• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How far was the Decline of the Liberal Party in the Period 1867 to 1918 due to the effects of the First World War, rather than due to the growth of Democracy?

Extracts from this document...


How far was the Decline of the Liberal Party in the Period 1867 to 1918 due to the effects of the First World War, rather than due to the growth of Democracy? The Liberal Party faced many problems in the period 1867 to 1918. The growth of democracy and the development of class based politics meant the Liberals needed a new direction and a new identity. Middle and upper classes voted Conservative, and increasingly the working classes were abandoning the Liberals for Labour. There were other problems including the issue of women suffrage, Irish home rule, and the disputes with the House of Lords. However, the Liberals' fate was sealed with their conduct of the First World War. No firm direction, divisions in the party, coalition governments, undermining of Liberal ideology, the increase in franchise and the exponential growth of the Labour Party all resulted in the destruction of the Liberals. The subsequent social reforms of 1832, 1867, and 1885 increased the number of working class voters so that by 1885 60% of adult males could vote, and politics became more divided on class grounds. The working class would traditionally vote Liberal as opposed to conservative, but increasingly the Liberal Party were neglecting working class issues such as wages and providing jobs with the inevitable result being the rise of the purely working class Labour Party - 'The Liberal Party was bankrupt of ideas, and lacked popular roots in the community which would have enabled it to withstand the assault upon its traditional ideas' (A). ...read more.


Upper House obstruction in the Parliament of 1892-95 had reduced the government to impotence as the peers abused their powers over the Lower House. The Liberal victory in 1906 brought with it an 'ambitious and constructive policy of social reform...which necessitated the introduction in 1909 of a highly controversial budget' (B). The rejection of this by a Conservative majority in the House of Lords instigated the Parliament Act 1911 which successfully curbed the powers of the Upper House and resulted in a comprehensive defeat of the Lords. A further problem was Britain's mighty industry - 4 million days were lost through strikes in 1912 alone. However, most trade unionists were not interested in a general strike to overthrow capitalism, and still gave grudging support to the parliamentary forces of the Labour Party. The issue of women's suffrage gained much publicity, but the Pankhursts' WSPU was an irritant rather than a serious threat. The only real problem occurred when the women started to starve themselves when imprisoned for acts of violence - this was dealt with efficiently by the Cat and Mouse Act in 1913. However, the issues regarding Ireland posed potential political dynamite. In 1912 the issue of Home Rule came to the forefront and there was a high chance of civil war breaking out. The resultant guerrilla war by the nationalists against the irregular forces linked to the crown represented the collapse of the perceived chance that a peaceful answer could be found to the Irish problems. ...read more.


The rise of Labour as a result of the war, represented through the war by Arthur Henderson, legitimised the party and Henderson's position in the war cabinet provided the pivotal credibility and confidence. There was almost full employment during the war, which meant increases in the number of member of the trade unions - 4 million in 1914 to 6 million in 1918 - which increased funds and support for the party. The Representation of the People Act in 1918 increased the franchise further from 8 million to 22 million - as most of the newly enfranchised were working class this greatly benefited Labour. The new Labour programme also enabled them to fill the gap left by radical Liberals in many parts of the country. Liberal dependence on Irish Home Rule Party collapsed - as they lost much ground to Sinn Fein (1918 Sinn Fein held 73 seats compared with just 6 for Irish Home Rule Party). The Russian revolution inspired working class consciousness, therefore increasing support for Labour due to class based politics. Labour also benefited as their socialist policies of nationalisation of industry needed during the war had worked well, for example coal mining and the railways, thus providing further credibility. The decline of the Liberal Party was most certainly due to the war. Huge events such as the split between Lloyd George and Asquith and the rise of the Labour Party opened deep cracks in the Liberal Party, which ultimately caused the disintegration of what once the most dominant party in the country. Thomas 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. Is the Liberal perspective on world politics too idealistic?

    (Sandel, M. 1984. Page 63) Liberalism emphasises the recognition of equality, this is also know as the strategy of privatization. Liberals argue that a individuals political and religious views are a matter of private concern. They stress that equality should be enforced through a set of basic and civil rights and economic entitlements.

  2. The rise of the Labour Party had more to do with class consciousness than ...

    There was a strong tendency toward the Liberal traditions of piecemeal reform and compromise within the existing political structure - neither of which indicated a particularly socialist intent. This can be explained in part by the fact that the trade unionists came from a background of negotiation and compromise, leading

  1. The Parliamentary Reform and Redistribution Act of 1884 - 1885.

    15,000 and 50,000 lost one of their MPs and became single member constituencies Towns with populations between 50,000 and 165,000 were given two seats; Larger towns and the country constituencies were divided into single member constituencies. Source- The 20th Century Mind, C.B Cox and A.E Dyson Analysis It is clear

  2. Is the labour party a socialist party.

    Many of the Labour MPs were educated at top schools, many of which are private, and many of the MPs send their children to private schools and top schools, which is very different to the traditionally characteristics of the Labour MPs of the early 1900s when the Labour party was relatively new.

  1. To what extent did the key political ideas directly Influence change and development in ...

    However, in contrast to Cavour, Bismarck had won mass support for his king and together they devised a type of Nationalism that was more conservative and incorporated Bourgeois economics and popular authoritarianism.

  2. Iran Country Study

    There have been many calls for Iran to stand up for itself in the face of the United States and the West, which came after the election of President Ahmadinejad. This represents the democratic process and provocative feedback mechanism in Iran's political process.

  1. Is Liberalism compatible with democracy?

    John Adams, in his 'Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America', was more explicit, finding that, if the majority were to control all branches of government, "Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on others; and at

  2. Stages to Germany from 1918 to 1919

    Who had been appointed chancellor by Wilhelm II. With this new government Prince Max brought about some new reforms, but at these times in German society, they were not sufficient. This time as the Economy was in a terrible state and People were tired of the war this caused more problems amongst the people.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work