Even to his political enemies Lord Randolph Churchill stood out as “perhaps the one man of unblemished promise in his party,” but he excoriated the Tories as much as the Liberals. The state of war escalated when he objected to Lord Northcote’s selection as eulogist for the unveiling of the statues of Disraeli. Against the advice of his friends, Lord Randolph railed against Northcote in The Times letters column, for which he was denounced by almost every Conservative Member and newspaper in London. But the provinces remained loyal to him.
His reputation in the House was completely restored with a speech in reply to Gladstone on the chronic Bradlaugh Question (whether a Member could affirm rather than swear his allegiance in the House). He was seen as the only Tory in the House who was Gladstone’s equal.
In a May article, “Elijah’s Mantle,” Lord Randolph lamented the loss of “Dizzy,” outlining his conception of Tory Democracy and speculating on the next Tory leader. He hoped to be its recipient and many believed this was his destiny. Punch showed a cartoon of “Little Lord R,” standing before Disraeli’s statue, dreaming that “they’ll have to give me a statue-some day!!”
At the unveiling, each Conservative Member wore a primrose, Disraeli’s favorite flower. Sir Henry Wolff suggested to Lord Randolph that they form an association with the primrose as a symbol. “Let’s go off and do it at once,” Lord Randolph replied. Thus arrived the Primrose League an association that would also facilitate the active entry into politics of Lady Randolph Churchill.