By Jon Lawrence
During this engagingly written background of electioneering in Britain from the eighteenth century to the current, Jon Lawrence explores the altering dating among politicians and public. all through this era, he argues, British politics has been characterised by way of bruising public rituals meant to bestow legitimacy on politicians by way of obliging them to stand a regularly irreverent public on generally equivalent phrases. Face-to-face interplay was once primary either to the disorderly civic rituals of eighteenth-century politics, and to the Victorian and Edwardian election assembly. probably strangely, it additionally survived in beautiful impolite well-being among the wars, regardless of the emergence of the recent mass conversation media of radio and cinema. however the comparable can't be stated of the post-war period and the increase of tv. this day so much politicians are content material simply to supply the illusion of significant engagement--walkabouts, canvassing and conferences are all designed to make sure that so much senior politicians come into touch simply with the smiling faces of that dwindling band, the "party faithful." Lloyd George and Churchill may have relished the tough and tumble of a tumultuous public assembly, yet their glossy opposite numbers are usually extra risk-averse (and no longer with out cause, provided that the cameras are constantly current to trap their mishaps). yet this isn't one other nostalgic lament for a misplaced "golden age." to the contrary, Electing Our Masters argues that politicians often nonetheless crave the kudos to be derived from bruising encounters with an irreverent public--hence Tony Blair's so-called "masochism technique" within the 2005 election crusade, with its succession of gruelling classes ahead of stay studio audiences. As Lawrence issues out, the important query for this present day is: will we convince our broadcasters that such encounters needs to shape a staple of contemporary, mediated politics?
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Extra resources for Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair
At the same time individual voters became more consistent in their voting habits over time. In a study of thirteen boroughs between 1761 and 1868, Phillips and Wetherell conclude that partisanship was close to random before 1832—that is, the chance that someone would vote the same way at consecutive elections was almost the same as the chance of voting differently. But after 1832, constituencies experienced ‘extreme increases in consistency’, with the chance of partisan voters shifting allegiance falling to 2 in 10.
True, the majority of county seats still went uncontested at any given General Election, but the trend was clear. As in the larger boroughs, it seems likely that one important factor here was the growing inﬂuence of the press, both national and countybased, which encouraged the further penetration of national issues into local politics, and made it easier for aspiring politicians to ﬂoat a possible candidacy. ¹⁴ But if an emergent ‘public opinion’ was beginning to reshape electoral politics in the ﬁrst decades of the nineteenth century, it was during 28 john bull at the hustings the great reform crisis of 1831–2 that it became a transformative force.
But as memories of ‘dangerous’ physical force radicalism began to fade, so self-consciously popular leaders such as Cowen and John Bright gradually became more willing to speak to large, outdoor audiences. Contemporaries had no doubt that what was at stake here was the class politics of public john bull at the hustings 41 space—taking politics out of doors meant taking them to the poor and excluded. Hence when the radical trade union leader George Potter travelled to Dewsbury in 1868 to speak for Handel Cossham, the beleaguered ofﬁcial Liberal candidate, he was roundly condemned by local Radicals who declared that ‘he should have given his address in the open air, not in the rich man’s chamber [the town’s Theatre Royal]’.
Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair by Jon Lawrence