David Thackeray
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Labour, civic associations and the new democracy
in Conservatism for the democratic age
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In the existing historical literature produced on the progress of Unionist politics during the First World War much attention has focused on the party’s efforts to develop an appeal to ‘patriotic labour’ by establishing an alliance with the British Workers’ League. Yet despite the attention it has received, the ‘patriotic labour’ alliance became increasingly marginal to the Unionist party as the war progressed. Far more significant in shaping the long-term identity of Conservative politics was activists’ reaction to the expansion of non-party and cross-party organisations that occurred during the war. Unionist activists, and women in particular, threw themselves into various forms of patriotic war work in civic organisations such as the Women’s Institutes, which were less hierarchical than the pre-war tariff leagues and party constituency associations. After the war, these experiences meant that activists were better able to forge a Conservative party with a more truly cross-class appeal.

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Conservatism for the democratic age

Conservative cultures and the challenge of mass politics in early twentieth-century England

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