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15 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 09 September 2013

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 6: At the dawn of the twentieth century, far more men now had the vote than in a few decades earlier. And now, in the Edwardian era, politics was becoming a more aggressive, antagonistic business.

In 1901, the radical politician David Lloyd George opposed the Boer War. But when he tried to say so in Birmingham, he only narrowly escaped a huge mob, which attacked the Town Hall to stop him speaking.

Conservative politicians were worried about keeping mass support. But in working-class support for the War, the Empire and the Union, they detected a popular form of conservatism to which they thought they could appeal.

So Anne goes to Tyneside to rediscover the 'conserving crowds' of the years before the First World War: mass working-class conservative protests against Home Rule for Ireland.

She hears about one such march - a torchlit procession of 15000 Tyneside workers, who gathered to demonstrate their support for the Scottish politician Andrew Bonar Law and his hardline opposition to Home Rule.

This was just one expression of the way that a stern Protestant conservatism had a powerful appeal among the workers of cities like Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow.

And Anne finds out how, while all this was going on, female conservatives were fighting back against the 'Votes for Women' movement with their Anti-Suffrage League.

With: Professor Krista Cowman, Dr Dan Jackson, Professor Jon Lawrence, Professor Martin Pugh

Producer: Phil Tinline.


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