Britain 1850-1979 The Growth of Democracy
Aims • To define democracy • Identify why the British political system before 1832 was undemocratic. • Identify the pressures for reform which existed by 1832 • Identify the main features of the 1832 Reform Act
Before the 1832 Reform Act • No uniform rules about who could vote. • In some areas ratepayers could vote, in others the local landowners nominated the voters. • Two types of constituencies – boroughs (urban areas) and counties (rural areas). • Large towns like Leeds, Manchester and Bradford had no MPs. • ‘Rotten boroughs’ like Old Sarum had ceased to exist but still sent MPs to Parliament • In ‘pocket boroughs’ the local landowner nominated the MP.
1832 Reform Act It is important to realise that the first Reform Act did not pass easily through Parliament. • 1831 Whig Government introduces a reform bill to Parliament • Due to fierce Tory opposition the bill was defeated and the government resigned. • An election was held, the Whigs formed a new government and introduced a second Reform Bill. • The House of Lords refused to pass the bill – riots, disturbances, damage to property across the country.
1832 Reform Act • A third Reform Bill was introduced but again the Lords refused to pass it. • The Whig government resigned, the Conservatives were too disunited to form a government. • The Whigs returned to government and the Reform Bill finally passed in June 1832
Pressure For Change 1832-1867 Aims • To identify the debate over whether the working class should have the vote. • To identify where pressure for change came from after 1832. • To identify the main terms of the 1867 Reform Act
1867 Reform Act • 1866 Liberal Government introduced a Reform Bill – it would have increased the electorate by 5%. • It divided the Liberals as some saw the bill as being far too radical and the Government was forced to resign. • The Conservatives then formed a government but they needed the support of the Liberals to pass a Reform Bill. • In 1867 the Second Reform Act was finally passed.
Pro-Reform Lobby Government needs the support of a wider electorate. Giving the working class the vote will lead to its moral improvement. This would break the power of the aristocracy. Anti- Reform Lobby Working class people are selfish and ignorant. They cannot be trusted to use the vote wisely. Only men with property have the intelligence to participate in politics. The Reform Debate
Ongoing Issues of Democratic Change • To identify aspects of the British government which had not been reformed by 1928.
Reform of the House of Lords • Parliament is made up of two chambers. • House of Commons which initiates or introduces legislation • House of Lords which examines and revises legislation. • The House of Lords is ‘subordinate’ to the House of Commons because it is not elected by voters. • In the 19th century, the Lords was composed of hereditary peers, Law Lords and Archbishops/Bishops from the Church of England
Reform of the House of Lords • During the 19th/early 20th century most of the members in the House of Lords supported the Conservative party. • On a number of occasions the House of Lords refused to pass legislation introduced by the Liberal government e.g. 1884 Reform Act, 1909 People’s Budget which proposed to tax the rich to pay for social reforms (See notes on Liberal reforms). • The Liberals felt that this was an attack on democracy. Why should a non-elected chamber be able to stop laws which a democratically elected government wanted to introduce?
Reform of the House of Lords • In 1911 the Liberal Government passed the Parliament Act. • The House of Lords had no longer had power over bills concerning taxation/government spending. • The House of Lords could still amend bills but they could only delay them for a period of two years.
Proportional Representation • Elections in Britain use the First Past the Post System (FPTP). This basically means that the person with the most votes wins the election. • This system has always benefited the larger parties. The percentage of seats they end up with in Parliament is always greater than the percentage of the votes they have achieved in the election. • The smaller parties lose out under FPTP. They may come second and third in many constituencies but end up with few MPs in Parliament.
Proportional Representation • For many years smaller parties like the Liberals have argued for a system of Proportional Representation e.g. if a party gets 20% of the votes they should get 20% of the seats in Parliament. • However the large parties would lose out if PR was adopted and since they are the ones that are usually in government, they are reluctant to introduce reform. • In 1918 FPTP was confirmed as the voting system for general elections in the UK. That has never changed.
The Arrival of the Labour Party 1880-1925 Aims • To identify how the Labour party was established. • To identify the progress made between 1900-1925 • To identify the reasons for the rise of the Labour party and the decline of the Liberal Party.
Replacing the Liberals 1910-1925 • In the 1910 election, 42 Labour MPs were elected and the party did well in local elections. • During the First World War, some Labour MPs such as Arthur Henderson gained valuable experience in the wartime coalition government.
Replacing the Liberals 1910-1925 • By 1918 the Labour Party was in an even stronger position. • The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave the vote to working class men and women over 30. • The party was well organised with local branches across the country. • The party had adopted a new constitution which committed them to socialist aims.
Replacing the Liberals 1910-1925 • By the 1922 election the Labour party won 142 seats and had overtaken the Liberals who won only 115 seats. For the first time the Labour party became the official opposition. • In 1924 the first ever Labour government was formed under Ramsay MacDonald.
Final Conclusions: The Decline of the Liberals and the Rise of Labour The Liberals Were Struggling by 1914 Most of the problems the party faced were not about the party itself but aimed at the constitutional system e.g. women and the vote. However the negative publicity caused by various problems was bound to have an effect on the party’s popularity.
Final Conclusions: The Decline of the Liberals and the Rise of Labour The Effects of World War One Despite leading the wartime coalition government the party was very divided over the issue. Meanwhile Labour MPs gained valuable experience in government.
Final Conclusions: The Decline of the Liberals and the Rise of Labour Labour’s Rise Meant The Liberal’s Decline Was Inevitable The Liberals had to balance the needs of both the middle and working classes which often proved difficult. At the end of the war the 1918 Reform Act enfranchised the rest of working class men and women over 30. Many turned to the Labour party which solely represented the interests of the working class.