monday club

Conservative Monday Club

The Conservative Monday Club (widely known as the Monday Club) is a British pressure-group "on the right-wing of the Conservative Party".

Overview

Founded in the early 1960s during the party's internal debate over decolonisation, its published aims state that "The Monday Club seeks to evolve a dynamic application of traditional Tory principles". Roger Griffin referred to the Club as practising an anti-socialist and elitist form of conservatism.

The club is notable for having promoted a policy of voluntary, or assisted, repatriation for non-white immigrants which mirrored the pledge made in the Conservative Party's General Election Manifesto of 1970.

After the 1997 General Election defeat, the Conservative Party began decisive moves towards becoming more centrist; the 2002-2003 party chairman, Theresa May would later state that it had been perceived by voters as "the nasty party". The-then party leader Iain Duncan Smith suspended the Monday Club's longstanding links with the party in October 2001 saying his party would have nothing to do with the organisation unless it stopped making "distasteful" remarks on race and immigration ..

Since 1993 new full members of the club must be members of the Conservative Party though there is no such requirement for associate membership. Monday Club observers, such as Denis Walker, have attended DUP Party conferences.

Part of the club's agenda stresses support for what it claims are "traditional Conservative values", including "resistance to 'political correctness'". Most traditionalists who left or lapsed after 1992 have been refused re-entry to the Club and even to its occasional meetings.

History

Foundation and early years

The club was founded on 1 January 1961, by four young Conservative Party members, Paul Bristol (a 24 year-old shipbroker and the Club's first Chairman , who left the Club in 1968), Ian Greig (Membership Secretary until 1969), Cedric Gunnery (Treasurer until 1992) and Anthony Maclaren. The club was formed "to force local party associations to discuss and debate party policy". Its first general policy statement deplored the tendency of recent Conservative governments to adopt policies based upon expediency and demanded that instead Tory principles should be the guiding influence. It believed that the principles needing to be reasserted included the preservation of the constitution and existing institutions, the freedom of the individual, the private ownership of property and the need for Britain to play a leading part in world affairs.' It disliked what it regarded as the expediency, cynicism and materialism which motivated Macmillan's government. In addition it was concerned that during this period "the left wing of the Party (had) gained a predominant influence over policy" and as a result the Conservative Party had shifted to the left, so that "the floating voter could not detect, as he should, major differences between it and the Socialists" and furthermore "loyal Conservatives had become disillusioned and dispirited.

The main impetus, however, for the group's formation was provided by the African policies of the Conservative government in particular as a general reaction to Harold Macmillan's 'Wind of Change' speech made at Cape Town, South Africa, which many Conservatives saw as the last straw. The club stated that Macmillan had "turned the Party Left", and their first pamphlet opposed these policies, as indicative of the Conservative Party's move towards liberalism..

The 5th Marquess of Salisbury (d.1972), who had resigned from Macmillan's Cabinet over the Prime Minister's liberal direction, became its first president in January 1962, when he stated "there was never a greater need for true conservatism than there is today" . By the end of 1963 there were eleven Members of Parliament in the Club, which then only had an overall membership of about 300..

The Club was courted by many Conservative politicians, not least the Conservative Party leader Alec Douglas Home who was guest-of-honour at the Club's annual dinners of 1964 and 1969, and Enoch Powell, in a speech in 1968, claimed that "it was due to the Monday Club that many are brought within the Conservative Party who might otherwise be estranged from it. Some argued that the Club had a disproportionate influence within Conservative circles, especially after six of its MPs joined the Cabinet in 1970.

By 1970 sixteen Members of Parliament were Club members:

In the 1970 Conservative Party election victory, six club MPs were given government positions [cf.Messina, p.138]. In addition, the following club members were elected that year:

Among sitting MPs who joined the Club after the election were:

A number of other Monday Club members contested Labour-held seats, some of which had large majorities, and although the challenge was unsuccessful the majorities were reduced. These included Tim Keigwin, who almost unseated the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe at North Devon, and David Clarke who failed by only 76 votes at Watford..

