Presentation on theme: "The Growth of Democracy Britain 1850-1951. The Growth of Democracy In 1850, political power was in the hands of a few very wealthy men who owned property,"— Presentation transcript:
The Growth of Democracy Britain
The Growth of Democracy In 1850, political power was in the hands of a few very wealthy men who owned property, especially land. Very few men,1 in 6 of the male population, and no women, could vote at this time. By 1928, almost all adults in Britain aged 21 or older could vote. By 1928, therefore, Britain seemed to have become more democratic.
The Vote Probably the most important democratic right is the right to vote, the Franchise. Without the vote people of a country cannot influence political decisions. in 1867, most skilled working-class men e.g. carpenters, office workers etc in towns got the vote; now 1 man in 3 could vote. Not vote?? in 1884, many more men in the countryside were given the vote; now 2 men in 3 could vote. But women and the poorest men e.g. the unemployed or low paid could not vote. In 1918, men over 21 and some women over 30 gained the vote; Not vote?? Finally, in 1928 men and women over 21 were given the vote. The vote is a vital part of a democracy. However, having the right to vote does not automatically mean that a country is democratic. There also has to be a fair voting system.
Franchise Analysis The analysis is very simple when discussing the franchise: Look at the end date of the question e.g All you have to do is say Britain was more democratic as 2 in 3 men had the vote after 1884, however Britain had a long way to go before it was a true democracy as 1 in 3 men did not have the vote e.g. servants, soldiers etc who did not pay rent or rates and worst of all, women were still denied the vote.
Fairness in voting – Secret Ballot A country is not democratic if people are scared to vote because of intimidation or if they can’t vote for the person or party they support. In a democracy, people should have a fair system of voting. In Britain, the Secret Ballot Act of 1872 allowed people to vote in secret for the first time. This greatly reduced bribery and the intimidation of voters at elections. Another move towards fairness at elections was the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act 1883, which made election fraud or bribery criminal offences, by setting limits on how much could be spent and on what.
Analysis - Fairness The Secret Ballot Act 1872 & the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act 1883 were important for democracy for a number of reasons: They allowed the new Working Class voters the ability to cast their votes for whoever they wished without fear. After 1883 corruption in British elections was much less and so Britain became more democratic as it was no longer controlled by rich men.
Equal Votes Corrupt constituencies known as ‘pocket’ or ‘rotten’ boroughs still existed were the local landowner nominated the MP. The 1867 Reform Act got rid of rotten burghs, but there were still big inconsistencies in the size of constituencies e.g. the under populated Highlands and Scottish Borders had 8 MPs each yet a growing city like Glasgow had only 3 MPs. The redistribution of parliamentary seats in 1885, gave growing industrial towns or cities more MPs like Glasgow which went from 3 MPs to 7MPs. To equalise votes they made each constituency contain 50,000 people. These changes were designed to make sure all votes had equal weight. However the Highlands still had 8 MPs so there was still a lot to do.
Equal Votes continued In the Reform act of 1918 constituencies were set at 70,000 people each and Glasgow now had 15 MPs while many MPs were finally moved from rural areas. However plural voting still existed which allowed certain people more than one vote e.g. a businessman who lived in Motherwell and had his business in Glasgow could vote in both areas or students could vote in their home constituency and university constituency.
Equal Votes - Analysis Equal voting was important to ensure fairness but was a long slow process: The 1885 Redistribution of Seats Act helped to make all areas roughly an equal size and did give the big industrial cities like Glasgow more voters however serious problems still existed e.g. rural areas like the Highlands still had too many MPs, unfairness of plural voting etc Reform Act was more democratic as it set firm boundaries for constituencies of 70,000 each and stripped rural areas of their excess MPs which were awarded to the big industrial towns and cities. However plural voting still existed and would not end till 1948.
Representation Having the vote, secret ballots and equal constituencies were of limited value if you did not have a wide choice of candidates to choose from. As MPs were not paid only rich men could afford to become one, there were few working class MPs like Keir Hardie from Holytown in Lanarkshire. At the same time laws passed by the democratically elected House of Commons still had to pass a vote in the unelected, and therefore undemocratic, House of Lords. As the Lords were made up of wealthy men they rejected laws that did not benefit them.