth this commitment would haunt Bonar Law and his successors.
It is customary for journalists, commenting upon current Cabinets, to lament the decline in quality from some age when political giants trod the stage, but not even the most opaquely rose-tinted spectacles can make much of most of Balfour's colleagues. Of those who impressed contemporaries, the two great figures in Cabinet after Salisbury himself had both begun their political life elsewhere, and the Duke of Devonshire was a wasting asset, whilst the other was Joseph Chamberlain. Of the rest it is almost best not to speak.
Bonar Law, like Sir Antony Gloster, was no aesthete. ' His leisure pursuits consisted of chess and bridge, and he not only possessed no great country houses, but was positively indifferent to the style of life which they represented. ' 2 He was the sort of leader the Conservatives would only turn to because they could find no one else. Some historians have seen him as representing the new type of Conservative politician, but what he really represented were the two main causes which galvanized Conservatives in 1911: Tariff Reform and Ireland.