Issue 2 Revision How did Britain become more democratic between

Issue 2 Revision
How did Britain become more
democratic between 1867 and
Issue 1 v. Issue 2
• Both deal with Britain’s progress to democracy
but while Issue 1 focuses on WHY the changes
happened, Issue 2 deals with the evidence
that shows HOW FAR Britain could be called
• Both issues have common factual content to
an extent
Issue 2 – Things to think about!
• An assessment of how democratic Britain had
become by 1928 compared to the middle of
the nineteenth century.
• What had changed to make Britain more
• What are the main elements within a
• How far had they been achieved by 1928?
Some context
• Beginning of 19thC authority was in hands of
landowning wealthy men – they believed change
was unnecessary
• “The British constitution is the best that ever was
since the creation of the world, and it is not
possible to make it better” (Lord Braxfield, 1793)
• “Britain is land. It is therefore the land owners –
those who own the land of Britain – who deserve
the right to govern” (The Duke of Wellington,
Some more context
• Important step towards democracy came in 1832
(Great Reform Act)
• Growing economy was producing a wealthy
middle class who resented being excluded from
the political system
• Argued since they produced the wealth of the
country, they should have a say in its government
• “I support this (reform) because I am sure it is our
best security against revolution…we must admit
those it is safe to admit” (Thomas MacAuley,
Did the Reform Act of 1832 make
Britain more democratic?
• Changed the areas represented by MPs to reflect the population
changes caused by industrialisation
• Right to elect an MP was taken away from some depopulated
areas and the busier industrial towns got a few more MPs to
represent them
• Middle class males owning property of a certain value gained
the vote but most, including all women, had no political voice
• Power of aristocracy continued and bribery and intimidation at
elections remained
• 5/6 males still couldn’t vote
• MPs were still unpaid and to be an MP you had to own property
• As a result, Britain was nowhere near being democratic in 1850
The Right to Vote
How far did Britain become
more democratic between
the mid 19thC and 1928?
Accountability to voters
Access to information
The Secret Ballot Act, 1872
Redistribution of Seats Act,
Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act, 1883
Abolition of property qualification for MPs, 1857
Payment for MPs, 1918
3 national parties to vote for by early
Formation of Labour Party, 1906
Did Britain become more
democratic between 1850
and 1918?
Second Reform Act, 1867
Third Reform Act, 1884
Representation of the People Act, 1918
Representation of the People Act, 1928
Education Act 1870 (1872 in Scotland)
Spread of Railways from the 1850s
Cheap national newspapers/Introduction of
tabloids ,1900s
The Parliament Act, 1911
The loss of the House of Lords’ veto
The Right to Vote
Given to more and more people
Process called the extension of the franchise
Without it people cannot influence political decisions
1867: most skilled working class men living in towns
(boroughs) given right to vote
• By giving vote to men owning property above a certain
value and lodgers paying rent above £10 a year, vote
was extended to skilled working men who could afford
to live in property above required value
• (A) Therefore Britain became more democratic because
nationally, this reform was to double the number of
men who were entitled to vote.
Right to Vote (2)
• Next extension of franchise was 1884: men living in the
counties (generally referred to as the countryside)
given vote on same rules as men in towns. This made
Britain more democratic because......
• 30 years before next franchise reform happened.
• 1918: Representation of the People Act gave the vote
to another 13 million men and 8 million women over
30 years of age. As a result Britain could be considered
more democratic.
• Not until 1928 did men and women aged 21 or over
get equal political rights.
