Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

FIRST CHAPTER
THE MACHINERY OF THE CAUCUS

I

THE history of the establishment of the Birmingham Caucus which was the starting-point of the movement which we are considering, has supplied us with an outline of the machinery of the representative Associations. It will be remembered that according to the theory of the Caucus all the inhabitants of the locality belonging to either party assemble in public meetings to settle the affairs of the party, directly or through delegates elected at these meetings and constituting deliberative bodies outside those which owe their existence to the Constitution. Their duty and their work consist in upholding and developing in the constituency, and consequently in the kingdom, Liberal or Conservative principles, as the case may be, and in securing the election of Members belonging to the same party. The success of these Members at the polling-booth is intended to procure the party preponderance in Parliament, which again is to ensure the triumph of the principles of the parties styled Liberal or Conservative, supposed to be alone capable of making the country great and happy in times present and to come. The main, the real, business of the Caucus Associations thus amounts to manipulating the electorate in the interest of the party, with the pretension of doing this on behalf of and by the people. How do they set about it, how do they discharge the duty they have undertaken, and what is really the part played and the advantage derived by the people -- this is what we are about to examine point by point.

Starting from the principle that the whole electoral population is divided into two sections, into Liberals and Tories, the organization of the parties expects that in each locality the

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