How the Tories lost the power in Liverpool

December 1, 1892
Mrs. N. Stewart-Brown writes to the Woman’s Herald – The most remarkable victory achieved by the Liberals at the recent municipal elections was undoubtedly that in Liverpool, which has for the last 50 years been the Tory stronghold of the north of England.

The cause of the triumph of the Liberal party here is of special interest to women, as it was due to the stand made by that party against the brewers and publicans, with whom the Tories had so long allied themselves in return for their votes and money.

During the past ten years the scandal of the wholesale licensing of public houses in districts where there were already far too many, for the sole purpose of putting money into the brewers’ pockets, has steadily increased, and many of the more respectable Tories remonstrated with their party, but in vain.

The solid phalanx of 16 Tory aldermen, who were chosen from the candidates rejected by the electors, resisted all the onslaughts of the Liberals in the Council and out of it. The temperance party were working unceasingly to open the eyes of the ratepayers to the fact that the Tories in Liverpool were the slaves of the brewers, and that no reforms could be hoped for till the Tory adermanic ring was broken.

A great object lesson, fortunately for the reformers, was furnished by the Tories themselves three years ago, when a license was granted for a new public house in a district literally swarming with gin-palaces of the lowest description, against the wishers, and in fact in face of the written protest of 600 of the most respectable ratepayers of the neighbourhood.

It should perhaps be explained that the magistrates who sat on the licensing bench of Liverpool were chosen exclusively from the Tory party, and many of them were Tory aldermen, so that the Town Council was more or less responsible for this outrageous action. From the time of this celebrated “Southill-road license” a movement knows as the “Temperance and Purity Crusade” as made steady progress in Liverpool, and to this movement is due the recent triumphs of the Liberals.

In addition to the Tory alliances with the drink traffic, they were the champions of immorality by dealing to put in force the Criminal Law Amendment Act for the suppression of street solicitation and houses of ill-fame. Here, again, they had to yield to the publicans, who did a tremendous trade with the unfortunate women and their companions. A large area in the heart of the town was literally given over to this awful traffic; the police never interfered, and vice flourished under the protection of the authorities.

The crusade against the Watch Committee policy of non-interference was headed by a well known Unitarian minister, Mr. Armstrong, who for his impassioned eloquence and fearlessly outspoken attacks on the dominant party in the Council, deserves the thanks not only of Liverpool women, but of all women who care for social purity. In his pamphlet, published two years ago, entitled “The Deadly Shame of Liverpool,” he gave a graphic description of the horrors of the trade in vice, and aroused such a feeling of disgust against those who were responsible for it, that the Tory party from the moment of its appearance, when they failed to deny the charges brought against them, was doomed.

Women who at previous municipal elections had never voted, caring naught for “politics,” now felt the responsibility resting on each individual elector, and went to the poll to record their votes for the Liberal candidate, who represented the policy of temperance, purity and progress. The Women’s Liberal Associations took the question up and were active in canvassing and educating the women voters.

When the Tories learnt of the victories gained at the pools two years ago, and found their majority in the Council, even with the aid of the faithful aldermen who could always be trusted to vote straight against any proposal for temperance or moral reform, was a very insignificant one, they turned over a new leaf. They consented to put some of the leading Liberals on the Watch Committee, and inaugurated a new policy in their dealings with immoral houses.

The protected area was abolished, and the keepers of bad houses were prosecuted and fined, as they have always been since the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, in the respectable cities of England. But the Tories did this grudgingly and of necessity, with the awed purpose of showing that the Purity Crusade was a mistake, and that vice was a necessity.

Some of the Tory candidates at the recent election expressed strong disapproval of the new policy, and admitted that if they were returned they would do all they could to restore the laissez faire policy which had brought to much disgrace on the town, and so largely increased the sum of crime and misery. Fortunately, these high minded candidates were not successful at the polls.

Now, Liverpool presents the curious anomaly of returning seven Tory M.P.’s and only two Liberals, while in the Town Council the Liberals are 32 and the Tories only 16. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these figures is, firstly, that the Liberals have won at the municipal elections because they, as a party, stood for temperance and social reform; and secondly, that the women, who have no choice in the election of M.P.’s, have, where they possess the vote, proved themselves supporters of the Liberals, in spite of the attempt of their clergymen to induce them to vote for the brewers’ nominees.

Surely the Liberal party when they meet at the Council of the National Liberal Federation, which is to be held in Liverpool in the early part of the new year, will have their attention drawn to the fact that women do not as a body side with the Tories, and will withdraw their opposition to a measure for the complete enfranchisement of our sex.
(Liverpool Mercury: December 1, 1892)

1892 election sketch from Illustrated Police News: July 23, 1892.
Election 1892


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