Robert Peel

25 Jun

For a long time I had thought I should read a biography of Peel. He who gave Britain a police force and recurring Income Tax. I was dubious about tackling Douglas Hurds semi recent one. Hurd and Peel , neither feature on the same horizon as me politically , what could possibly go right ?

Hurds writing style is actually not that annoying. He probably uses too many opportunities to make modern day political points , but after all hes a politician at heart. He also has an overwhelming admiration for his subject.

I lived in Bury for some time and there is a real cult of Robert Peel there , pubs , streets , shopping areas, schools and colleges are all named after him. And statues , everywhere there are statues. They have even named the skin of an orange ” orange Peel ” as a cruel joke on Peels time as Irish Minister. And yet Hurd gives it two sentences. It means nothing to him ( both of them ) it had no impact on his life and he cared for it not a jot . In that I share his disdain if nothing else.

Peel comes across as a 19th century geek. Little warmth socially , but well respected for his knowledge and competence. His lack of vision as Irish Minister is hardly his fault ( passim ) and he tackles the idea of a police force from a logical and conservative point of view. His Tamworth manifesto is really a bore and he tries to unfiy Tories more from desperationĀ than ideology. He battles hard to get that through and then continues to be the battler. He battles for the Queens affections , he battles forn Tax , he battles for reforms ( Ireland , Voting amongst others ). He becomes a leading centre of gravity in the Commons , if not a personality. His tenure as Prime Minister is , as would be expected , industrious.

Hurd however tries to place him as a minor prophet , a premodern Tory. I think he is pushing his luck , but its no worse than the policy he advocated in Bosnia. Hurd uses the phrase ” dickered ” which I have never seen in a 19th century politics book before.

At times , as with all 19th century political writing , its hard to keep up with alliances and elections , Hurd tries his best and his insights onto the electoral politics are interesting. I am having to revise my view on the author , he can write ( lousy politics though ) and I am indebted to him for pricking the Bury Peel bubble.



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