Increased opportunity to participate

In the 19th century, many were unable to enter politics, even if they wanted to.

Politicians were unpaid and there were also exclusionary property qualifications.

Working class men in particular were affected - since they were not affluent enough to give up work in order to campaign without pay.

However, two major changes meant making a living as an MP became easier.

Abolition of the Property Qualification

The need to own a certain value of property was abolished in 1857. This meant that working class men could stand for election. However, this did little to improve the number of working class MPs - most could not afford to commit to unpaid work.

The Parliament Act, 1911

The Parliament Act introduced pay for MPs. This allowed those on lower incomes to stand for election without worrying how they could provide for themselves and their families.

Improved representation

Lack of representation by political parties for working class voters in the 1800s meant that Britain was not democratic.

Although the majority of working class men were enfranchised by 1885, no political parties and few politicians were truly willing to represent working class interests.

As a result, there was little incentive for many men to vote.

The rise of Labour

By the end of the nineteenth century the trade union movement was gaining pace. Trade unions recognised that they needed a voice in Parliament if they wanted to change the political nature of Britain.

In 1900 the unions agreed to use some of their funds to set up a new organisation called the Labour Representation Committee. It was formed from a number of socialist groups who wanted to promote the relatively new political ideology.

The Labour Representation Committee became the Labour Party in 1906.

The establishment of the Labour Party increased choice for the British electorate and offered the working classes a voice within parliament.