The pre-eminence of class in electoral alignments is not a universal fact of modern politics. There are many countries and party systems where race, or religion, or region, or other lines of potential cleavage are more important than class in defining electoral support. We can indeed imagine a very different electoral history for modern Britain. The Irish question in particular might have influenced the pattern of party politics even more radically than it did. This issue, which so clearly cut across class lines, led to a drastic realignment of parties in the 1880s, with Joseph Chamberlain leading a large body of the industrial working class over to the Conservatives. To this day it leaves a major mark on the politics of Clydeside and Merseyside. It is not beyond possibility that if Europe had escaped a general war in August 1914 the United Kingdom would have slipped into civil war over the position of Ulster under Dublin Home Rule. The resulting conflict might have left scars on the British body politic comparable to those imposed on the United States for a hundred years by its own civil war. In such a situation the place of class would have been very different.
KeywordsMiddle Class Class Composition Total Vote Safe Seat Party Support
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