Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s
Chapter Six: Politics, Gender, and ‘New’ Toryism: Lancashire in the 1920s
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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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