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Peel - "A great Prime minister, but a poor party leader"-How far do you agree with this assessment?

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Introduction

"A great Prime minister, but a poor party leader" -How far do you agree with this assessment? Peel is widely regarded as the dominant politician of his age .I would agree with the quote that when in power, Peel was a far greater Prime Minister than a party leader. However it is interesting to note that the opposite could be argued when Peel was in opposition To win the hearts and minds of the people he needed to present his party as a united, organised force. This requires strong leadership and the fact that he won the general election goes some way to prove that he must have been successful. His attempts to modernise the Tories when he joined are usually associated with the re-branding of the party to become "The Conservatives" in 1834. This re-branding, The Tamworth Manifesto, countless speeches and re-unification of the party were all good indications that Peel had the potential to be a good party leader. However this was not true as upon electoral victory, one may argue that his priorities changed and the party was second to the country. ...read more.

Middle

This demonstrates the fact that Peel was very good at what he was either interested or believed in, for everything else was almost irrelevant. This shows Peel to be inflexible and close-minded. These virtues proved to have negative effects on Peel as a party leader. When Peel wanted to do something he did it, irrespective of what the Party thought. One prime example of this is the Corn Laws. The Irish famine of 1845 finally made Peels mind up over his course of action regarding the Corn Laws. He had decided that repeal of the Corn Laws would not only be a natural continuation of his so far popular financial reform, it would help bridge the gap between the social classes. It would lead to cheaper bread for the working classes and would reflect the aristocracy in a paternalistic light. Unfortunately for Peel, (who had politically "U-Turned" on his pre-election pledge to maintain the Corn Laws) his backbenchers strongly disagreed. Upon voicing their opinion, Peel threatened to resign. This shows weakness as leader. Peels inflexibility or inability to compromise and even communicate with those who disagreed with him split the Conservative party to its defeat at the next election. ...read more.

Conclusion

He considered the risk of upsetting the protectionist lobby within his party by creating cheaper living conditions. Donald Read argues that: "Peel was the best peacetime Prime minister in British history. He was equally the hero of the newly enfranchised, propertied middle classes and of the disenfranchised propertyless masses". By the time the Corn Laws had been repealed due mainly to Whig support, The Conservative party was in tatters. The internal conflicts had been exposed and the authority of Peel as Prime minister had been painfully undermined. Peel resigned giving way to another Whig administration. It seems that Peel was a man who was more interested in his personal aims for the country rather than personal aims for party and country. It seems that he used the desperate Tory party as a means of transport for his own Conservatism. Everybody else got in the way. Before the 1841 electoral victory Peel had aimed to get in power and this is what he did through the party. After this the party were more of a hindrance than an integral part of his political career. Therefore one concludes that government weakened the leadership of he Conservative party, and by his very nature Peel could not have been a good party leader and Prime minister at the same time. Tim Hoy 1 ...read more.

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