In 1903 Herbert Gladstone, the Liberal chief whip, negotiated a secret electoral pact with Ramsay MacDonald, secretary of the LRC, to deny the Unionists the advantage of a split progressive vote. Building upon these electoral arrangements some social radicals wished to construct a permanent ideological accommodation. An ‘organicist’ intellectual synthesis, the project was to extend beyond traditional boundaries, Liberal and socialist, to embrace progressive concepts of distributive justice, industrial conciliation and social democracy, while upholding the principles of individual liberty, equality of opportunity and reward for initiative. No longer guaranteed by laissez-faire individualism, social harmony was to be underwritten by limited collectivism, by intervention sufficient to ensure distributive justice for the working class while preserving free trade and the continuance of capitalism.
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