John Bright MP and the 1867 Reform Act

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After the failure of the 1848 Chartist Petition, much working class effort went into the Trade Union movement and Working Men’s Clubs and Co-operatives, with small groups continuing to agitate for Reform.

John Bright became MP for Birmingham in 1858.  Meetings on reform were held in Birmingham throughout the 1860s, and by mid-decade, he was speaking on reform to mass meetings around the country. 

In 1866, Bright backed a bill by Gladstone, the Liberal Party leader, but it failed.  There were massive protest meetings around the country.  A meeting of 150,000 to 200,000 people was held at Brookfields, in Birmingham.  Bright spoke, as well as some of the old Chartist leaders.

Disraeli, the Conservative leader, realised that some reform was inevitable.  He brought in a bill which favoured his own party, but Bright and other Liberals made numerous amendments.  The Second Reform Act was passed in 1867.  It gave most urban working class men the vote, increasing the electorate by 140%

Social and economic reforms followed, as the Chartists had hoped, once politicians had to consider working class voters.  Examples include the National Education Act of 1870, the Ballot Act of 1872 and housing reforms from 1868 onwards.