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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s

Learning and Beliefs

Inter-War Unionism

By I G C Hutchison

Sir John Gilmour The inter-war years were quite successful for the Tories in Glasgow. They regularly performed well in parliamentary contests and provided the backbone of the dominant party on Glasgow Council from 1918 to 1933.

Walter Elliot The total annihilation of the Liberals after the war left the Tories as the only alternative to Labour, which was both very left-wing and a serious electoral challenge. The Tories were the receptacle for militaristic and imperialistic opinion, both of which had been stimulated by the First World War. The party was careful to adopt policies which would encourage moderate opinion to rally behind them. The most progressive Scottish Tory of the era, Walter Elliot (1888-1958), sat for a Glasgow seat and became the most enlightened Scottish Secretary between the wars. The Tory-dominated Glasgow Council enthusiastically embraced subsidised public sector house-building as the solution to the long-standing housing crisis and some very impressive schemes were constructed under its aegis. In local government, the Tories used a front body, the Moderate (later, Progressive) party, which incorporated non-Conservative but anti-socialist individuals and associations under its wing – so that in the 1930s, the deputy leader of the party was a Liberal.

Advertisement The Unionists had an exceptionally strong and efficient organisation masterminded by Sir Lewis Shedden (1870-1941). Total membership was much higher than Labour's. Social activities, notably afternoon bridge club sessions, generated money and support, and great emphasis was placed on recruiting women and young people. Propaganda was skilful, helped by the pro-Unionist stance adopted by all three Glasgow morning daily newspapers. The party won limited support from working-class Orange elements who, while aware of the economic and social benefits of being associated with the Orange Order, still voted Labour, as in Govan and Bridgeton.

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