Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

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

FIFTH CHAPTER
THE CAUCUS IN POWER

I

SHORTLY afterwards Parliament was dissolved, electioneering began, and Mr. Gladstone commenced his famous Midlothian campaign. The Tory seats went down one after another, and finally the Conservative majority was replaced by an enormous Liberal majority. Mr. Chamberlain thereupon uttered a shout of triumph and defiance: "By this token know ye the power of the Caucus and bow before it!" This was the purport of the proclamation which he issued in the form of a letter to the Times. Mr. Chamberlain pointed out that in almost every borough which possessed representative Liberal Associations, "sometimes called the 'Caucus' by those who have not taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the details of the Birmingham system," the Liberal candidates had been victorious. "This remarkable success is a proof that the new Organization has succeeded in uniting all sections of the party, and it is a conclusive answer to the fears which some timid Liberals entertained that the system would be manipulated in the interest of particular crotchets. It has on the contrary deepened and extended the interest felt in the contest, it has fastened a sense of personal responsibility on the electors, and it has secured the active support, for the most part voluntary and unpaid, of thousands of voters, who have been willing to work hard for the candidates in whose selection they had for the first time had an influential voice." The candidates chosen were Liberals of a firmer and more decided stamp; a well-filled purse was not a sufficient passport; preference was accorded to candidates who had won their spurs in political contests and had given proof of loyalty to their principles and of capacity to uphold them. "Altogether," concluded Mr. Chamber-

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