The new Liberalism and the challenge of Labour in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1885-1914 with special reference to Huddersfield
This thesis contributes substantially to a debate that has long been a preoccupation of historians surrounding the timing, underlying reasons for, and inevitability (or otherwise) of the Labour Party's replacement of Liberalism as the main opponent to the Conservative Party. In terms of the context for examining the extent and potential of Labour's challenge to Liberalism before 1914 and the presence of any form of 'progressive' or 'new' Liberalism, there has been a shift away from the ambit of national politics to that of local parliamentary and municipal politics. Amongst those areas of Britain that have been the subject of analysis, West Yorkshire, as the very birthplace of the Independent Labour Party, remains predominant and this study, by highlighting Huddersfield, complements and extends work already carried out on Leeds, Bradford and the Colne Valley. Through a close analysis of the local and regional press, election results, personal papers, party records, pamphlets and trade union records, in conjunction with secondary sources, the emergence and nature of the Labour movement's challenge to a Liberalism dominated by a Nonconformist textile manufacturer elite, is examined. Trade unionism's central role in the establishment of the Huddersfield Labour Union in 1891 is evident. So too is the belated conversion of the Huddersfield Trades Council to independent parliamentary labour representation which, when combined with a religious, ethical form of Socialism around 1906, posed so serious a threat to established Liberalism that only opportune party re-organisation, an undemocratic franchise, and bitter divisions within the Labour movement, could save it. Yet even amidst its parliamentary victories of 1906 and 1910 Huddersfield Liberalism was, through its continued intransigence towards working-class concerns and its espousal of outdated issues, which had diminishing relevance to a nascent class-based electorate, increasingly less viable both electorally and intellectually.