"militant elite led by Bradlaugh"

Caricature of Bradlaugh from Punch (1881)
Public DomainCaricature of Bradlaugh from Punch (1881)
Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was a politician, an atheist and the founder of the National Secular Society in 1866.  His social principles (including support for women's suffrage and opposition to the monarchy) led him to clash with the authorities, as a result of which he was arrested a number of times.