Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Digestive Seating Plan: The Liberals absorb the Progressives, 1926

Analysis of the social aspects of Canadian parliament are usually confined to the bad behaviour of representatives hurling abuse at each other like belligerent drunks.  Socialization between members of parliament, however, appears to have played a role in the final demise of the federal Progressive party.  W.L. Morton, noted in The Progressive Party in Canada that the Liberal whips of 1926 realized that fostering a human comradery could help King's Liberals absorb the crumbling Progressive Party. Morton wrote:

"In 1926 the Liberals had swallowed the Manitoban Progressives, wholly or in part, except for those who had return to their original home in the reviving Conservative party.  To the digestion of these Progressives the party now addressed itself with adroitness and alacrity.  [...] The Liberal-Progressives henceforth attended the Liberal caucus, although, having stipulated that they should maintain their identity, they also met separately.  They did not, however, insist on being seated as a separate group, but allowed the Liberal whips to seat them in rows of seats sandwiched from front to rear between rows of Liberal members.  The consequent fellowship of neighbourhood, of the whispered aside, of parliamentary jokes and confidences, greatly aided the process of digestion."
King Campaigns in 1926.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada / C-024763
With 116 seats of the 245 available in the Commons, King would rely on the eleven Progressive seats for support.  The return of eight "Liberal-Progressives", eleven United Farmers of Alberta candidates, and a single United Farmers of Ontario candidate, shows how the party of agrarian protest was chopped and ready for Liberal consumption by 1926.

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