The Impact of the 1918 Reform Act on the Politics of the West Midlands



Cawood I (2018) The Impact of the 1918 Reform Act on the Politics of the West Midlands. Parliamentary History, 37 (1), pp. 81-100.

Despite the impact of the Representation of the People Act of 1918 on the political culture of the west midland region in the interwar years, the elements of continuity in the politics of the region are striking. The Labour Party failed to dislodge the Unionists’ political control in the region (with the exception of the Black Country) for most of the 1920s and 1930s, notwithstanding the presence of a significant industrial working‐class population in the bulk of the region's constituencies. The essay argues that the lack of a significant redistribution of seats in the region, in spite of wartime growth in all urban areas, enabled the well‐organised and well‐funded Unionist organisations controlled by Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain to adapt their cross‐class, non‐denominational message to appeal to the newly‐enlarged electorate. Although the Labour Party appeared on the brink of a breakthrough in the west midlands, owing to this ‘franchise factor’, the Unionists adapted better to the new age of mass communications and political sloganeering which replaced the Edwardian politics of confrontation and public meetings. The Representation of the People Act of 1918 may have changed the political culture of elections in Britain, but, in the west midlands at least, it did not alter the Unionists’ ability to manage the outcomes of the elections.

British political history; impact of the First World War; Representation of the People Act 1918; 20th‐century party politics; 20th‐century political culture; west midlands politics

Parliamentary History: Volume 37, Issue 1

FundersUniversity of Birmingham
Publication date28/02/2018
Publication date online14/03/2018
Date accepted by journal02/04/2018

People (1)


Dr Ian Cawood

Dr Ian Cawood

Associate Professor, History