• Fair system of voting necessary
• 3 things had to happen if Britain was to
become more democratic
• 1. Voting in secret should be introduced and 2.
the distribution of MPs around the country
would have to be rearranged. 3. Corruption
and threats also had to be removed
Fairness (2)
• 1867 Reform Act helped Britain become more
democratic, voting was still open to bribery and
• Secret Ballot Act 1872 allowed voters to vote in secret
polling booths
• Corrupt and Illegal practices Act 1883 limited how
much candidates could spend during election time and
banned activities such as the buying of food or drink
for voters
• Election expenses were limited and the intention was
to make elections fairer with no political party
dominating a constituency because of its wealth
Fairness (3)
• Another attempt to make the political system
fairer was the redistribution of seats
• Britain divided into constituencies – areas of the
country that send one MP to parliament
• A constituency is also called a ‘seat’ because it
represents one seat in parliament
• In the 19thC the population spread across Britain
had changed a lot
• Town grew in size while rural areas became less
well populated
Fairness (4)
• New laws in 1867, 1885 and again in 1918
tried to make distribution of MPs fairer by
giving the right to send more MPs to
parliament in busy areas and taking the right
to have an MP away from depopulated areas
• (A)The redistribution of seats attempted to
make political representation fairer which is
an important part of a country being
considered democratic
• A country is not democratic if voters have no choice
• Although many working class men had gained the vote
in the 1880s there was no national working class party
for them to vote for
• By 1900 a new party – the Labour Party – had been
created to campaign for working class interests
• Development of the Labour Party is most easily
explained as a series of alliances between socialist
groups and the realisation by trade unions that it
would be helpful to have a political voice in parliament
to look after the interests of the working classes
Choice (2)
• Not all working class men voted Labour but
the creation of the Labour party provided
choice which is an essential ingredient in a
democratic society (K/A)
• However, for people to make a real choice
they must have information about their
Choice – Party Organisation
Conservative Central Office
Primrose League, 1881
National Liberal Federation, 1877
Branch Associations
Access to Information
• Literacy is important in a democracy so that people
have access to information on which they base their
• By late 19thC, basic literacy was quite well established in
• Secret ballot and extension of franchise also created a
voting population eager for news and information
• Development and spread of railways spread info
quickly to all parts of the country while local
authorities were convinced that improving people’s
minds and health were vital to a stable prosperous
Access to information (2)
• In every town libraries sprung up providing
not only books but also newspapers and
meeting rooms for debate and political
• Cheap, daily newspapers also spread across
the nation, carried by railways, while
politicians used the rail network to criss-cross
the country making speeches and building
• Means that parliament reflects the wishes of the
voters and is answerable to them
• In 1900, the House of Lords was not elected, yet
it had the power to scrap, or veto, any of the
ideas of the elected MPs in the House of
• For Britain to be a democracy the power of the
House of Lords would have to be changed
• Issue came to a head when the HoL tried to block
the right of the elected government to raise
money through taxation
Accountability (2)
• Without money from taxes the government could not
• After long argument and two more general elections the
parliament Act of 1911 resolved the situation
• The Parliament Act 1911 was an important step on the road
to democracy as it reduced the power of the House of
Lords which now had no say over budgets and could no
longer veto or block bills (laws) passed by the House of
Commons (A)
• They could only delay them for two years
• Parliament Act also reduced the maximum length of time
between general elections from 7 to 5 and provided
payment for Members of Parliament, thereby allowing men
of the working class to consider standing for election as an
Participation/Opportunity to become
an MP
• In a democracy, people who want to be involved
in politics should be able to participate
• That might mean joining a political party or
standing for election as an MP
• When political power was in the hands of the
wealthy the issue of payment for MPs never
arose - they felt it was their duty to serve their
country. They were also wealthy enough to
spend in time in parliament without worrying
about payment
Participation (2)
• For most of the 19thC, MPs were not paid and
had to own land
• Although the property qualification to become
an MP ended in the 1850s, working class men,
who had to work for their living for fairly low
wages, could not afford to give up their day
job to become a politician.
• Without a regular income how could they or
their families survive?
Participation (3)
• For Britain to become more democratic the
chance to become an MP would have to be
opened to everyone, and in 1911 the
Parliament Act introduced payment for MPs,
thereby allowing ordinary people greater
access to the political process (A)

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