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F.E. Smith: Tory Democrat or Social Democrat ?

F.E. Smith is often seen simply as an ambitious political adventurer, a clever but unprincipled lawyer on the make: a wit and a dandy, a hedonist and a drunkard – or, as an anonymous critic once scrawled on a wall in his constituency, 'F.E. Smith – the Boozer Swank'. He was, indeed, all these things. But at the same time, beneath the surface glitter and the pose of studied cynicism, he was also a deeply serious and thoughtful politician grooming himself quite consciously from 1911 to be Bonar Law's successor in the Tory leadership. In particular, in the last years before the First World War blew to pieces all his expectations, he was devoting one of the most penetrating intellects of his generation to the reformulation, for the new century, of the progressive tradition in the Tory inheritance – the tradition of Tory Democracy.

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