By G. R. Searle
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Additional info for The Liberal Party: Triumph and Disintegration, 1886–1929
The 'politics of indignation', in which Nonconformists specialised, led to the moralisation of politics and to a black-andwhite approach to complex issues (like the relationship between schooling and the churches), together with a disposition to reject compromise as a temporising with evil. This reinforced the tendency of the Liberal Party to be a party of protest - and assisted the popularity within Liberal ranks of a Leader like Harcourt, who was patently at his happiest when attacking Unionist governmen ts.
But those who were denied the vote hardly formed a separate 'class', since most of them were the sons of existing voters. In fact, the defective lodger vote had the effect of discriminating against the young and the mobile. Far from being predominantly working-class, such groups, mainly unmarried men living in lodgings or in the parental home, came from all social backgrounds. 3 In short, contemporaries were right in their assessment. A 'mass' electorate existed, in which the traditional parties who ignored the wishes of manual workers would do so at their peril.
As for the moralising strains in militant Nonconformity, have not similar traits been observable in the twentieth-century Labour Party? In short, even in the Edwardian period there was still much work to be done in dismantling the 'aristocratic state', and the Radical-Liberals cannot be accused of living in the past when they reminded the country of its necessity. These preoccupations would only have been damaging had they led the Liberals into a total disregard of other social problems - problems to which traditional Radicalism had given insufficient weight.