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The Liberal Unionist Party and the Irish Policy of Lord Salisbury's Government, 1886–1892

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Abstract

In the House of Commons on 23 May 1892, following a speech by Joseph Chamberlain in qualified support of Balfour's Irish Local Government Bill, Tim Healy assailed ‘our Birmingham Diogenes’ with considerable warmth for the manner in which such support was habitually rendered: What happens is this. The Government bring in a Bill. Its proposals are attacked, and the Government gets into distress, and then of course ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’. The Rt.hon.Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham gets up and makes a speech. I have heard him make a speech on the Coercion Bill of 1887 in almost identical terms, and also on the Parnell Commission Bill of 1888.

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Until relatively recently one of the traditional axioms of Irish historiography held that the history of British rule in Ireland was predominantly a history of failure. In the aftermath of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, hindsight could determine little else. And no British initiative has drawn more contemptuous dismissal than Arthur Balfour’s attempt after 1886 to advance the Unionist cause by ‘killing home rule by kindness’. Reinforcing this nationalist perspective has been the frequently expressed, if hardly researched, suspicion that but for Tory reaction Gladstone would have met the Irish demand at the outset with his first Home Rule Bill. The Tory riposte took a long time coming, but when it did it was blunt and to the point: ‘contrary to popular belief, it was the Conservative Party, not Gladstone, that came closest to solving the Irish problem in the late nineteenth century’.1 Yet the true idol of this revisionism was not the party but its leaders, and in particular Lord Randolph Churchill and Arthur Balfour.
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At the beginning of the twenty-first century, modes of business representation across the capitalist democracies seem worlds apart. Despite pressures associated with postindustrialization, the " macrocorporatist" Scandinavian countries maintain highly centralized, national employers' peak associations that engage in wage and policy-making negotiations with highly centralized labor unions and government bureaucrats. In Germany and other continental European countries, national employers' associations have lost power in both political representation and collective bargaining. But employers' industry-level groups continue to coordinate collective firm activities and to negotiate sectoral (often private) cooperative agreements with their workers, or what we might call "sector coordination." Finally, an aversion to cooperation appears bred in the bone in the Anglo-liberal lands of Britain and the United States: highly fragmented or "pluralist" associations organize employers and workers, and the representation of business interests remains a highly individualistic affair.
Devonshire Papers, Chats
  • Hartington
had just converted a Liberal Unionist majority of 458 (in 1886) to a Gladstonian majority of 1
  • J T Brunner