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Manchester conference’, The Liberal Unionist, Dec. 1891, 81.
19
Pugh, March of the women, 132. 20 Courtney, ‘The Manchester conference’.
21
I. M. S. Tod, ‘Ulster convention: preliminary meeting’, The Liberal Unionist, May 1892,
1–2. It is indicative of Liberal Unionist women’s ambitions that, despite all these tangible
marks of recognition, Millicent Fawcett felt it necessary to write a scathing letter to the
editors of the party’s monthly magazine complaining about what she perceived as their
‘reactionary’ attitude to women’s rights, resenting the fact that they did not enthusiasti-
cally endorse the cause (M. Garrett Fawcett, ‘Women and politics’, The Liberal Unionist,
Jan. 1892, 109).
22
Burgess, ‘Strange alliances’, 75.
23
See the editorials ‘Women’s right to labour’, LW, 26 June 1887, 6; ‘Ladies to the front’,
WT&E, 26 May 1889, 6; and ‘Women suffrage’, WT&E, 12 July 1891, 8.
24
L.a., ‘The new political party’, WT&E, 19 Nov. 1893, 8.
280 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

the newspaper’s official policy from 1894, when, as we shall see, the news-
paper was at the height of its enthusiasm for socialism.25 Even then it did
not advocate the vote for women because they were equal with men, but
because they had distinctive feminine gifts from which society would
benefit. In particular, it credited women with special powers of ‘intuition’
which would enable them to detect ‘sham Liberalism’. Moreover, their
help and co-operation ‘on equal terms’ with men was needed in order to
achieve any real improvement in society, including ‘stemming the dreadful
increase of gambling and betting . . . redressing the unequal laws governing
the relations of men and women which make so disastrously for immor-
ality’, bringing about the revival of ‘real religion in the Churches’, and
especially establishing socialism.26
The Weekly Times was then at the beginning of an unusual ideological
development which was to bring it from Radical Unionism to socialism
and back to New Liberalism by the turn of the century. In many ways its
trajectory symbolized the dilemmas of the left in the 1890s. For, on the
one hand, the latter was attracted by Chamberlain’s version of liberalism,
with its emphasis on social justice and the relief of poverty. On the other,
no one who took democracy seriously could permanently ignore the
issues raised by Home Rule – including national self-determination ver-
sus imperialism – and the parallel humanitarian questions associated with
Gladstonian politics.

From Radical Unionism to socialism: the strange
trajectory of the Weekly Times
Surprisingly, despite the richness of its political texture and connections,
this remarkable newspaper has been little studied.27 Established in 1847,
for forty years it consistently voiced the claims of metropolitan radicalism
until the Home Rule crisis forced its editors to reassess their view of
Gladstonian Liberalism. While one of its main competitors, Reynolds’s
News, renewed its well-established commitment to Home Rule, and
another, Lloyd’s Weekly, became Unionist out of commercial consider-
ations, in 1886 the Weekly Times espoused Radical Unionism on the basis

25
L.a., ‘How many have the vote, and use it?’, WT&E, 22 Apr. 1894, 8.
26
L.a., ‘Women’s suffrage and the Registration Bill’, WT&E, 17 June 1894, 8; for enthu-
siastic endorsement by a reader see letter by H. H. Hopkins, ‘Women and the suffrage’,
WT&E, 24 June 1894, 6.
27
The only study is V. Berridge’s unpublished Ph.D. thesis, ‘Popular journalism and
working-class attitudes’, University of London, 1976. Very few historians have taken
any notice of the Weekly Times: two rare exception are Barrow and Bullock, Democratic
ideas, 40, 92.
Social radicalism and the ‘popular front’ 281

of political conviction. Moreover, precisely because it arose from con-
viction, Unionism motivated the editors to rethink the purposes and aims
of radicalism. Consequently, the newspaper’s ideological outlook and
range of contributors changed several times during the following twenty
years. In 1886 the editors sacked the long-serving ‘Littlejohn’, because he
was a Home Ruler. Later, by the end of the 1880s, they opened up
their columns to contributors and correspondents from the socialist
and anarchist left. The newspaper’s advertisement and self-presentation
in the Press Directory changed accordingly: between 1886 and 1893 it was
described as ‘Liberal’ in politics and advocating ‘all measures of political
and social progress and an abolition of all the distinctive privileges in the
Universities, Church, etc.’.28 From 1894 it was described as ‘Democratic.
Advocates, irrespective of party, the claims of the workers, and all social
reforms, especially Labour questions.’29 Even the new wording under-
stated the extent of the change, for the Weekly Times had become a forum
for socialist and feminist ideas, playing a role similar to that of The Bee
Hive in its heyday in the early 1860s. But, unlike The Bee Hive, which had
always been constrained by its small circulation, the Weekly Times & Echo
claimed an ‘enormous sale’ in the mid-1890s and a growing distribution,
reaching ‘more than Two Million Readers’.30
In this respect, a comparison with the equally mass-circulated Lloyd’s
Weekly is instructive. In the aftermath of the Home Rule split, both
newspapers defended their Unionist stance by claiming that Gladstone
was distracting radical energies from the struggle against poverty and
widespread sickness. However, both newspapers were anti-socialist,
claiming that state intervention ought to support – rather than replace –
traditional self-help, for example by providing loans to working men
wishing to buy their homes and by involving the friendly societies in a
national old age pensions scheme.31 In fact they were rather complacent
about the urban poor: Britain was already providing for them ‘bounti-
fully’, although the system could be improved by discriminating more
carefully in favour of the elderly and sick ‘from whom no labour can be
expected’. As for the able-bodied unemployed, they should be sent to
labour colonies, where, as ‘inmates’, they would be made to perform


28
Newspaper Press Directory (1886), 46. 29 Ibid. (1894), 74.
30
Ibid., advertisement section, 241. This may have implied a much smaller circulation,
perhaps below 500,000 copies – on the assumption that each copy was read by at least
four people. It was certainly lower than the circulation of its main Liberal Unionist
competitor, the Lloyd’s Weekly, which boasted ‘the largest circulation in the world’, in
excess of two million copies.
31
L.a., ‘Social reforms’, LW, 14 Oct. 1894, 8.
282 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

useful tasks, such as reclaiming waste lands.32 As in the 1860s, these
newspapers insisted that the country’s principal need was ‘for retrench-
ment in our national expenditure’.33 On Irish and imperial affairs they
advocated Chamberlain’s views,34 but hoped for Liberal reunion and
refused to accept the Conservative alliance as anything more than a
temporary arrangement serving contingent political emergencies. They
were both ‘old Free Traders’ and denounced ‘the fallacies of Fair Trade’,
including the delusion that protection would increase employment at
home: ‘the only people who would benefit would be the landlords’.35
‘Fair trade’ was nothing less than a ‘[conspiracy] against the commercial
supremacy of England’ and in 1889 the Weekly Times dismissed the Sugar
Bounties Bill – the aim of which was to limit the importation of bounty-
fed, artificially cheap European sugar, which was replacing British West
Indian cane sugar – as the product of ‘folly’.36
The two papers started to diverge when Radical Unionism began to run
out of steam in 1889–90. Lloyd’s Weekly chose to dilute its political
content and coverage and eventually came back to the Liberal fold
by 1906, under the editorship of Robert Donald, who had written for
T. P. O’Connor’s Star in the late 1880s.37 The Weekly Times adopted the
opposite course and became more militant, and more serious about social
reform. Moreover, each in its own way tried to respond not only to
changed political circumstances, but also to the growing specialization
of the popular press. One of the most interesting developments of the late
1880s was the rise of ‘non-political’ working-class newspapers like the
Cotton Factory Times (Manchester), the Yorkshire Factory Times
(Barnsley) and the Labour Tribune (West Bromwich). They were con-
cerned with issues such as strikes, wages, rents and land reform and
supported direct labour representation,38 but neither reported nor dis-
cussed party political matters in the way traditional radical weeklies had

32
L.a., ‘The unemployed, and why?’, WT&E, 23 October 1887, 8.
33
L.a., ‘Free trade in America, and what it means’, WT&E, 11 Dec. 1887, 8.
34
‘The British Empire must be the Empire of the many, and the many must take the trouble
to learn to govern it if it is to be of permanent advantage to the many.’ (L.a., ‘The colonial
question’, WT&E, 1 Sep. 1889, 8.)
35
L.a., ‘Free trade in America, and what it means’, WT&E, 11 Dec. 1887, 8.
36
L.a., ‘parliamentary prospects’, WT&E, 26 May 1889, 8. See A. Howe, Free trade and
liberal England, 1846–1946 (1997), 204.
37
O’Connor, Memoirs of an old parliamentarian, vol. II, 256; A. J. Lee, ‘The radical press’,
in A. J. A. Morris (ed.), Edwardian radicalism, 1900–1914 (London, 1974), 52;
A. J. A. Morris, ‘Donald, Sir Robert (1860–1933)’, in ODNB.
38
However, the Cotton Factory Times opposed the formation of the Labour Representation
Committee (LRC) in 1900: the editors regarded an independent Labour party as a
useless addition to the ‘burdens of labour’: l.a., ‘Parliamentary labour representation’,
13 Jan. 1900, 1.
Social radicalism and the ‘popular front’ 283

done for generations since the heyday of Chartism. For example, from the
outset they steered clear of the whole Home Rule controversy, paying no
attention whatever to Irish issues.39 Partly as a reaction to the ‘eviction’ of
party politics from the new working-class press, there was the emergence
of strictly political, local penny papers, which targeted specific working-
class communities, reporting only the parliamentary divisions which were
of local interest and broadcasting local news and what the proprietors saw
as ‘instructive political articles, social notes & (as an additional attraction)
a social novel’.40 Finally, in view of the fact that more than ever before
reading was becoming part of the burgeoning leisure industry, we should
remember that the decade saw the success of non-political, leisure-
oriented publications like Titbits.41 Lloyd’s Weekly successfully steered a
middle course between leisure, information and its traditional political
vocation. Although it continued to be described as ‘Advanced-Liberal
and popular progressive’, it endeavoured to renew its appeal ‘to the
million’ by exploiting what it described as ‘the two great principles of
quantity and cheapness’. Besides offering value for money in terms of
news coverage, it claimed that ‘its contents [were] far more creditable and
comprise far more of light and literary character, than might be con-
ceived. Certainly it present[ed] an immense mass of matter; with a little
of everything, and a good deal of many things.’42 Finally, although not
stated in its advertisements, the newspaper remained alert to market
demands, wishing to reflect, rather than form, public opinion. For exam-
ple, despite its consistent Unionism, Lloyd’s Weekly was ready to capital-
ize on the widespread popular veneration of Gladstone as the national
icon of a past age. It hosted articles by him and interviews with him,


