An Atypical Northern Town
: Why Was The Keighley Independent Labour Party (ILP) Unable to Gain an MP until 1922?

  • Joshua Clarkson

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Whilst Keighley was not a particularly remarkable town in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was amongst a small group of towns that played first-hand witness to one of the most significant events in modern British political history- the rise of Labour and the decline of the Liberals. In contrast to other similar areas, however, Keighley- an old West Yorkshire mill town- saw a much more gradual Labour growth and Liberal slide. So why was this? Well, despite the occurrence of some inciting incidents, which may have alienated some Liberal supporters in the late nineteenth century, the Party retained a solid infrastructure across the town that would take years to degrade, including: a supportive local newspaper, a large amount of name recognition and a supportive class of influential industrialists. The Keighley ILP, on the other hand, began with little more than its enthusiasm and members in the 1890s. Whilst Keighley would ultimately prove to be rather fertile grounds for an ILP, it would take the organisation a number of decades to build the necessary recognition and campaigning infrastructure that it required to attain sustainable
success. All the while, the Party contended with a series of internal and external pressures. The victim of Liberal attacks throughout the 1890s, 1900s and 1910s, the Keighley ILP seemed to be on course for some success prior to First World War. The unprecedented speed and scale at which this success would come, however, could not have been foreseen, but for the initial collapse of the Liberal Party as a result of the conflict. This was a collapse which was compounded, but not confirmed, by the extension of the franchise and emergence of a new political philosophy
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBarry Doyle (Main Supervisor) & Rob Ellis (Co-Supervisor)

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