Additionally, the 1867 Reform Act also had a significant impact on the issues that were being addressed by politics. Whereas before, the aristocracy had basically decided what happened in the country, the act meant that issues were being brought to light that had never been discussed properly in public before. This was very important as it not only changed public but it also changed society too.
Issues such as the legislation surrounding drinking, education and taxation were now being impacted on by the public actually expressing their feelings about them and this determined that the act had changed entirely how people viewed politics by shifting their focus from the individuals within politics to the actually political interests that they represented. For the first time, the act seemed to allow working-class people to feel indignant at how they were labelled uneducated within society and how they were blamed for society.
It could be said that the Reform Act’s most important outcome was encouraging people to now speak up for what they believe in and to create a true democracy by exposing the flaws of the current political system that had kept hidden a system of suppression underneath a pretence of democracy. On the other hand, this outcome can be seen once again to only be attributing more to the argument that the most important outcome of the 1867 Reform Act was that that it had on the political parties.
Whilst it did change the people, it also meant that individuals like Gladstone and Disraeli had to develop stronger personalities, more influential public speaking and just generally a more recognisable persona to get attention off the people and this changed politics, starting to transform it to what we recognise today with politicians attending school fairs and opening museums to get positive publicity.
Whilst all of these outcomes were extremely important at the time, perhaps the most long-term and recognisable of all of the outcomes was the effect that the 1867 Reform Act did have on the political system and in particular, on the Liberals and Conservatives parties. Source 7 supports this view by introducing us to the idea of the ‘political machine’. The source shows how the Reform Act of 1867 meant that the political parties had to actually properly compete and make, sometimes unrealistic promises, to appeal to voters.
It shows how this means that electioneering, the way the parties portrayed themselves and presentation of issues became much more important as politics became national and rotated around moral issues. Indeed this view does have a lot of weight in an argument. The political parties now were having to tread a careful line and keep a balance between the conflict of alienating the people with revolutionary political ideas and immediate actions to secure themselves as the strongest political parties.
This meant that the Liberals and the Conservatives had to become united and professional. This impact was important as it meant that the political loyalty was created that we can recognise in politics today. Previously, parties had split up and conflicted over issues but following the act, politicians were forced to admit that they had to remain loyal to their own political party in order to get any success within the political circumstances.
This outcome is so significant as it created the strong link that still exists today between political parties and the voters. The two different parties had to go to what they saw as extreme lengths to secure voters’ loyalty and to encourage them to vote. This included the setting up of party clubs and trips to places such as the seaside as rewards for people who promised to vote for a certain political party.
In a way, it shows how this outcome was significant in advancing political organisation and professionalism yet in other ways it just maintained the old influential schemes that politicians used but at last, they had to actually be clever to use these rather than to blatantly bribe and influence people. They could still influence people, just as they had done with the open ballots, but this time they had to do it with rewards and false promises. To a certain extent, this can still be seen to be happening in our political system today.
In conclusion, there were many outcomes of the 1867 Reform Act and all of these were significant in their own way. The impact of these can be seen clearly by the fact that they have triggered features of our own political system today, such as strong political personalities for politicians and ‘image-conscious’ newspapers and magazines. However, these all contributed to allowing the Liberals and the Conservatives parties to change and whilst individually they were significant impacts, the effect that they had on electorate always corresponded with an effect on the political parties.
In this way, the most significant outcome of the 1867 Reform Act was the impact that it had on the Liberals and the Conservatives parties yet this would not have been significant or even have occurred independently of the impact that the act on the electorate themselves. This means that whilst we can identify an outcome of the act as the most important, it simply would not have had the effect that it did have without the other outcomes of the act, meaning that collectively they are important and making it extremely difficult to label the importance of the outcomes.
Courtney from Study Moose
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