Plural Voting and the Liberal Electoral Reforms of 1918

I found another very interesting snippet in T.O. Lloyd’s history book, Empire to Welfare State. This is on page 85, where discusses the electoral reforms introduced by Lloyd George’s Liberals in 1918. This famously gave the vote to all men over 21 and all women over 30, effectively introducing democracy, or something close to it. It also cut down on plural voting. I’d always assumed that the system was ‘one man, one vote’. Not so. Before then, certain men had more than one vote depending on their circumstances. Lloyd George’s reform of that year cut this down to a single extra vote if you had a university degree or business premises. I have a feeling these extra votes were only remove totally after the Labour victory in 1948.

This makes sense of some of the things various Tories have said about the franchise over the years. I can remember one of the Tories back in the 1980s under Maggie Thatcher – I think it might have been Willie Whitelaw, but I can’t be sure – said that he thought business owners should have an extra vote, as they were also responsible for their workforce. I thought at the time that this was just the bizarre opinion of a snobbish member of an anti-democratic party. Which is true. What this makes clear is that Whitelaw, or whoever it was, was no isolated eccentric. He was actually looking back to how the system had been before the rise of the Welfare State.

It also puts a different perspective on the Tory electoral reforms that have stripped the working class, students and ethnic minorities of the automatic right to vote by changing the system of electoral registration. I’d merely assumed that they were following the lead of the Republicans over in America. I still think they are. I also thought they were trying to drag us back to the era before the extension of the franchise to the poorer parts of society. I’d always assumed this was sometime in the Nineteenth century, say around 1832. After all, one of the Kipper politicos said that he sometimes thought that the Great Reform Act was a bad idea. This shows that the Tories are effectively trying to drag the franchise back seventy years or so, before 1945, when business owners did have that extra vote.

And it shows that they are not the party of democracy, but rather its opposite: oligarchy, and the rule of the moneyed few.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Plural Voting and the Liberal Electoral Reforms of 1918”

  1. Ctesias62 Says:

    Oxbridge used to elect their own M.P’s as well.

    • beastrabban Says:

      You’re right – they did. And I think that only ended when Labour got into power as well in 1945.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: