Disraeli, Peel and the Corn Laws: the making of a conservative reputation


By Richard A. Gaunt, published 6th January 2008

125 years after his death, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, still provides the political lode-star for generations of Conservatives. Lately, for the first time in 30 years, Disraeli's name and example has been enthusiastically evoked by the party leadership and David Cameron has projected himself as a Disraeli for the twentyfirst century.1 Both these facts would have astounded Disraeli's contemporaries. No politician's credibility, character and creed were more vigorously debated during the nineteenth century and none was found so universally wanting. It became commonplace for  Disraeli's critics - and not a few of his followers - to doubt his sincerity and question the depth of his convictions, considering him as little more than a supremely gifted (but essentially shallow and showy) opportunist.2 No episode in Disraeli's...

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