8 - The 1926 Imperial Conference: equality defined  pp. 248-277

The 1926 Imperial Conference: equality defined

By Philip G. Wigley

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The 1926 Imperial Conference was convened against the background of the Locarno treaties, and, if nothing else, was intended to provide a forum for the detailed, confidential discussion of the treaties so conspicuous by its absence during the actual course of their negotiation. The precise measure of this new British commitment to European continental security, and, notwithstanding the various initial reactions of dominion leaders, the extent to which it could conceivably be incorporated into the fabric of British–dominion relations were both matters for careful assessment at the conference. Within Whitehall there was noticeable concern that the Locarno treaties must be frankly and satisfactorily justified to the dominion delegations when they reached London. True to form, the Colonial Office tended to view the ramifications of Locarno from the legal and constitutional angle, and saw that there were a number of awkward questions that would have to be resolved, whatever the dominions ultimately chose to do. The Foreign Office, equally consistent with past responses, displayed a more practical cast of mind – though not entirely in self-interest. Admitting the seriousness of the lack of prior consultation over Locarno, they took steps during 1926 to establish a better flow of communications on foreign affairs to the dominion capitals. But for a department that had seldom been prepared to apologize to the rest of the empire for the direction and purposes of its policies such acts of contrition were strictly limited, and in general Foreign Office officials were inclined to think that the Locarno treaties would not in the end demand any special pleading from the British government before the bar of the Imperial Conference.