By 1971, the Club "undoubtedly had the largest membership of any conservative group and included 55 different groups in universities and colleges, 35 Members of Parliament with six in the government, and 35 Peers". .Enoch Powell was a constant supporter of the club until his death, although he never took up membership.

John Biggs-Davison, MP, in his Foreword to Robert Copping's second book on the history of the club, stated that "by its principles [the club] has kept alive true Tory beliefs and held within its ranks many who contemplated defecting from the Conservative and Unionist Party". Harold Wilson, twice Labour Prime Minister, described the club as "the guardian of the Tory conscience" .. The club's Chairman, David Storey, described it in June 1981 as "an anchor to a ship", referring to the Conservative Party.

The Thatcher years

The club's revised Constitution (21 May 1984) stated that "the objects of the Club are to support the Conservative & Unionist Party in policies designed

  • to maintain loyalty to the Crown and to uphold the sovereignty of Parliament, the security of the realm, and defence of the nation against external aggression and internal subversion;
  • to safeguard the liberty of the subject and integrity of the family in accordance with the customs, traditions, and character of the British people;
  • to maintain the British constitution in obedience and respect for the laws of the land, freedom of worship and our national heritage;
  • to promote an economy consistent with national aspirations and Tory ideals.
  • to encourage members of the club to play an active part, at all levels, in the affairs of the Conservative and Unionist Party."


During the period that Margaret Thatcher led the Conservative Party, the Monday Club were prolific publishers of booklets, pamphlets, policy papers, an occasional newspaper, Right Ahead, and a magazine Monday World edited for some years by Sir Adrian FitzGerald, Bart., Sam Swerling, and later, Eleanor Dodd. In the October 1982 edition MP Harvey Proctor called for the scrapping of the Commission for Racial Equality, Sir Patrick Wall commented on the 'Falkland Islands Campaign', James Molyneaux had an article 'What Future for Ulster', and Dr. Harvey Ward had a prophetic article on 'Zimbabwe Today'. The September 1984 edition of Monday News carried the headline 'Kinnock Talks to Terrorists', quoting former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock's declaration to the South African African National Congress's Oliver Tambo that the ANC in South Africa could expect financial and material assistance from a future Labour government. Other attacks were made upon then-Greater London Council leader Ken Livingstone inviting Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to visit London in 1982.

Due to a number of factors national Club membership (as opposed to branch membership) plummeted in the mid-1980s, reaching just under 600 by 1987. It has been argued that one of the principal reasons for this had been Shadow Home Secretary Willie Whitelaws April 1978 speech reflecting many of the traditional views of the Club, when he proposed measures indicating the "end of immigration policies based on Britain's past position". He made a number of hard-hitting pledges, which included strict quotas, and at least one Club member and one sympathiser had served on the party panel drafting these proposals. (None of these promises were ever effectively carried out.) He was followed by none other than Margaret Thatcher in her famous speech when she said "the British people feel they are being swamped" by immigrants. To some it seemed one of the principal planks of the Monday Club was being realised, its purpose somewhat diminished. Interestingly, the Club had at least one Black member, Derek Laud, and in 1988 the Students' Group Chairman was an Asian, Sanwar Ali.

Club administration became disinterested, there was inertia in recruiting, and it became increasingly obvious to many both within the Club and without that the Conservative Party were not going to honour their pre-election pledges on immigration.

Old Guard departs

In 1988-9, a group of longstanding members led by Gregory Lauder-Frost, the club's Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, succeeded in getting elected to the key posts on the Executive Council, with Dr. Mark Mayall as Deputy Chairman, and Lauder-Frost as the Political Secretary.

