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Reasons for the Growth of British Democracy

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Presentation on theme: "Reasons for the Growth of British Democracy"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reasons for the Growth of British Democracy 1850 - 1928

2 Political Advantage The 1867 Reform Act was passed partly as an attempt to ‘Dish the Whigs’ as Disraeli put it. The Conservatives had been in opposition for many years and were trying to win votes. Benjamin Disraeli A leading member of Derby’s Conservative Government and the man responsible for the 1867 Reform Act

3 Punch Magazine’s take on Disraeli’s attempt to ‘Dish the Whigs’

4 Disraeli’s ‘Leap in the dark’

5 John Bright (a leading radical Liberal MP and later a minister in Gladstone’s government) argued for the extension of the franchise and the secret ballot, to free the working class from the constraints of the landlords and bosses. Bright was a man of principle, but both of these reforms brought advantages to the Liberals. John Bright

6 The Liberals were trying to win political advantage by reducing the power of the aristocracy, who tended to support the Conservatives – for example with the Secret Ballot Act, or the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act. Both of these acts reduced the advantages held by wealthier candidates.

7 Some historians have argued that the Liberal reforms of the 1880s (1883,84 and 85 acts) served as a distraction from foreign policy problems facing the government. (Irish Home Rule, the First Boer War )

8 The Liberals tended to do better in urban areas and hoped to win more urban votes by extending the franchise in 1884 (to represent urban voters more fairly) and redistributing seats more fairly in 1885.

9 Social and Economic Changes - Urbanisation
The industrial revolution changed where people lived, how they worked and their social status. Increasing urbanisation prompted redistribution of seats in particular.

10 Social and Economic Changes – Redistribution of Wealth
The Middle classes, who generated much of Britain’s wealth, argued that they should have more of a say in the running of the country. This prompted the removal of MPs property qualification in 1858, amongst other reforms.

11 The skilled working classes were vital to the economic success of Britain and were increasingly politically aware. This was an argument for enfranchising the skilled working classes in Workers in the cotton industry supported the anti-slavery north in the American Civil War. This was despite the fact that this war caused a ‘cotton famine’ and great hardship for cotton workers. (as supplies of raw cotton from America were cut off).

12 Political Pressure Groups – The Fabians
The Fabians were a socialist group and were formed in the 1880s. They campaigned for (amongst many other things) further extension of the franchise and were fairly influential as they were led by middle class intellectuals. Some of The Founders of the Fabian Society (Beatirice and Sydney Webb and George bernard Shaw)

13 Political Pressure Groups – The Reform League
The Reform League was formed in This fairly radical group campaigned for universal male suffrage and a secret ballot and was supported by trade unionists and the working classes. The League organised two major demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park in 1866 after the failure of Gladstone’s reform bill of 1866.

14 Political Pressure Groups – The Reform Union
The Reform Union was formed in It was made up of mostly Liberal MPs and was more middle class and moderate than the Reform League. The reform union campaigned for a secret ballot, a fairer redistribution of seats and suffrage for all male ratepayers. The Reform league did work with the Reform Union in the 1860s and 70s and pressure from these groups was instrumental in the reforms of the 1860s, 70s and 80s.

15 Political Pressure Groups – Trade Unions
Trade Union membership increased dramatically in the second half of the nineteenth century. Trades unions now represented skilled and unskilled workers. The unions supported the reform League and campaigned for fairer representation for the working classes.

16 Political Pressure – Fear of Unrest
After violent demonstrations in 1866 when Gladstone’s reform bill failed (the railings in Hyde Park were pushed over and the police overwhelmed by protestors) there was a fear that there would be further unrest if the political system was not reformed. (hence the1867 act) However, there was less popular pressure before the 1884 reform act. The Hyde Park riots of Protestors pull down the railings after the failure of Gladstone’s reform Bill

17 Improved Communication
The spread of railways meant that there could be daily national newspapers for the first time. This helped to make the increasingly well-educated working classes more politically aware and it also encouraged a national political identity. W E Gladstone (Prime Minister four times from the 1860s to the 1890s) on the train during an election campaign

18 Improved Education Primary education had become compulsory in Scotland in the 1870s and in England in the 1880s. This meant that people of all classes were now literate and increasingly politically aware. It was argued that this entitled the working classes to enfranchisement.

19 The Changing Status of Women
The status of women had changed gradually but significantly by the end of the nineteenth century. As women not had greater economic, legal and educational status, it was natural that this would lead to demands for women’s suffrage.

20 The contribution of the N. U. W. S. S
The contribution of the N.U.W.S.S. to the enfranchisement of women is often overlooked. It can be argued that the Suffragists ultimately failed in their 30 year campaign to enfranchise women before the First World War. However, the gradual and constitutional campaign of the N.U.W.S.S. did much to win the hearts and minds of many in the establishment over to the cause of women’s suffrage.

21 There is much debate about the contribution of the campaign of the W.S.P.U. to the eventual enfranchisement of women in Undoubtedly the militant campaign was counter-productive, but the Suffragettes did keep the issue on the political agenda before 1914 and the suspension of their campaign did win them some respect during the First World War.

22 The First World War The First World War was an enormous catalyst for change. It prompted the enfranchisement of men over 21 and women over 30. Obviously the war highlighted the economic value of women to the state and this made it difficult to oppose women’s suffrage. There was also a fear that the militant Suffragette campaign would re-start after the war. Also, as the system would have to be reformed to enfranchise servicemen, Lloyd George’s government chose to enfranchise women in 1918.

23 A woman voting for the first time in a national election in 1918.

24 Unique Reasons Of course, some acts had their own unique reasons for being passed. The budget crisis of was ultimately responsible for the reform of the House of Lords in (The Liberals had to remove the Lords’ veto in order to pass the ‘People’s Budget’, which planned to raise taxation to pay for (amongst other things) old age pensions.

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