Opposition from Strength: 1892–1895

  • David Steele


The note of class conflict that Gladstone sounded in the 1886 election, while maintaining that his motive was to remove a cause of social division, recurs in his continuing exhortations to his party and the public. He contended that the outcome of the election - a Tory and Liberal Unionist majority of 116 — concealed the magnitude of the support that Home Rule commanded in the British electorate. The disarray into which his party had been thrown by splitting only weeks before the poll sent the number of uncontested seats up to more than 150, excluding Ireland, compared with 22 in 1885; of these, 118 returned opponents of Home Rule. Yet in those that saw a fight the aggregate Unionist vote exceeded that of the Gladstonians by a mere 76,000.2 The moral victory, the ‘Grand Old Man’ proceeded to argue, lay with him. An analysis of the voting by class demonstrated, to his satisfaction, that 95 per cent of Liberal working-class electors in Britain had opted for Home Rule against 20 per cent of Liberals defined as ‘employers, or [those] who are socially in a position to draw with them the votes of others’. ‘Independent working men’, he implied, were likely to be Liberals; by them he meant those whose skills and wages raised them above their fellows, the ‘labour aristocracy’ of Marx and the historians.


Free Trade Social Reform Social Geography Home Rule English Majority 
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© David Steele 2005

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  • David Steele

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