At the beginning of January 1991, the Monday Club News announced the abolition of the only salaried position, that of Director, (then held by the Club's Treasurer, Cedric Gunnery, one of the Club's founders). Although this was entirely due to the Club's precarious financial state, some felt more sinister moves afoot. Negative news stories began emerging and resignations followed. An internal investigation followed. The chairman, David Storey, lost an almost unanimous vote of no confidence on January 17 1991, and his membership was terminated by the Club's Executive Council on February 11th on the grounds that "he has engaged in behaviour prejudiced to the best interests, reputation, objects, and other members of the Monday Club; by abusing his position as Chairman in encouraging members to leave the Monday Club and to join a new political group". Dr. Mayall became Acting Chairman until the May AGM when he was confirmed in that post by election. By 1992, the new team had the national membership over 1600 again.

Personal legal problems forced Lauder-Frost's departure on 31 May 1992 and subsequently the Club descended into in-fighting, with more departures and failed expulsion attempts resulting in huge legal bills. Dr. Mark Mayall's term as Chairman expired in April 1993 and he left the group. Control passed effectively into the hands of Denis Walker, a former Minister for Education in the Rhodesian government. He changed the role of the club from a pressure group to a Conservative Party support group, bringing in a rule that all members must firstly be members of the party, something that prior to 1992 had been constantly and unanimously opposed.

Organisation

Premises

The national club established itself in offices at 51-53 Victoria Street, a few minutes walk from Westminster Palace. The club was, however, always a pressure group, remaining separate from the Conservative Party organisation. Around 1980, the Victoria Street building was cleared for demolition, and the club moved its offices to 122 Newgate Street, London, EC1, opposite the Old Bailey. High rents forced another move to 4 Orlando Road, Clapham Common, and finally, in 1991, the club's office was moved to an office belonging to W. Denis Walker, opposite Highams Park railway station, with new telephone numbers, and a new Post Office Box number in central London. The newsletter stated that "it is our long-term aim to relocate back to the very heart of London".

Branches

In addition to the national club, which operated through an elected Executive Council and numerous policy groups or committees, there were semi-autonomous county branches, a Young Members Monday Club, and numerous university Monday Clubs, the most prominent and active being at the University of Oxford.

Policy committees

The Monday Club had various study groups (later renamed policy committees) including:

Foreign affairs

Communism

The Club was by its very nature anti-Communist and had an active Defence Committee chaired for over 15 years by Sir Patrick Wall, MP, MC, and producing much literature on the perceived threat posed by Soviets and communists everywhere.

When it appeared that communism was finally failing in the Eastern Bloc, the Club's Foreign Affairs Committee called upon Members of Parliament to be ready and to argue for the German borders to be restored to the position they stood at on 1 January 1938, saying there must be no gains for communism.

With the increasing terrorist momentum in Central America causing concern, many Club members found themselves also as either members or supporters of the anti-communist Western Goals Institute, many being present at their dinner in September 1989 in honour of El Salvador's President Alfredo Cristiani, whose armies were fighting Cuban-supplied and trained terrorists.

The Club also took a hard line on the return of White Russians by the British Army to Stalin's forces in 1945-6, who murdered virtually all of them. In this respect they gave their support to Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author of Victims of Yalta and The Minister and the Massacres, who was then being sued for libel, by holding a major dinner for him at London's Charing Cross Hotel on October 26, 1988.

Africa

The club opposed what it described as the "premature" independence of Kenya, and the breakup of the Central African Federation, which was the subject of its first major public meeting in September 1961 . It was fundamentally opposed to decolonisation, and defended white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia.

During the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) period in Rhodesia, the club strongly backed the government of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front, being seen as its strongest supporters in Britain. In November 1963, the club had hosted a large reception for Smith at the Howard Hotel in London. That was followed the next year by receptions for Clifford Dupont and Moise Tshombe. The Club continued its support for European rule in South Africa and held a large dinner in central London, on June 5, 1989, for their guest-of-honour Dr. Andries Treurnicht, Leader of the Conservative Party of South Africa, and his delegation. Tim Janman, MP, and the Lord Sudeley were amongst those present from parliament.

