Impact on post-war politics

Major change on the Scottish political scene can be seen in the post-war years, mainly in the decline of Liberal support in favour of popularity for the Labour Party. The Conservatives also saw positive gains.

Rise of the Labour Party

In the 1918 election, the Labour Party gained a third of all votes cast in Scotland. By the mid-1920s Labour had replaced the Liberals as one of the nation’s two major political parties.

Some argue that Labour's success in Scotland had much to do with Red Clydeside but there were several other reasons for the sudden rise in the popularity of the Labour Party.

  • The Representation of the People Act of 1918 gave the right to vote to all men over 21 and women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications.
  • Only some men who met certain conditions had been able to vote as a result of the earlier Reform Bill of 1884.
  • The ILP and the main Labour Party were closely linked in the minds of the new working class voters.
  • Both the ILP and the Labour Party campaigned for reforms in housing and health after the war, and their focus on local issues was a major reason for Labour’s success in the 1920s.

Fall of the Liberal Party

The Labour Party also benefitted from the collapse of the Liberal Party, which had largely been caused by British participation in World War One.

The Liberal Party had certain core beliefs at its heart, one of which was that the state should intervene as little as possible in everyday life.

However, as the war dragged on the government increasingly controlled what people could and could not do. The resulting arguments within the party weakened the organisation and demoralised party workers.

The Liberal Party was also split by rivalry between Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and his replacement David Lloyd George. The election that followed the war marked the end of the Liberals as a powerful, united party.

The increasing popularity of the Conservatives

Conservative popularity had been increasing amongst the middle class of the towns and cities.

They were the party that was least supportive of change, and the unrest in George Square benefitted them. They would have been popular with Scots unsympathetic to Red Clydeside and fearful of more widespread uprisings.

Many at this time feared revolution after the 1917 Russian Revolution and the 1919 Spartacist Revolt Rising in Germany. The Communist Party was on the rise in European countries and threatened the upper and middle classes.

In 1918, they achieved a 30 per cent share of the vote and by 1924, were more popular than the Labour Party.

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