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'The fools have stumbled on their best man by accident' : an analysis of the 1957 and 1963 Conservative Party leadership selections

By Stephen David Miller


This thesis assesses the outcomes of the 1957 and 1963 Conservative Party\ud Leadership Selections of Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home. It analyses\ud the two selections using an original analytical framework, that demonstrates the\ud importance of both individual and situational criteria in determining the outcomes of\ud leadership selections. The individual criteria are the party status of the candidates, and\ud their actions and conduct during the selections. The situational criteria are the situation\ud and circumstances surrounding the selections, the formal and informal aspects of the\ud selection procedure used, and the candidates fulfilment of acceptability, electability,\ud and governability. Acceptability, (the need to retain or maintain party unity),\ud electability, (the need to be electable), and governability, (the ability to govern), are the\ud three core situational criteria on which the candidates are judged. This framework was\ud developed to offer a full and inclusive explanation of the outcomes of the two\ud leadership selections, because the existing analyses of leadership selections has a\ud restrictive approach, and does not offer a conclusive and systematic analysis.\ud \ud \ud The thesis demonstrates that the outcomes of the 1957 and 1963 leadership\ud selections have clear parallels and distinctions in their outcomes. Both selections\ud produced a stop-gap leader in a time of crisis for the Conservative Party. However, the\ud situations were clearly distinct, and this was influential in the outcome. The 1957\ud selection occurred following a crisis over foreign policy, while the 1963 selection\ud occurred during a deep-seated period of domestic crisis and upheaval. In January\ud 1957, the Conservatives had three years before a general election had to be held, while\ud in October 1963, a general election was imminent within twelve months. The selection\ud procedure was influential in both selections. The informal aspects of the procedure\ud were more influential in 1957, while the procedure had become more formalised in\ud 1963, and this prepared the way for the establishment of formal leadership elections in\ud the Conservative Party in 1965. The choice of Macmillan and Home was made because\ud of the circumstances in which the selections occurred, and because they fulfilled the\ud three core criteria more conclusively than the other candidates. In both outcomes,\ud acceptability was clearly the most important core criteria because the selections\ud occurred at a time of severe disunity in the party, and this deemed party unity as the\ud crucial task of the new leader. In 1957, Macmillan was selected as he fulfilled the\ud requirements of the situation better than R. A. Butler, the other candidate. In 1963,\ud Home became leader because of the weaknesses apparent in the other candidates, and\ud was the compromise candidate to retain party unity.\ud \ud \ud This thesis concludes that the wider individual and situational criteria set the\ud terms of reference on which the core situational criteria of acceptability, electability,\ud and governability are judged. The most important wider criteria were the candidates'\ud actions during the selection, the selection procedure, and the situation that the\ud selection occurred in. This demonstrates the utility of the analytical framework\ud developed in the study

Topics: JN101, DA
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