29 JANUARY 1965, Page 11

Party Chairman


IF Sir Alec had fed all the data relating to the very model of a modern party chairman into a computer, the machine would surely have chattered out the name of Edward du Cann. His name was little mentioned in the ante-post speculation, and although some of the others would have done the job well—especially, per- haps, Selwyn Lloyd, for whom the constituency,

parties have a special affection—none will do it better than du Cann. He is already a Privy Councillor at, forty with a competently success- ful ministerial career already behind him, and a bigger one ahead. He is reputed to have made a great deal of money in the City and he has certainly made a name as the father, if not the `onlie begetter,' of unit trusts. Moreover, he has been more than lucky in the timing of his arrival in Smith Square. Whether or not the news of his appointment last week was designed to soften the effects of the 'inevitable' losses at Leyton and Nuneaton, in fact he came in on a tide of chuckling euphoria for the Tories as Mr. Wilson ended his Hundred Days in a blaze of damp squibs.

So Edward du Cann has all the qualifications to do the job. But what is the job? As Churchill did, so one can answer in one word—victory.

But hows.does one set about being the organiser of victory? With the advantage of two years' ex- perience of it (starting, unhappily, with the after- math of the Pay Pause and the Liberal 'revival' which it spawned), I suggest there are four aspects of the work of a Tory Party chairman and I put them in order of importance. First, the or- ganisation of victory in the next general election (model: Lord Poole). Second, the sharpening of the administration in Central Office, the areas and the constituencies (model: Lord Woolton).

Third, `chatting up' the faithful (model: Lord Wootton again, of course; no one else was in his league). Lastly, scourging the Socialists and cheering on the Tories (model: Lord Hailsham).

How will du Cann fare? Very well, indeed, I judge, in the first category, perhaps reaching the level of Lord Poole, who has an instinctive 'feel' for elections and for the planning of the pre- liminary campaigns. Competently in the second.

Surprisingly well in the third. I only say 'sur- prisingly' for those who do not know him. In fact, du Cann has a great deal of charm and a gay gravity which even in his first press con- ference came poking through. And in the last oratorical category? Probably not high: it is not his style. He speaks as a lawyer speaks (he did, in fact, read law at Oxford), reasonably, per- suasively rather than passionately. Judgments of a man before he starts a strange and important new post must of necessity be provisional, but the preliminary examination must by any stan- dards place him in a very high class.

It will be observed that all the previous chair- men I have mentioned are peers, and I think it likely that in a future Conservative government the Tory Party chairman will probably sit in the

House of Lords. The dilemma of having a chair- man in the Commons became acute when I was appointed in the autumn of 1961. For the last two years before an election the post is an onerous one. But can the chairman sit in the Commons and in the Cabinet without authority or office, drawing ministerial pay for a party post? Clearly not. Either, then, he operates from the back benches, which denies the party an ear and a voice in the Cabinet, or he has to shoulder an additional post. And if he does so, the 'strain becomes almost unendurable. Any ministry will sooner or later find itself in the arena of controversy, and the more involved if its minister is a party chairman. There re- mains the Leadership of the House, but this means exceptionally heavy and late hours, with, of course, no respite in the weekends, which are filled with party engagements. Perhaps Harold Macmillan was wrong to press me: certainly I was wrong to allow myself to be persuaded. I doubt if this unsuccessful experiment will be repeated. The Labour Party, with a different system, operating on a yearly 'Buggins's turn' rota, has no such problem, but, of course, its chairman has no particular significance in the party hierarchy. For a peer these problems do not exist. Without a constituency to cherish it is pos- sible to be Leader or Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (oddly enough, the House df Commons has no Deputy Leader of the House), to speak on a wide range of subjects especially covering those offices whose ministers are in the Commons, and still be an efficient chairman of the Conservative Party organisation. Still, this is a problem for the future. In Opposition, the choice is not limited in any way, and few people will doubt that an excellent choice has been made.

There is one important factor to add. Unlike his six predecessors in the Tory years du Cann cannot influence directly the date of the next general election. The time bomb has a fuse of a length determined by Mr. Wilson. Probably the Prime Minister has still no clear idea of when he will go to the country; and events may well take charge. Certainly, however, it would be foolish, even at this stage, to rule out a March election.

Since Leyton Mr. Wilson has only a majority in the House of Commons because he has not been

called on to fill (as the Tories were compelled by him to do) all the three appointments (Speaker, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Ways and

Means) whose holders conduct the business of the House of Commons, and who by custom do not vote. If he survives at all it will be by courtesy of the Liberals. The Tories are clearly stepping up their tempo of attack, and Mr. Wil- son's elderly battalions seem likely to come under sonic strain. This situation flows from the Prime Minister's determination to pursue controversial policies with a tiny majority. No doubt the new party chairman will make it his first priority to sec that the Tory machine is ready for action at any time, in any circumstances.