The oratory of Stanley Baldwin
in Conservative orators from Baldwin to Cameron
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Baldwin is a central figure in the emergence of modern Conservative and British politics. Despite denying being an orator, Baldwin’s public utterances are often cited as critical in developing and articulating a ‘tone’ appropriate to the new post-1918 mass democracy and responsible in part for transforming the Conservatives into a mass party. Baldwin was acutely conscious of the power of words and saw oratory as vital in both educating the new democracy and his own party. He therefore took great care to develop a ‘rhetorical strategy’, whose central rhetorical device was the sophisticated use of commonplaces (topoi, knowledge or sentiments shared by an audience as part of a community) to structure his appeal and fix it in the mind of the new electorate through the innovative exploitation of the new technologies of mass communication. This chapter focuses on Baldwin’s rhetoric in the 1920s, a time when the Conservative Party was coming to terms with the post-1918 electorate and the nature of the ‘new’ democracy which, Baldwin argued, required a ‘new’ conservatism.

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