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Lib-Labs were working-class MPs who, whilst prepared to speak out on ‘labour’ issues, accepted the Liberal whip. In 1874, Thomas Burt ( Morpeth) and Alexander Macdonald ( Stafford) became the first two such MPs. In constituencies where union members (chiefly miners) predominated, Liberal associations were often coaxed into nominating them, although William Abraham (‘Mabon’) at Rhondda in 1885 had first to defeat a Liberal employer. That election produced 11 Lib-Labs, but their numbers stagnated thereafter, except at the 1906 ‘Liberal landslide’ when 24 were elected. The appointment of Henry Broadhurst to the 1886 government reflected Gladstone's appreciation of the Lib-Labs' loyalty; however the leadership during the 1890s was frustrated by the reluctance of impoverished local associations to adopt Lib-Lab candidates. The decision of the miners to join the Labour Party in 1908 dealt a fatal blow to the Lib-Lab creed, notwithstanding the handful of Liberal working-class MPs who persisted until 1918.

Stuart Carter

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