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Popular Politics and Popular Culture in the Age of the Masses

Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s


Jeffrey Hill

The book is a selection of essays from the author’s work since the early 1980s. It presents an analysis of political and cultural trends based upon a series of case studies drawn from the North West of England, covering mainly the years between the Third Reform Act (1884) and the outbreak of the Second World War. The region was a heavily industrialized one, seen by many as in the vanguard of changes that gave rise to what is often referred to as ‘modern’ society. In politics the emergence in North West England of a new labour consciousness is plainly evident, but so too is the survival and adaptation of older political allegiances, notably popular Toryism. The region is also renowned in cultural terms for the emergence of modern sport, examined here in relation to both association football and cricket. Keenly aware of the general political, social and cultural developments in Britain and elsewhere during these years, the author is also alert to their impact in particular localities. The theme of locality has been a recurring one in the author’s research, and the composition of this book reflects his changing approaches to it and to other, related issues of identity.
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Chapter Six: Politics, Gender, and ‘New’ Toryism: Lancashire in the 1920s


← 134 | 135 → CHAPTER SIX

If we define modern democratic politics by the criterion of ‘one person, one vote’, Great Britain more or less arrived at that position in 1928. In that year some seven million female voters over the age of 21 were included in the electoral register.1 They augmented the eight million women over the age of 30 who had been given the vote in 1918, along with some 13 million males over 21. Thus for the first time women occupied a significant place in the parliamentary voting system, and thereby became the subject of serious attention by political parties.

This chapter presents a case study of the Conservative Party’s grass roots in Lancashire during the first decade of what Jon Lawrence has called ‘the “feminised” franchise’.2 Several historians have already turned their attention to this period. Their researches have illuminated a number of important new characteristics in Conservative Party activity: a general ← 135 | 136 → improvement in party organisation and propaganda, with particular emphasis on the training of professional agents and fund raising; a strong antipathy towards Labour socialism, trades unionism, and Bolshevism – often with little distinction made between the three; another excursion into the cause of protectionism and a re-fashioning of the idea of Empire; and a strenuous attempt to enrol women and young people into the party as both voters and activists.3 Through these means the Conservatives were able to absorb many former Liberal supporters, while at the same time attempting to position...

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