Skip Navigation / Jump to Content



Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Learning and Beliefs

Liberal Unionism

By I G C Hutchison

After the 1832 Reform Act, Glasgow invariably elected Liberal MPs to parliament and in 1885 when the city's representation was increased from three to seven seats, the Liberals won them all. However, in the election of 1886, the Liberals lost three seats, but only one to the Conservatives. Liberal Unionists - Liberals who opposed Gladstone's Irish Home Rule policy – won the other two. Glasgow became a Liberal Unionist centre and the Conservatives, who were opposed to Irish Home Rule, largely stood aside for them.

For some moderate Liberals 1886 was the climax of a gradual disillusionment with the party's leftward drift, typified by the radicals' mounting campaign to disestablish the Church of Scotland. Irish Home Rule proved the occasion, rather than the leading cause, for these Liberals to break away.

Liberal Unionist voters also included some who, because of their religious ties, sympathised with Ulster Protestants in their resistance to Home Rule. Others were alarmed that a Home Rule Ireland might erect tariffs against British goods.

But many Liberal Unionists were radicals, not primarily influenced by these factors, who disapproved of the measure because it might break up the Empire and also meant postponing the introduction of major domestic reforms. Otherwise they remained staunchly attached to Liberal principles, refusing steadfastly to merge with the Conservatives. Several, including three of the city's first Liberal Unionist MPs, rejoined the Liberals rather than stay in the coalition with the Tories when the Tories adopted policies contrary to fundamental Liberal beliefs, especially the proposal in 1903 to abandon free trade.

Quick Search

Photo Album

You have 0 images in your photo album.

View Photo Album

Log-In (Optional)

Not a user? Register now for FREE!

Other Options