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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Theresa May inspired by Joseph Chamberlain Birmingham Unitarian?

Joseph Chamberlain has been in the news this morning as an inspiration for the new Prime Minister, Theresa May. Labour MP Gisela Stuart has written in The Daily Telegraph "Meet Joe Chamberlain, the lost Tory leader whose ideas drive Theresa May." In today's Times we see one of May's key advisers Nick Timothy described as a "Chamberlain Conservative". He has written of the legacy of Chamberlain

Historian Alan Ruston in "On The Side of Liberty" boldly asserts "Joseph Chamberlain was a Unitarian born and bred, a fact of which he was openly proud...He was attuned to those aspects of the Unitarian faith that were commonly emphasised in the second half of the nineteenth century; the values of individualism, self-reliance, moral earnestness, and social action" (page 49).

He was a radical never a conservative and certainly not a Tory; although he left the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule to become a Liberal Unionist.

Garvin has written "Chamberlain's inward life until he was nearly forty was directed by his religious upbringing..We may find here the germ of his assertive independence: of his anti-official or anti-orthodox initiative throughout his political career; or of his executive force as a leader of social reform" (quoted by Ruston page 51).

How Theresa May will measure up to his radical heritage and practical administrative skills time will tell?

His two sons Austen and Neville both reached high political office; the latter of course Prime Minister.

"On the Side of Liberty" was launched by the Lindsey Press in April 2016 and is available from Essex Hall (020 7240 2384) or from all good online booksellers

He features in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography 

Image with permission on the National Portrait Gallery

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