- Liberal government, 1905–1915
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They were major employers.
Liberal government, 1905–1915
Whole communities depended on their prosperity and patronage. They made substantial donations to local parties and to local charitable and social activities.
They were major figures who could not easily be ignored Consequently, in the House of Commons contained not only local and established social leaders of rural communities, but also the younger sons of many other great landed families with nothing to recommend them save the family name But the power of land was also evidently declining. In some rural counties, as well as the more industrial counties, land's primacy had been successfully challenged and county government was dominated by non-landed groups The decline of landed representation in the Commons was even more pronounced.
Between and , the proportion of landed M. This was partially a consequence of electoral. Several landed magnates standing for Parliament for the first time in commented on the 'disgusting character of the work in which we are engaged' Many landed gentry did not wish to soil their hands by mixing in the mire. Politics was becoming a serious and seriously boring business.
Lord Ernest Hamilton M. He and his younger brother amused themselves by racing along the Commons' terrace on bicycles borrowed from the dinning room waiters Lands' replacements were often the nouveau riche. Liberals in particular created substantial numbers of new peers, who by definition became part of the political elite. This allowed 'new' wealth into the House of Lords.
Under Salisbury's ministries, 23 per cent of all new peers were businessmen This trend became even more pronounced under the Liberal governments of and In , there were Liberal peers, 59 of whom had been ennobled since This included many brewers, shipping magnates, industrialists, press barons, chemical manufacturers and financiers The elevation of such people into the political elite often had little to do with ability, other than an ability to deliver what their party needed.
This was generally money. Mass politics was an expensive business. The Liberals were the masters at milking the new rich through the sale of political honours, but the Tories were hardly unpractised in the art. In just two years the Liberals' patronage secretary added nearly half a million pounds to party funds. Newspaper magnates did not have to offer money, for their influence was felt to be sufficient repayment. Other wealthy and significant businessmen brought local prestige and influence in exchange for acceptance into the political elite. Where such men wished to stand for local office or for Parliament they were usually adopted.
Thus in the North-East of England, in Yorkshire, parts of industrial Wales and in Lancashire, businessmen who were major employers in a constituency became the local parliamentary candidates. There are many instances of them being replaced by their sons or a close relative on their retirement from the House of Commons The selection of prominent trade unionists as councillors and parliamentary candidates could also be a function of their local role as social leaders and of the financial backing which they received from their trade union, particularly in mining areas.
Here leading union officials were already part of the social elite by Family dynasties were already established in some coalfields before the war, although it was not until the s that the miners' chosen political and industrial representatives became the unquestioned, almost omnipotent, rulers of the coalfield communities which their unions dominated The political influence which such people exerted in individual 'fiefdoms', where they influenced county government and parliamentary politics, is irrefutable.
Some exercised influence on the national stage.
Salvidge, the 'King' of popular Toryism, could expect to find his view of the mechanics of politics taken seriously by national leaders Lord Northcliffe and the future Lord Beaverbrook the M. The position was no different in the Liberal party Locally significant figures would be wined and dined, cossetted on trips to London and consulted about local affairs and appointments. But few were taken seriously. The Tory squire was a figure of ridicule. Business men M. To suggest that the interests of such people dictated party policy, even if they personally did not25, is to ignore a very basic point.
Parties had to win elections to gain power. Local magnates might influence opinion in a few seats; but to win the country as a whole politicians had to woe the people. It was the popular voice which had to be considered, and it was the attempt to marry popular appear with consideration for party beliefs which dominated Edwardian politics. The crude self- interest of the wealthy made poor politics. The political parties who chose the political elite wanted what career politicians had to offer. Career politicians consenquently came to the fore.
The pressure of mass competitive politics had its impact on every political party. It forced them to form or democratise constituency parties. It encouraged the production of simplified propaganda It encouraged parties to appoint and train local election agents who emphasised their professionalism by forming national associations and requiring members to pass examinations Those who wanted a more popular presentation of policies used the national bodies set up to co-ordinate constituency activity to further their political aims.
