The Birmingham Political Machine: Winning Elections for Joseph Chamberlain
The British electorate swelled dramatically with the passing of the Second Reform Act in 1867. This presented the political class with a significant challenge. Here was a large, new electorate which needed to be understood, managed, enthused, and persuaded to vote for the right candidate in local and parliamentary elections. From this time onwards education and democratic involvement of these new voters became vital for political success.
In Birmingham, the town of a thousand trades, Joseph Chamberlain and his allies were faced with an electorate which had tripled in size overnight and many of whom had never previously voted or participated in politics. In response, Joseph Chamberlain and his close-knit Birmingham team developed national campaigns on issues such as universal education, democracy and tariff reform which required new methods for propagating and winning arguments that resonated across all classes and interests. At the same time they colonised Birmingham's town council, school board and other municipal bodies where they gained the practical political experience which they could transfer to the national stage.
For the first time The Birmingham Political Machine lays bare how Joseph Chamberlain with his colleagues and friends was so successful that never before or since has one politician monopolised regional power as Joseph Chamberlain did for more than thirty years in the West Midlands. He made it his invincible fortress.
From now on British politics would never be the same and the techniques developed by the Birmingham Machine can still be seen today.
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