Northern Ireland

Following a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombing at Aldershot, Hampshire, in February 1972, club member and MP Jill Knight called for legislation to outlaw the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Féin. The club was opposed to the dismantling of the Stormont government in Northern Ireland and the imposition of direct rule. On 7 September 1989, Lauder-Frost, on behalf of the Club, denounced "the disgraceful Anglo-Irish Agreement" in The Sun.

Croatia

The government of Franjo Tuđman in Croatia invited the Monday Club to send a delegation to observe their conflict with Serbia, in October 1991, when the Serbian Orthodox minority in the Roman Catholic-dominated country refused to recognise Tuđman's nationalist government. It was the first British political delegation to go to Croatia during the conflict.

European Union

Debate within the Club was intense on the European issue. In the early days of the EEC one of the Club's MPs, Geoffrey Rippon was so pro-EEC that he was known as 'Mr Europe'. Because of the divisions within the Club on this issue the decision was taken not to have a policy on it. However, by 1980 the mood had changed. A Club Discussion Paper in October 1980 was entitled Do Tories Really want to Scrap 80% of Britain's Fishing Fleet, and the Club adopted a firm anti-EU position. Teddy Taylor MP, an anti EEC man, became Chairman of the Club's EEC Affairs Policy Committee and authored a Club Policy Paper in December 1982 entitled Proposals to Rescue the British Fishing Industry. The Club's Scottish branch's newspaper, The Challenger, carried a further article against the EU by Taylor in September 1985 entitled Swallowing the Nation, and Enoch Powell also spoke against the EU at one of the Club's fringe meetings at the Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool on October 8, 1991, which was filmed and broadcast on BBC Newsnight that night. In 1992 the Chairman, Dr. Mark Mayall, authored another Club booklet entitled: Maastricht: The High Tide of European Federalism, a fierce attack on the EU.

Immigration

In September 1972, the club held a "Halt Immigration Now!" public meeting in Westminster Central Hall, opposite Parliament, at which the speakers, Ronald Bell, QC, MP, John Biggs-Davison, MP, Harold Soref, MP, and John Heydon Stokes, MP, (all club members) called on the government to halt all immigration, repeal the Race Relations Act (1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act), and start a full repatriation scheme. A resolution was drafted, approved by the meeting, and delivered to the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, who replied that "the government had no intention of repealing the Race Relations Act". When Reginald Maudling resigned from the Cabinet, the Liberal leader, Jeremy Thorpe, commented that "Mr. Heath has been left to wrestle with the Monday Club single-handed.,

In October 1982, the Monday Club published its latest, slightly revised, policy on immigration. It called for:

  1. Scrapping of the Commission for Racial Equality and Community Relations Councils.
  2. Repeal of the race relations laws.
  3. An end to the use of race or colour as criteria for the distribution of state benefits & loans.
  4. An end to positive discrimination and all special treatment based upon race or colour.
  5. An end to all further large-scale permanent immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan.
  6. An improved repatriation scheme with generous resettlement grants for all those from the NCWP countries who wish to take advantage of them.
  7. The redesignation of the Ministry of Overseas Aid as a Ministry for Overseas Resettlement.

The Club's position on immigration was reiterated in a letter in The Times from Lauder-Frost on the Club's behalf in October 1991 where he stated that the annual levels of immigration "were unacceptable" and called for "the strictest possible entry to Britain for those of other cultures.

Controversies and criticism

The club has frequently been described in the media as "far-right. and, in 2002, as a "bastion on the Tory hard right" by the British Broadcasting Corporation. However, the club for decades had campaigned against what they said was left-wing bias at the BBC. The Club published a booklet in 1969 where the author, Patrick Wall, gave details of the BBC's programme Students in Revolt of 13th June that year, wherein the BBC had organised a meeting at the London School of Economics at which the Revolutionary Socialist Students Association was founded. Militant student leaders from all over the world appeared at BBC expense. Harold Soref also was a constant critic of BBC bias. Gregory Lauder-Frost, interviewed on behalf of the Club by Garry Bushell in The Sun on 27 March 1991, stated "the BBC does not support the British people" and spoke of "history being rewritten by left-wing trendies".

