The Essay: Reasons for the Growth of British democracy

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Activity: I would like you to attempt the 2008 question (on page 1) and begin by writing an introduction. You can use mine as a guide but I don’t want it copied word for word.

I also want you attempt the first paragraph in the main section. Don’t go overboard with KU – remember you are only awarded a maximum of 6 marks here. What you need to do is introduce the importance of this factor at the beginning of your paragraph. Then you should make some attempt to address the question and begin constructing an argument – was it or was it not an important factor and why? Keep your KU clear and concise and you can gain argument marks by providing the reform passed in the 19th and 20th century as evidence the socio-economic development of Britain WAS an important factor. Remember a sub conclusion and choose your words carefully – I want quality not quantity. Follow this instruction for every important factor.

FACTOR 2: Changing attitudes/political ideology.

The changing attitudes of politicians, parties and leaders can also be attributed to the growth of British democracy. From 1850-1928 technology improved, industry grew, cities grew bigger and education improved. It is clear that with all this happening, people would also change and this section will enlighten you about the changing attitudes of politicians. Why is such an important factor? Well, politicians are the policy makers who represent the people and who introduce national reform. If there is to be an extension of democracy then ultimately, the politicians will play a pivotal role. This section will focus on 4 key politicians – William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli, David Lloyd George and Herbert Henry Asquith.

Benjamin Disraeli b. London (1804=1881)

Party: Conservative

Disraeli was Prime Minister of Britain Feb-Dec 1868 and from 1874-1880.

William Gladstone b. Liverpool (1809-1898)

Party: Liberal

Gladstone was PM of Britain on 4 occasions

(1868–1874, 1880–1885, 1886 and 1892–1894)

David Lloyd George b. Manchester (1863-1945)

Party: Liberal

Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer 1908-15 and Prime Minister of the Wartime coalition 1916-1922

H.H Asquith b. West Yorkshire (1852-1928)

Party: Liberal

Asquith was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1908-1916.

The changing social and economic landscape during the 19th century brought about a new working class identity and in urban (and rural) areas…it would be unwise of politicians not to recognise the increasing political awareness demonstrated by the working classes. Back in 1832 both the Liberals and Conservatives had been cautious about extending the vote and as such the franchise was only extended to the Middle class. However, the emergence of political figures like William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli gave hope to an increasingly vociferous working class movement.

Indeed, prior to the 2nd Reform Act being passed in 1867 (skilled working class in towns to be included in the franchise, albeit with property qualifications) both men had persuaded their parties to widen the electorate and improve British democracy.

Although both men championed reform, one would argue they did so for different reasons. Gladstone believed that “every man was morally entitled to vote” and that the skilled working classes deserved the vote, in recognition of their contribution to the economy and the British Empire. (I.e. Engineers in shipyards). Gladstone also saw the attraction for his own party (with him at the helm) as giving the vote to skilled working men would result in more votes for the Liberals.


This cartoon shows Gladstone and Disraeli jostling for position over the 1867 Reform Bill. Both men knew that supporting the extension of Democracy would win favour for their party. Both men wanted to be PM. Their personal conflict is analysed in greater detail in the following section. ‘Dizzy’ – the nickname the press had given Disraeli.
eading Conservatives like Disraeli and Lord Derby (PM in 1867) split opinion in their own party when they also suggested members of the skilled working class also merited the vote. A cynic would perhaps view the Conservative stance as one motivated more by self-interest rather than genuine warmth for the working classes – it is well known Disraeli in particular feared that opposing an extension of the franchise could lead to his party being out of power for years. Nonetheless, it was a changing political ideology from previous politicians and in summary, both Gladstone and Disraeli supported an extension of the franchise in 1867. The Reform Act passed by parliament in 1867 created over 1 million new voters and further parliamentary representation for areas like Manchester and Liverpool. Unfortunately for Disraeli and the Conservatives, their party lost power in the 1868 General Election and Gladstone became PM for the first time. It appears the working classes were more inclined to vote Liberal and the Liberals remained the party of the working class until the emergence of Labour in the 20th century.

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