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Title: Redistribution and the second Reform Act : the intended, and unintended, electoral effects on the balance of the political parties
Author: Woodberry, Richard Digby Anthony
ISNI:       0000 0001 3572 105X
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2007
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Whilst both high politics and pressure from below have been both fully and brilliantly studied on the complex events of the years 1866-8, redistribution, as a political concept and effect in its own right, has been rather neglected. The reasons for this are obvious. It lacked the gladiatorial nature of the parliamentary battle, few politicians were intimate with its intricacies, only a net fifty-two seats were changed and to build an edifice of c. four hundred individual constituencies takes time. Nevertheless, the politics of no change and lack of intention was as important, and as interesting, in rather different ways, to the more obvious attractions of the great debates on the nature of constitutional representation in 1866, the dancing on eggshells in the following year and the Irish Church question and General Election of 1868. Partly for reasons of space and time and also to do with the nature of the voluminous evidence, the study is focused on the years 1866-8, though it is put into its context, both before and afterwards. Documents have been quoted, where relevant, to aid other writers in their approach to the period and to give a flavour and authenticity to the work which was undertaken. What emerges is a limited triumph of sorts for Disraeli. A success it was in a party sense because it was a Conservative settlement, it avoided what had to be achieved at all costs, a second Whig/Liberal Reform Bill and it tilted a previously unfair and clearly gerrymandered system, emanating from 1832, back to, if not a position of Tory advantage, then at least to one of some sort of equilibrium. In that sense the final redistribution of 1868 was a negative victory, in that it avoided something worse. The first third of the writing tells the tale of redistribution from when it first reappeared as a political issue after 1832, the fe-emergence in 1848 effectively and rather neatly coinciding with Disraeli's de facto leadership of the Protectionist party in the House of Commons. The remaining two thirds divide Great Britain up into seven major psephological and regional areas in order to see the impact, both intended and unintended, on the individual constituencies. What emerges, and perhaps surprises, is the knowledge and understanding of the British electoral system in general, and its parliamentary seats in particular, which Disraeli had mastered by the time that Liberal error had, rather fortuitously, given him the opportunity to put his ideas and plans into practice. The conclusion of a limited Tory redistribution was due to the political situation and the not to be forgotten circumstance of a parliamentary minority of c. sixty-five seats - in normal circumstances. Disraeli's unique ability to keep matters abnormal was the key to his settlement.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available