It was claimed by opponents of the club that many members had drawn closer to the National Front, it being reported as early as 1973 that NF members were moving to take over branches of the club Time - Bloody Monday Thurlow, however, stated that it was doubted that members of the Monday Club were secret or even potential nazis. Nevertheless the bad publicity led to a series of purges, mainly in Club branches.

On 24 February 1991, The Observer ran a lengthy article entitled "Far Right takes over the Monday Club", stating that a number of senior members had tendered their resignations in protest at the Club's "takeover" by "extreme right-wingers" some of whom were associated with the Western Goals Institute. The Club's solicitors, Rubenstein, Callingham & Gale, sent a formal letter of protest to the editor of the Observer about the article, and demanded a right-of-reply for the Club. The editor agreed and Lauder-Frost, writing on behalf of the Club, subsequently challenged the article's accusations in a Letter to the Editor, which was published the following Sunday. He denied that a takeover had occurred, and claimed that none of the Club's policies had changed and that its direction was consistent with its aims and historical principles.

The playwright David Edgar described the Monday Club in an academic essay as "proselytis[ing] the ancient and venerable conservative traditions of paternalism, imperialism and racism.

Suspension of links by the Conservative party (2001)

Regardless of the fact that the Monday Club was a completely autonomous pressure-group and not part of the Conservative Party organisation, in 2001, Conservative Party chairman David Davis informed the club's National Executive that links between it and the party were being severed until it stopped promoting several of its (long-held and established) policies such as the voluntary repatriation of ethnic minorities. Davis later told the media: "I have told them that until a number of things are concluded - particularly some concerns about the membership of the club, and a review of the club's constitution and a requirement that the club will not promulgate or discuss policies relating to race - the club is suspended from any association with the Conservative party. Three MPs Andrew Hunter, Andrew Rosindell and Angela Watkinson, were ordered to resign from the club.

On the 10 May 2002, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the club sought to restore its links with the Conservative Party,. At the following Club Annual General meeting in April 2002 members approved two motions proposed by Michael Keith Smith, (also Chairman of the Conservative Democratic Alliance), one reaffirming the Club's opposition to mass immigration, and another empowering Club officers to institute legal action against the Conservative Party following the Club's 'suspension' by them. A third motion, asking the Club to call for the sacking of John Bercow, then Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and former Monday Club member, for his "hypocrisy" was defeated.

The Times reported (2 June 2006) that as the club "is now slowly nudging back into the mainstream many members feel that it is time to return to the fold".

The Monday Club, now having changed its original raison d'être as a pressure group, and whose membership is now said to be back below 600, now has very little influence on the agenda of the Conservative Party. Many of its former members are now in the Conservative Democratic Alliance.

Monday Club publications

Notes

References

  • Copping, Robert, No Punches Pulled - Britain Today, Current Affairs Information Service (CAIS), Ilford, Essex, n/d but probably circa 1970 (P/B).
  • Copping, Robert, The Story of The Monday Club - The First Decade, (i) (Foreword by George Pole), Current Affairs Information Service, Ilford, Essex, April 1972 (P/B).
  • Copping, Robert, The Monday Club - Crisis and After, (foreword by John Biggs-Davison, MP), (ii) CAIS, Ilford, May 1975 (P/B).
  • Rose, Professor Richard, Politics in England - Persistence and Change, London, 1st published 1965. 4th edition 1985, p.301, ISBN 0-571-13830-6
  • Heffer, Simon, Like the Roman - The Life of Enoch Powell, London, 1998, ISBN 0-297-84286-2 (many references to the Monday Club).
  • Coxall, Bill, and Lynton Robins, Contemporary British Politics, Macmillan Press, Basingstoke, 1993 reprint, (P/B), Monday Club profile on p.239. ISBN 0-333-34046-9

External links

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