Liberal Government Politics by Packer - AbeBooks
They failed to achieve much through this, but the attempt signalled the way in which these new and more politically sophisticated elements, the career politicians, were beginning to operate. Mass politics made new demands. The scheming, speeches, lectures, newspaper articles, conversations with journalists - the constant activity - required total commitment. Career politicians like Joseph Chamberlain or Keir Hardie directed their energies solely in this direction Politics was an ideal career for those who enjoyed mastering a detailed brief, who warmed to the cut and thrust of debate, who lived for the rush of adrenalin created by crisis, or who revelled in popular campaigning.
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That is not to say that many did not survive on limited interest and involvement. There were Cabinet ministers in the Edwardian period, like Lord Grey, who were noted more for their fishing trips than for attention to the electorate. Balfour himself was often absent even when leader.
But the trend was for local parties to make more and more demands on an M. The first of the new career politicians came into politics with, and because of, their established popular reputations. Two of the most dynamic popular Tories - Randolph Churchill and Joseph Chamberlain - were hardly 'professionals' in occupational terms. They assumed significance not because of ther 'background' but because of the bodies of opinion which they were assumed to represent urban 'Tory Democrats' in the former instance, Nonconformist ex-Liberals in the latter.
Lloyd George, the most obvious examples of a liberal career politician, owed his selection as parliamentary candidate to an ability to capture the popular imagination. His entry into national politics stemmed from his demonstrable success in mobilising and representing a considerable body of opinion Welsh Liberalism in particular and the Nonconformist conscience in general By the Edwardian period there were few new entrants into Liberal politics whose rise was so evidently linked to their national.
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However, central party organisers were increasingly willing to pay the election expenses of radical candidates who might win marginal industrial constituencies, and to 'encourage' their selection in such areas Some constituency parties needed no prompting. In London, for example, popular local Liberals with reputations for serving their communities were directed towards Westminster politics.
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Well-known participants in Liberal reform campaigns were also pushed forward as parliamentary candidates Pragmatic and poor Liberals who wanted to gain entry into national politics emphasised their radical credentials. This is not to suggest that an ability to mobilise opinion, or a willingness to embrace the 'new' politics of the career politicians, was the sole criteria for entry into the political elite.
Even in the Liberal Party it helped to have money, a family name and especially contacts and friends at Westminster. The support of a wealthy patron with radical beliefs helped too. The Rowntrees and Cadburys, for examples, assisted a number of Liberal radicals to find parliamentary seats The Liberal party was adopting more and more career politicians with 'advanced' views by , but the central party did not have total control over such matters, and more moderate and wealthy elements were still influential.
The role of the party organisation in selecting the political elite and controlling its orientation had not gone unnoticed by Tories. Advocates of tariff reform ensured that they captured control of the National Union of Conservative Associations. They used their support in constituency parties to 'deselect' political opponents after Such was the perceived power of the machine. In fact Steel-Maitland was less powerful than this would indicate; but he was certainly a 'new' politician, not a member of the party's traditional elite, and his influence was used accordingly.
In both major parties the party machinery was used to support the career politicians. In the Labour party the position was a little different. Constitutionally, Labour was a federal organisation with little formal central power over affiliated groups. Local politics were in the hands of local parties. Money was so scarce in Labour circles that a reasonable income almost guaranteed a place within the local Socialist elite, and could prove sufficient, qualification to gain selection as a parliamentary candidate This became even more common after , when the party tried to fight more constituencies Similarly parliamentary candidates nominated by trade unions were sure to find a seat before because there were few candidates available, and even fewer with substantial funds behind them The dozen or so parliamentary candidatures financed by affiliated Socialist societies were selected by ballot of the membership, not by the party machine.
Those selected as parliamentary candidates were almost all professional officials or organisers.