Growth of Political Parties
Political parties are based on ideology but they react to events. Harold Macmillan, a former Prime Minister, was once asked what's the most important thing in politics and he answered events.
19th Century Politics
Politics before the 19th century was rather more so to do with Kings and Queens, they ruled liked a God, and were divinely ordained. Parliment is now where the power is; it can get taxes, that means it has most of the power.
The industrial revolution forced change in Britain in the 19th century. It crammed loads of poor people into cities and the cities became massive and so for the first time, the poor began to see themselves as an entity, almost as a political section of society. The people who were running the factories became wealthy and weren't the aristocracy, they weren't the kings, queens, barons, etc, they were middle classes and they had money now. They wanted to have polticial power; particularly in cities such as Manchester, London and Liverpool.
The poor were working and started to have identity, middle classes were the rich.
Reform Act in 1832 abolished slavery and expanded the amount of people that could vote. The political parties responded quickly so there wasn't too much change.
Two parties major at this point, the Tories vs the Whigs. Tories were conservatives and supporting the King, the whigs were the radicals; they wanted change and supported the reform act.
Middle classes said that food must be made cheaper because otherwise they'd have to raise wages for the poor they employed as they couldn't afford food at it's current price. They pushed for import taxes to be removed from all the cheap corn etc coming from outside England and they were successful. The farming industry within England collapsed but food in England was now cheap meaning the poor could afford it and the middle classes didn't have to raise wages.
Corn laws smashed both parties and essentially wiped out the whigs. They are now known as liberals.
Up until then, people who voted were those that owned lots of land. Sufragettes and poor people eventually gained the vote and political classes slowly started to relent and more and more people were allowed to vote.
20th Century Politics
There are several key events that happened in the 20th century;
1918 - women over 30 can vote
1928 - women over 21 can vote
1969 - 18 year olds can vote
There was the first world war; post war, socialism and the rise of the labour party in 1920s
There was also the second world war; the only people that really won the war was America because Britain had no money. It was in immense amounts of debt with America and only paid it back roughly five years ago.
Churchill, the prime minister during the WWII, was dropped by the public at the end of the war. There was a labour victory because they promised to bring in the welfare systems. Attlee had control of Britain and it's empire, despite secret plotting to remove him.
William Beveridge, a British economist, spent each day wallowing in cold statistics, he believed anyone who was genuinely in trouble should be helped. This was the poetry of justice. They created the NHS, a safety net, they were going to look after people from cradle to grave.
Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister, was known as the Iron Lady. She embraced radical right wing politics that she hoped would cure Britain. She wasn't personally popular but Britain wanted change. She took the country from a position where trade unions were in power, she wanted to get rid of publicly owned companies and she went about selling them all off, meaning a lot of money for government and share holders. She was one of the most influential prime ministers of all time.
The 1980s was a decade of real political clashes and there were a lot of strikes. The main event remembered in the 80s was the miners strike. They were an incredibly strong group as were there trade unions. Thatcher went head on with miners in a ferocious battle that lasted for years until the miners were ruthlessly destroyed. If you were in the northern cities at the time, you would have thought it was a civil war.
The 1990s saw John Major in power, who felt England had too much of a moral decline so he decided to launch a campaign to reinstate old British morals; "Back to basics". This ended up uncovering vast amounts of 'Tory sleaze', one scandal after another was revealed.
In the late 1990s, labour comes in. The country was so damaged from the 70s with the winter of discontent of Thatcher, they tried desperately to disassociate themselves with the past and called themselves the new labour. This is when hip, young and artistic Britain came about. Blair fashioned himself as the "easy going bloke at Downing Street"