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The roots of the modern British party system can be traced back to the late-19th century. In many ways, the critical watershed arrived in the mid-1880s with the culmination of development in the electoral system which inaugurated a period of so-called "mass democracy" while eradicating the worst elements of electoral corruption and coercion. These events had profound implications for the structure and scope of party organization and for constitutional thought as earlier notions of "parliamentary government". Over the next 60 years, the modern party system evolved with regard to both the mechanics of electoral mobilization and the nature of the underlying discourse based on cleavages of class and ideology. This book describes and analyzes the complex and dynamic interaction of these developments in order to explain the profound changes which took place in the nature of the party system voting and electoral competition both at Westminster and in the constituencies. In doing so, it seeks to provide an accessible text for students and more general readers.
Robert C. Self is Senior Lecturer in Politics at London Guildhall University.