Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

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

SIXTH CHAPTER
THE CAUCUS IN POWER (continued)

I

AFTER having followed the movements of the Federation on the political stage, let us transport ourselves for a brief space amid the local Associations. Since we became acquainted with them at the time of their first appearance under Disraeli's government, we have seen them on more than one occasion in the train of the central Caucus, contributing to its impressiveness by their numbers and swelling the noise which it made. Following the lead of Birmingham, they tried their hand at politics on a large scale, and interfered demonstratively in the work of Parliament. But they could only carry out their will in Parliament through their members. The question, therefore, of the relations between the member and the party Association soon assumed a prominent position as that of the relations between the Association and parliamentary candidates had previously done. The solution which the Caucus gave to the new problem was still more decisive. It did not consider the general authority with which it had invested the member by the fact of nominating him as sufficient; it held that in the actual discharge of his duties he was bound to follow the opinions of the party Organization on every occasion. We have already seen the caucuses, in the agitations got up by Birmingham, send their members communications, resolutions, and injunctions to vote in such and such a way, to support this and oppose that. As in the case of those standing for Parliament, most of the members preferred, to avoid making a fuss, not to insist on the question of principle raised by this attitude of the caucuses. Some hastened with exemplary docility to assure their Caucus that they were quite ready to vote in the manner required; others complied in silence, whether they yielded to the demands of the Caucus or that these demands

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