Saturday, October 1, 2011

how was benjamin disraeli a successful primeminister

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How was Benjamin Disraeli a successful Prime Minister?

Disraeli first became Prime Minister in February 1868 after Derby had to resign due to ill health. There was no serious suggestion of anyone other than Disraeli who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, to replace him. Disraeli now found himself at the head of a minority administration but it didn’t last long. When the general election was held in November-December 1868 it was a heavy conservative defeat. Disraeli at the age of 64 now faced the prospect of 7 years in opposition after just 10 months in power.

The next general election came in 1874 and Disraeli led his party to victory. His majority was invulnerable and for the first time he was secure in his position and able to take a long-term view.

During his time in office he had a greater advance in social legislation than any of his predecessors. In 1874 a factory act was introduced improving the conditions for workers and imposing a maximum 56-½ hour working week. The Artisans Dwelling Act in 1875 provided that 87 local authorities could demolish slum properties if the Medical Office of Health certified them as unsanitary. In 1876 the Pollution of Rivers Bill, outlawed pollution of noxious fluids. The 1876 Education Act required that children between the ages of 10 and 14 should not be employed unless they had a certificate of school attendance, or one of academic attainment. In this way, it was intended that parents should see it was in their own interests to have their children educated.

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The change in law which had quite a big significance was the reform of the laws regulating the trade unions. A sharp rise in the number of industrial disputes made this an issue of pressing importance. The Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, altered the law of conspiracy, so that it no longer applied to trade union activities; the Criminal Law Amendment Act was repealed making peaceful picketing lawful; and the Employers an Workmen Bill meant it was no longer possible for workmen to be prosecuted for breach of contract. Disraeli and his party were successful in their social reforms but it didn’t manage to influence many working classes in their voting behaviour in the 1880 election, as the Conservative program of social reforms had receded into the past. From 1876 Disraeli became preoccupied with other problems.

In November 1875, Disraeli achieved a remarkable political coup when he succeeded in purchasing, for £4 million, the Khedive of Egypt’s 44 per cent stake in the Suez Canal Company in India. This move received a great deal of favourable publicity at home, seeming to confirm the government’s determination to protect British interests in this vital waterway which was a short cut trading channel to India. Above all, the shares purchase was regarded as an effective way to counter French influence in the area-, which was considerable, since it was the French who constructed the canal.

Throughout Disraeli’s career he insisted that it was the duty of the governments to uphold the empire of Britain. But when he spoke of such terms, Disraeli was usually not referring simply to the defence of the colonies but to the wider issue of maintaining Britain’s prestige in the rest of the world. Disraeli was disturbed by the fact that since the mid-1860s Britain had become increasingly isolated and powerless in its relations with the European Powers. In particular he resented the way that the recently consolidated German Empire, had established itself as the dominant force in European diplomacy through its manipulation of the Dreikaiserbund(three Emperors League) formed with Russia and Austria in 187. Disraeli was very determined to reverse the isolationist trend.

In the mid 1870s, the Turkish Empire, which extended into a large area of southeastern Europe, had uprisings in several of her Balkan provinces, which posed a serious challenge to Turkish authority. The Dreikaiserbund responded to this situation, with the Berlin memorandum of May 1876, calling on the Turks to institute reforms in the disturbed provinces, and hinting at collective action by the Powers to enforce change if it was not forthcoming voluntarily. The Dreikaiserbund after settling the contents of the memorandum then passed it on to the British, French and Italian governments for their endorsement. Disraeli refused the document on the grounds that Britain had not been consulted in advance. Disraeli was not prepared to see Britain treated as a secondary power in Europe and he had therefore gratefully seized the chance to publicly snub the Dreikaiserbund.

In 1876 an uprising in Bulgaria left 15000 dead. It is probably the case that the Liberal leader Gladstone, and his involvement in the Bulgarian agitation tended to harden Disraeli’s attitude to the opposite side, so that Disraeli became increasingly pro-Turkish in his views. The reasoning behind his stance was to diminish the power of the Dreikaiserbund and he didn’t want the Russians capturing Constantinople (Istanbul) where they could capture the Suez Canal where 4/5 of the traffic was British.

In April 1877, Russia declared war on Turkey. Britain didn’t actually fight, but preserved its neutrality until it became clear what the outcome of the war was going to be. In early 1878, when British military resistance collapsed the British government sought a emergency vote of credit(£6 million) from Parliament to make preparations in case Russia occupied Constantinople. In the event, Russia held back from the Turkish capital due to a series of military gestures made by Britain. Russia under formidable diplomatic pressure was obliged to submit the issue to Congress of the European Powers held at Berlin in June-July 188.

The Congress of Berlin was unquestionably Disraeli’s finest hour, giving him the opportunity to occupy centre stage in the councils of Europe and end Britain’s international isolation.

Disraeli, by the time he became Prime Minister in 1868 he already had a good relationship with the Queen, and this was quickly to become very cordial. Disraeli preferred the company of women and he knew instinctively how to establish a close personal relationship with Victoria and he was very charming and flattering. At the time the constitutional powers were far from extinct and could not be disregarded by the Prime Minister, who naturally wanted her as an ally. Since the death of her husband Victoria had been difficult to deal with and sometimes almost hysterical was deled well by Disrael’s sympathetic management. The advantages Disraeli gained from his sympathetic management of the Queen are obvious when you look at the difficulties experienced by his rival, Gladstone. The emotional bond between the Crown and the Conservative party was to become a tremendous political asset for Disraeli in the 1870s.

Disraeli was reasonably successful as Prime Minister by achieving what he set out to do. It was the bad economic state of the country, which lost him the 1880 election. Here is a summary of his important achievements, which I have written about in this report

· He changed the laws to improve housing and working conditions

· He protected and increased the British Empire

· He borrowed £4,000,000 to purchase for the government the shares in the Suez Canal that were owned by the Khedive of Egypt

· He had a very good relationship with the Queen.

· He took part in the 1878 Congress of Berlin, which redrew the boundaries of South Eastern Europe after the defeat of Turkey in the Russo-Turkish War. He deprived Russia of the many advantage of victory and ensured they did not gain any strategic advantages in the Mediterranean.

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