39
In June 1886 the Labour Tribune simply published a manifesto approved by the Labour
MPs and signed by Arch and Joseph Leicester, and invited the reader to vote for the
labour representatives irrespective of any other consideration: Labour Tribune, 19 June
1886, 4. The Cotton Factory Times expressed no views on the general election of 1886, but
then celebrated Broadhurst’s appointment in the Home Office as a great opportunity for
the labour movement, in view of the fact that that department controlled the inspection of
factory and mines (l.a., Cotton Factory Times, 5 Mar. 1886, 3). This has sometimes been
construed as evidence that working men had no time for Home Rule, which was just
another Liberal fad that ‘blocked the way’ to practical social reform. However, even
scholars like Henry Pelling, who suggested this view, had to admit that somehow the
Labour party too adopted Irish Home Rule by 1900, as either an electoral necessity or a
matter of principle (Pelling, Origins of the Labour party, 30). This is an implicit admission
of the fact that political parties with the ambition of appealing to the working men had no
way of avoiding the Home Rule question.
40
D. Rees from the Chronicle, Northwich, to T. E. Ellis, 14 May 1888, about the proposal to
establish a new newspaper, in NLW, T. E. Ellis MSS, 1723.
41
H. Friederichs, The life of Sir George Newnes (1911), 48–103.
42
Newspaper Press Directory (1894), 66.
284 British Democracy and Irish Nationalism

illustrated with portraits and autographs (obviously the GOM was happy
to be published in the ‘largest circulated newspaper of the world’).43
The Weekly Times’ strategy was totally different. Far from responding
to the demand for leisure-oriented and light-hearted journalism, it
adhered to the secularized puritanism of the J. S. Mill tradition to the
extent of taking pride in its refusal to publish any ‘sporting or other
objectionable news’.44 Throughout the period it was published by one
E. J. Kibblewhite.45 It claimed to be speaking for ‘[the] daily-growing
myriads of our people’ who were concerned about how to apply ‘the
principle of Brotherhood’ to national government, but ‘[were] not inter-
ested in Home Rule, or Disestablishment, or any one of the shibboleths
by means of which rival sets of self-seeking statesmen strive for office’.46
However, as we have seen, its politics were at first rather conventional
and unreceptive of the new social radicalism: for example, as late as
1887–8 it was sceptical about Bismarck’s proposals for ‘the general
insurance of the German working classes’, dismissing them as ‘undoubt-
edly Socialistic’ and too expensive to be practical.47 The ideological
turning point apparently came as a reaction to labour unrest from 1888,
which led to growing disenchantment with Liberal Unionism and disgust
for the other alternatives facing ‘the English Democracy’.48 In response to
the great strikes of 1888–9 the editor started to make space for external
contributors of a more or less socialist orientation. The newspaper rapidly
moved from recommending soup kitchens and ‘five acres and a cow’, to
demanding alternative employment for starving dockers,49 and, finally, to
hosting high-powered discussions of new radical ideas. This took the
shape of the regular publication of a large number of ‘letters to the editor’,
including contributions from socialists of various schools. Such corres-
pondence occupied a whole page of each issue – certainly more than
might have been commercially viable; it must have reflected a deliberate
editorial policy which the proprietors were prepared to subsidize. An

43
LW, 4 May 1890, 8–9. 44 Newspaper Press Directory (1894), 74.
45
About whom very little is known. The Weekly Times company was voluntarily wound up
in 1911: National Archives, BT31/12277/9714.
46
L.a., ‘German Socialism’, WT&E, 26 May 1889, 8. However, it strongly supported
Welsh disestablishment in 1895, when it was introduced by Asquith, and strongly
criticized the Liberal Unionists for opposing the Bill: ‘Liberalism worthy of the name’,
whether Unionist or not, ‘must destroy such excrescences as the Welsh Establishment . . .’
(L.a., ‘Welsh disestablishment’, WT&E, 3 Mar. 1895, 8 (emphasis in the original)).
47
L.a., ‘Prince Bismarck and socialism’, WT&E, 11 Dec. 1887, 8. Although it regarded the
English Poor Law also as both ‘socialist’ and expensive.
48
L.a., ‘Humbug all round’, WT&E, 14 July 1889, 8.
49
See the long letter by A. Johnson, a frequent contributor, on ‘Socialism and its critics’,

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