Disraeli or The Two Lives
Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli is currently undergoing something of a mini-revival. But was Disraeli, the so called father of “One Nation Toryism”, all he seems? Not according to former Home Secretary Hurd and Young, an ex speechwriter for Prime Minister David Cameron. They argue that Disraeli was actually obsessed by fame and used political issues as a vehicle for self-promotion, if necessary destroying careers to further his own ambition (see Sir Robert Peel).
Even in relation to his greatest achievement, the passing of the 1867 Reform Act which doubled the number of people entitled to vote, they contend that Disraeli was more interested in the act of winning than having any great desire to promote democracy.
This makes for a lively read, and there is a lot more to keep the interest, including reflections on his early years as a ‘dandy’, his outspoken views on Judaism and his relationship with Queen Victoria.
Students of Disraeli the novelist should probably look elsewhere for a serious analysis of his work. However, Hurd and Young do see his imaginative powers as being at the root of his success and appeal. They maintain that his greatest gift was his ability to bring the novelist’s imagination to the political stage, using his wit and eloquence and his eye for the grand gesture to rally colleagues and the wider country.
This is a statesman much more adept with the quotable sound bite and the withering bon mot than the more considered analysis offered by contemporaries such as Gladstone and Peel. Whether that is a good thing, I leave you to decide. All in all, a good read for those interested in Victorian and modern politics alike.