The problems facing Conservatives from 1899-1905 and the growth of Liberal popularity

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Political personalities:

Balfour, who had been known as “Bloody Balfour” when he was made Irish secretary had little knowledge or cares for the people of the country and followed a policy of Laissez faire, thinking that it was not the place of the government to intervene in the lives of the poor, thinking that they were poor because of their own fault. The British foreign policy was of isolationism; as to try and include themselves in something would only have a bad result:

“British foreign policy is to lazily float down a stream, putting out a pole now and then to avoid collision”.

He was described by Lloyd George as “not a man but a mannerism” although the Liberal leader had been described as the best Tory weapon.

In the Liberal Party, however, were 3 of the best politicians that there have ever been in history, who found it easy to knock the weakening side.

Tariff Reform:

This was introduced by Joseph Chamberlain in 1903 as an attempt to “Square every circle”, what it had was completely the wrong effect. The Tory party were split, those who wanted Tariff reform, and those who didn’t, but it had the opposite effect on the Liberal party, who had been split over the issue of Ireland, but were united and very against Tariff reform, Big loaf, little loaf argument and “no stomach taxes”.

1902 Education Act:

Balfour introduced this, so that schools, which taught Church of England, would receive funds from the government. The liberals, who were a party of “non-conformist conscience” were very against this, and were backed by all those who were not of that religion.

Taff Vale Judgement:

When the HoL allowed a company to sue a trade union for “loss of earnings” the TU’s power was taken away, so that the working class hardly had any rights. The HoL was a mainly Conservative, which turned the workers even more against the Tories, and the Tories could have stopped the bill if they had wanted to but they didn’t, so lost a lot of support from the w/ class, who subsequently turned to the Liberal party to be represented.

The Boer War:

This was meant to be short and effective, but proved to be long, expensive and embarrassing. 70% of those who signed up were turned away because they were considered malnutrition, which showed the need for social reform (which wouldn’t come from the Conservative Party), and the war sowed that the army was in desperate need of reorganisation and improvements. The war also had the first concentration camps, which C-B described as “methods of barbarism” and lost the war effort even more support.

“I see little glory in an empire which can rule the waves and is unable to flush it’s own sewers”. Churchill.

Gladstone-MacDonald Pact:

This was made by the liberal and the newly emerging Labour party, so that in 50 constituencies, there would be no Liberal candidate, so that in those constitutions, Labour could concentrate all its energy. It was also made because, together the parties could beat the Tories, but apart, Conservatives had more votes. This scheme was a success and a failure for the Liberals as they managed to win the election, but the Labour party went from having 2 seats in 1900 to 48 in 1906 and would lead to it’s eventual election into governments. At the time, however, it was considered a success.

1906 Manifesto:

Their previous manifestos had always included Ireland, a topic which had ended their previous reign in parliament, so the Liberals made sure that in their manifesto there would be no mention of Ireland. There was however, mention of such things as OAP and NI, which had only been rumoured of before, and would seem very attractive to the growing w/ class voters.


The reforms of 1867 and 1884 had extended the vote to many more working class men, so that the Liberal party would get their votes, as they had been put off Conservative after Taff Vale.

1905 Balfour resignation:

To prove to the public how ineffective the Liberal party would be if they were in government, Balfour resigned in 1905, before the election. The Liberal party, however, were very effective, and gained public support over this too.

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