Anderton, Paul (1974) The Liberal Party of Stoke-on-Trent and parliamentary elections, 1862-1880: a case study in Liberal-Labour relations. Masters thesis, Keele University.

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Abstract

This study examines the constituency Liberal Party of Stoke-on-Trent in a period of political history noted for the formation of a Liberal-Labour alliance. This alliance was symbolised by the entry of Henry Broadhurst into Parliament in 1880 as M.P. for Stoke-on-Trent. The final assessment of the growth of the Liberal Party outside Parliament and the character of the Liberal-Labour alliance depends upon investigations into constituency parties and the manner in which local party leaders tackled such problems as the demand for labour representation. It is shown in this study that the nature of the relationship between those who led organisations for working men and those who managed the Stoke-on-Trent Liberal Party in the last stages of the constituency's existence did affect the outcome of Parliamentary elections in the Borough. The study, therefore, is a contribution towards a fuller understanding of the development of the Liberal Party in the second half of the nineteenth century and the impact of the Liberal Labour alliance upon constituencies.
The central theme is the struggle between the leaders of organised labour in the Potteries and local Party managers over the control of official Party nominations for Parliamentary candidates. It was essential for the continuation of the Stoke-on-Trent Liberal Party, and for the realisation of its ambition to hold both seats in perpetuity, that a satisfactory resolution of this class conflict be found. This happened before the general election of 1880 and enabled the Party to record on that occasion its most complete victory in the history of the constituency. The ease with which this victory was obtained has tended to obscure the fierceness of the internal conflict in the Liberal Party in the early 1870s, and also the reality of the aspirations of working men in the Potteries to have their own representative in Parliament. In effect, therefore, the success of Henry Broadhurst in 1880, when he joined Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt in epitomising Lib-Labism, has obliterated the very real possibility of the collapse of the Stoke-on-Trent Liberal Party in the mid-1870s.
The study opens with a description of the Liberal Party in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1860s and an account of the organisational changes necessitated by the growth of the Temperance Movement and a threat from a Temperance candidate, Samuel Pope, to capture a Liberal seat. The impact of the 1867 Reform Act on the constituency in relation to these changes created a special situation in advance of the general election of 1863.
The 1868 election, therefore, is considered separately in the second section of the study, along with the immediate consequences for the local Party which followed from the way events were handled by its leaders. During this election the first labour candidate appeared, Robert Hartwell, and the third section of the study describes the political activities of organised labour, especially in the years immediately following Hartwell's campaign, for a distinct shift then took place in the attitude of labour leaders. The next stage of the study is an examination of the reaction of Liberal leaders to working class movements and the general election of 1374, in which there was open political conflict between middle class and working class sections of the Party. As this conflict led to the loss by the Party of one of its two Members of Parliament there were moves to close the ranks, but as these were in progress a by-election became necessary early in 1875 when the second seat was lost. The fifth part of the study is concerned with these moves, the effect of the by-election on them, and the ultimate resolution of Party problems by the adoption of Henry Broadhurst in partnership with William Woodall as the official Liberal candidates for the 1880 general election.
The final section of the study contains a consideration of the historiography of the Liberal-Labour alliance and of the Liberal Party in its constituency aspects in the second half of the nineteenth century. This is coupled with an assessment of the extent to which conclusions drawn from events in Stoke-on-Trent should be used to modify some previous judgements about the growth of constituency Liberal Parties and the Liberal-Labour alliance. Attention is drawn in the final stage to the importance for the local Liberal Party of organisational changes in the mid - 1860s, namely the creation of an elected Council to approve official Parliamentary candidates because this contrasts with views that such organisational changes were of little importance in the development of the Liberal Party. Similarly, attention is drawn to the issue of labour representation, and the manner in which attempts were made to secure it in Stoke on-Trent, because this, too, has been dismissed as of small consequence for the Liberal Party. In Stoke-on Trent, at least, the creation of the Council encouraged those working men enfranchised in 1867 to believe that they could become fully integrated members of the constituency Liberal Party with a share in the exercise of power according to rules made in 1865. The existence of the Council also encouraged working men's leaders to believe that they could realise their ambition to influence the selection of Liberal candidates to the advantage of working class interests. The result of the discovery that the council was a sham nearly brought about the collapse of the local Liberal Party, and certainly caused the loss by 1875 of both its seats in the House of Commons. Whatever view is taken about the Labour Representation League in general, therefore, this study shows that in Stoke-on-Trent it had very considerable consequences.
The almost total devotion of working class voters to Liberalism, which transcended organisations and party structures in the period 1860-1880, is confirmed. The story of events in Stoke-on-Trent in the early 1870s, however, casts doubts on the faith that the articulate working class had in the Liberal Party, as organised at constituency level, as the proper mode of mobilising Liberal opinion and the most effective means of securing working class interests. Finally, it is noted that though a resolution of the local Liberal Party's problems appeared to have been found by the adoption of Henry Broadhurst as the working man's candidate, the reality of the extent to which Party managers had achieved a harmonisation of Liberalism and the special interests of the working classes, as rooted in Chartism and articulated by trade union leaders, was not tested in Stoke-on-Trent. This was because the constituency was divided into two single member constituencies in 1885 and the context of local politics was thereby completely changed.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > England—Local history and description—Counties, regions, etc., A-Z—Staffordshire
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2021 14:25
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2021 14:25
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/9922

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