Towards Home Rule
ELECTORAL POLITICS in Irish Liverpool underwent a diverse (at times bewildering) range of hyphenated political allegiance before the consolidation of 'Nat-Labism' in the years before the First World War. Taking account of recurrent socio-economic, generational and other tensions within a large migrant enclave over time, this chapter endeavours to chart the convoluted route, nearly but never entirely completed, from grateful dependence upon the Liberals to defant 'Home Rule' political independence. Alternative forms of extra-parliamentary nationalist politics, from the Confederates through the Fenians to the IRB, are considered in the next chapter.
The Liberal alignment had a venerable past stretching back to the campaigning days of Daniel O'Connell, the 'Liberator'. In seeking emancipation, Catholics identified with the Liberal project of civil and religious liberty, but this was called into question by subsequent defence of denominational education. On this recurrent point of tension, Catholics drew away from the Liberals and their increasingly vociferous Nonconformist secularist activists towards expedient clericalist alliance with Tory Anglicans. Similarly with Repeal of the Act of Union, there was a strong initial Liberal link, but the relationship was to be strained by subsequent elaboration of a distinctive form of Irish nationalism: faith-based and compatible with Catholic ultramontanism, it was anathema to British Liberal norms. Gladstonian Home Rule restored the old alignment but the Liberals' failure to deliver on the project strained the patience of the INP.
The INP developed into an efficient Parnellite electoral machine in Liverpool, able to challenge the Liberals and gain control of the north end of the city. A range of key supporters ensured a decent turn-out at the polls, the restrictive franchise and registration requirements which limited the party's electoral base among the 'poor Irish' notwithstanding: Irish lawyers, adept at adding names to