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"Explain why many Liberal and Conservative politicians feared the consequences of the 1867 reform act were that of a "Leap in the dark".

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Introduction

"Explain why many Liberal and Conservative politicians feared the consequences of the 1867 reform act were that of a "Leap in the dark" The nineteenth century saw massive changes in the way Britain was run. It had developed from a feudal survival that had been intact since the early fifteenth century, towards a system of government relying on popular participation. The Great Reform Act of 1832 had set the precedent for change. It was impossible that the 1832 Act would be the 'final solution of a great constitutional question'. Moreover the act was seen as a 'stepping stone' for other reforms which finally awarded the working class with the vote and in effect, allowed the social classes to co-operate and collaborate in the running of the country. Many people believed the 1832 Act was passed to ease tensions caused by the revolution taking place across the English Channel in France and indeed, domestic tensions back home in England but in the 1860's, this tension was no longer present. Political demonstrations and strikes continued, but they took on a far less threatening tone. Ironically, political parties in the mid 1800's became concerned in making the country more democratic at a time when violent campaigning in favour of a wider electorate grew weaker. ...read more.

Middle

With Palmerston out of office, there was one less obstacle to addressing the issue of reform. With the departure of Palmerston, William Gladstone was thrown into the fray and he, unlike Palmerston was in favour of reform. This ensured that the issue rose up the political agenda and it became a prominent topic in the mid 1860's in the Commons and Lords. Disraeli was a key figure in British politics in the mid 1800's. He was a very intelligent man and he had the rare talent of being able to identify lively issues but there were times when he looked like more of a liability to the Conservative Party rather than an asset. He was baptised a Jew which caused concern amongst other Conservatives who were clearly prejudice to his religion. His novels - Coningsby, Sybil, Tancred - had all brought criticism and jealousy as a well but they had elevated Disraeli to a much respected place in society as an intelligent man. However, Disraeli often felt isolated in the party, struggling to dispose of the mediocrity that often plagued his political career, one possible explanation for the unorthodox 'leap in the dark' he took in 1867. The Liberals, in government in the 1860's, knew that they could not run away from producing a reform bill and this pressure not only came from outside but also from within the party both on the left and on the right. ...read more.

Conclusion

The final bill was passed in 1867 which was significantly transformed as the government accepted a series of amendments by Liberal leadership. But nevertheless, the bill was passed and Disraeli had succeeded where Gladstone had failed. In practice, the bill had a quite a few effects. It gave the vote to every made adult householder living in a borough constituency. Male lodgers paying �10 for rooms were also given the vote. Government seats were also freed up and awarded to towns with the biggest population increase since 1832. Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds for example. Despite its flaws, and the manner in which it was passed, (Bentley described it as a 'toboggan ride whose speed and direction had largely escaped Disraeli's control'), the bill provided a threshold across which British politics began to appear modern. The peculiarity of the story of 1867 lies in unorthodox political maneuvers by a party who went to great lengths to be more revolutionary than its opponents, to go against what they stood for - for political progress and a fairer, more democratic Britain. Whether it was to keep the Liberal split alive, to humiliate Gladstone even more so or simply to succeed where others had failed, Disraeli achieved a landmark victory in British Politics, which did indeed earn his party and himself a lot of credibility. Joseph Fennelly U6C-SPB ...read more.

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