British Political Parties: The emergence of a modern party by Alan R. Ball (auth.)

By Alan R. Ball (auth.)

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24 The 1883 Conference of the National Union, orchestrated by Churchill The Emergence of British Pol£tical Parties 39 and Gorst, demanded more say in party affairs. The rebellion was soon over; Churchill became reconciled to the party leadership of Lord Salisbury, though he politically overreached himself in 1886 and was cast out into the political wilderness. These events underlined the basic powerlessness of the National Union. It had been created from the top, and had not grown as the National Liberal Federation did from the activities of the constituency rank and file.

The electorate was doubled, elections took place on one day, and party agents could no longer decide who was to be on the register. Traces of plural voting remained with the university and business vote until 1948 and 18-year-olds were not enfranchised until 1969, but in practice the Act achieved the goal of an electoral system that complied with the basic principles of liberal democracy. A few two-member constituencies remained, but with a wider franchise, the removal of most inequalities in the distribution of the seats and the elimination of undemocratic administrative practices Britain could be described as a 'liberal democracy'.

The complexities of the various franchises by which adult males were entitled to vote provided a fertile field for the election agents of the political parties. It is fair to say that most of the energies of the party agents and the bulk of party election funds were devoted to fillingtheelectoralregister with one set of supporters and stripping the same register of the opposing voters through the Registration Courts, machinery The Electoral System and the Party System, 1867-1922 21 that pre-dated the Second Reform Bill.

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