A strong taste for the despotism of numbers?
in What about the workers?
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This chapter explores the difficulty of separating the working class from the trade unions; the party therefore accepted (albeit reluctantly) the unions’ existence whilst criticising the unions’ supposed vulnerability to control by politically motivated groups who usurped the unions’ for their own political purposes. An important figure in the development of Conservatism’s strategy was Disraeli, whose government passed legislation for the unions’ development. Many Conservatives feared industrialisation would, via the growth of democracy, culminate in socialism and saw unions as part of this trend. The response was to accord the unions a degree of legal privilege that was intended to be a settlement of the union question. Industrial conflict, however, re-emerged during the 1890s and in the years before 1914 there was an upsurge in industrial unrest that suggested a transformation of politics. This was reflected in what many Conservatives saw as granting excessive legal privileges to unions that now displayed a far higher degree of industrial and political activism, reflected in the formation of the Labour Party. The party, however, failed to develop a coherent response to the rise of the organised working class.

What about the workers?

The Conservative Party and the organised working class in modern British politics.

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