By Robert C. Woosnam-Savage, Glasgow Museums, National Army Museum
1745: Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites
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Additional resources for 1745: Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites
The pre-war ILP had largely been confined to the lower middle class, and its biggest obstacle in realising its political ambitions was that it could not make the working class listen to its message. The trade unions would now make them listen, and the workers had a ready ear. Political activists were invited to address packed union meetings of workers who were already in a confrontational mood over wages and conditions. The message that the interests of capital and labour were different and that the capitalists were exploiting the workers by not paying a decent wage hit the right note.
Also, the Liberals had been in the forefront of proposing social policies on education, housing and temperance, which found a ready ear among the working class. Nevertheless, cracks were beginning to appear in the Liberal Party’s command of Scottish politics. First, Labour was making headway in local elections – which should come as no surprise, because most of the direct legislation which would improve the condition of the working class came from municipal rather than central government. Legislation such as the Feeding of Necessitous Children Act, though passed by Westminster, left it up to the local authorities to decide whether they would make use of the provisions or not.
Unbowed by imprisonment, employer harassment and state surveillance, they made passionate speeches in favour of socialism. Labour was also boosted by the defection of a number of former radical Liberals, such as James Barr, J. L. Kinloch, Rosslyn Mitchell and Roland Muirhead. Although not household names, these middle-ranking Liberals brought experience and organisational ability to the Labour Party. Also, they were a good indication of the way that the political pendulum was swinging. Theatricality was an essential part of their appeal, and humour was used to good effect.