25 OCTOBER 1963, Page 6

The Right is Dead, Long Live the Right

By HENRY FAIRLIE AST sacrifices are nothing,' says Lord Esk- r dale, in Coningsby, discussing the formation of a government. 'Present sacrifices are the thing we want: men who will sacrifice their principles, and join us.'

There have been present sacrifices enough in the past week, and Mr.' Iain Macleod has sufficient of Disraeli's cool spirit in him to agree that it is on such a view that governments are formed and preserved. But he has, also, some- thing of Disrael's long vision: enough to know that there are times when such a view is not ade- quate.

By his action, it seems to me, he has safe- guarded the Conservative Party's future, and he has proved once again that he knows how to take hold of events, and create from them quite new possibilities.

But, first, I must make it clear what I am not criticising.

I am prepared to believe that Lord Home may prove, in the event, a good Prime Minister; I see no reason why he should not acquit himself well in the House of Commons; and I see every reason why he should be an effective leader of his administration. I also think it more than pos- sible that, without baring his lower or upper incisors, he will make mincemeat of Mr. Wilson.

He may, in fact, lead the Conservative Party to its fourth successive election victory. The economy has now begun to work in its favour, and no one can be surprised that the opinion polls have, at the same time, begun to show a swing in its direction. Indeed, it was Mr. Macleod himself who, three weeks ago, forecast to me that this movement of opinion would begin immediately after the Conservative Party conference, whatever happened there, and whatever had happened at the Labour Party conference in the week before. In short, the Conservative Party will now settle down to the task of trying to win the next elec- tion, and there is every chance that it will suc- ceed.

All of this makes -Mr. Macleod's refusal to serve under Lord Home a muck more impressive and courageous act than it might otherwise seem. His enemies have already begun to smear him: he is, they say, banking on a Conservative de- feat. Once again, he is being too clever by half. This I know to be a falsehood. I listened to him, those three weeks ago, analyse the Conservatives' chances, taking area by area, and the conclusion he reached was that victory was probable, if not certain. When he asked, at Blackpool, whether the party would win, and answered with that menac- ing whisper, 'Of course we shall,' he was saying exactly what he believed.

Why, then, did he do it?

The answer can best be given by considering the effect of his resignation. The effect is simple but important: the progressive, reforming and modernising section of the party, both inside and outside the House of Commons, now 118 a focus, not of discontent, but of preparation. Without his action, it would have been dispersed and leaderless: but now it can watch, wait and recoup, held together by this one man's example and inspiration. • For let there be no doubt that, without this example, the ,left • in the Conservative Party. would have suffered a rout, whereas now it has . suffered only a defeat.

There are those, like Mr. Edward Heath, who tell one to be 'realistiC' and see the events of the past fortnight simply as sordid personal struggle for power.' But this is not the point. Be- fore this last fortnight, it was possible to argue that the right in the Conservative Party was dead. Now, the right has acted precisely, power- fully, ruthlessly and successfully, and it destroyed the candidate of the left.

Not only did it prevent Mr. Butler from be- coming Prime Minister, but it has finally wrenched him away from his last post of in- fluence (the Deputy Prime Ministership) which he held on the home front. For eight years, the right has worked fanatically and relentlessly to accomplish just this. It is appalling it should now succeed.

Part of the reason for its success, of course, has been the division of the left throughout the summer and especially during the past three weeks. The blame for this division can be placed firmly on Mr. Maudling: on his insistence, until the very last moment, on seeing himself as an immediate candidate for the leadership. Things would have worked very differently if he had openly stood down and throWn his weight---if that is the word—behind Mr. Butler. But he did not do this until the eleventh hour, when it w as too late.

After the failure of his wrecking candidature, Mr. Maudling has now passed into Lord Esk- dale's administration. It has been a sorry record of vanity without cuts. At Blackpool, he was be- ing filmed by a Granada unit while he was having his dinner. Whenever the camera began to roll, he put the cigar he was smoking under the table. It was a revealing act. Mr. Maudling will always tuck his principles beneath his nap- kin. Mr. Maudling has never, at any point in his career, done anything, stood by any policy or principle, which has earned him unpopularity with any section of the party. This is not what leaders are made of.

Mr. Macleod, on the other hand, has now re- signed in conditions which give his resignation point. A reckless resignation is pointless, but Mr. Macleod has resigned on a simple and recog- nisable point of principle. He has resigned when his stock in the party was rising, when it had once again been proved that a Conservative Party without Mr. Macleod is no Conservative Party at all. He has resigned, finally, with great dignity, suggesting great firmness of intent. If the Conservatives win the next election, he will certainly be invited to re-enter the govern- ment. If they lose, he will stand out as the necessary salvage man.

But this personal consideration is of small account, compared with the fact that the left of the party, which has been submerged in the present administration, is still visible outside. It is of small account compared with the fact that one man has had the courage to show that the struggle of the past week was not entirely mean- ingless. It is of small account compared with the single-mindedness with which Mr. Macleod has pointed out to the party where its future lies.

I have grown, over the past ten years, to have a great admiration, and even affection, for the Conservative Party as a humane, governing party. Mr. Macleod has enabled both the admiration and the affection to survive: and, I believe, not only for me.