Politics of Walter Elliot, 1929-1936
Walter Elliot was one of the most gifted Conservative politicians of the generation which was decimated by the First World War. Trained as a doctor in his native Scotland, Elliot was inspired to a political career by his experience in the trenches. Entering parliament as Coalition Unionist M.P. for Lanark, he established himself on the radical wing of the Conservative Party. Elliot's ability was quickly recognised. He was given junior office in January 1923. Defeated in December 1923, he was returned at a by-election in May 1924 as M.P. for Glasgow Kelvingrove and was again given junior office in the Baldwin Government of 1924-1929. In August 1931, he was appointed Financial Secretary in the National Government, entering the Cabinet as Minister of Agriculture a year later. In 1936, he became Scottish Secretary then Minister of Health in 1938. He returned to the backbenches in May 1940 with the fall of Chamberlain and never again held Ministerial office but remained an M.P. until he died in 1958. Elliot was in his day one of the best known and popular politicians and public figures. Tipped by many as a future Prime Minister, he was known as a Tory philosopher and intellectual as well as a man of considerable wit. In any study of twentieth century progressive Conservatism, he must feature prominently. He sought to shake off conventional restraints and strove for more state intervention for the betterment of social and economic life. His experience of Clydeside combined with his innate humanitarianism enabled him to understand the emotions behind socialism. His years at the Ministry of Agriculture represent the zenith of a full but in the last analysis an unfulfilled political career. Elliot transformed British Agriculture from a highly individualistic, fluctuating industry into one of order and security through the vehicle of producer controlled marketing boards. Elliot's contribution as Minister of Agriculture and in more general terms as a member of the National Cabinet in the early 1930's is the main consideration of this thesis for it was those years that marked the highpoint of a long political career. 1936 marked the end of his term at the Ministry of Agriculture. It was too the year of the Rhineland occupation and Elliot's failure to resign then or later over the appeasement policies of the Cabinet in all probability cost him his political future. Unfamiliar to the author's post-war generation, Elliot is remembered by their elders as one of the best loved and able politicians of his time- The Conservative Party and the country as a whole but especially his native Scotland were the richer for his existence.