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What, if anything was new about 'New Liberalism'?

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What, if anything was new about 'New Liberalism' The 1906 election is seen as a turning point for the liberal party. The unprecedented amount of social legislation brought in with this new government is often attributed to new liberalism. But there has been much debate about how new 'new liberalism' was and how different it was to old liberalism. The extent to which new liberalism was new and the consequences of new liberalism during the 1906-1914 government requires an analysis of old and new liberal ideas and actions. To fully analyse this problem it is important to see in what context 'new liberalism' emerged. The dynamic new German Empire proved how social reform did not mean economic collapse. Soon it was becoming apparent that the old laissez faire approach to government was becoming outdated. It was soon becoming clear that it was more the responsibility of the government to tackle social issues rather than the citizen. The work of Booth Rowntree had highlighted the problems of the poor. The difficulty in getting enough fit working class men to fight in the Boer war had created a debate over national efficiency. ...read more.


The National Insurance Act of 1911 introduced National Health Insurance and Unemployment Insurance. Health cover was provided to workers in certain industries by automatically deducting 4 pence from their wages, and adding this into an insurance fund, the employer then added 3 pence and the government 2 pence. The fact that the employee had to contribute to the insurance however is an ideal of Old liberalism that people should help themselves to rise to their 'proper level of society'. The Labour Exchanges Act of 1909 set up a nationally organised but regionally operated system of job centres allowing the un-employed to find out about jobs. Although, this could also be judged as another self-help scheme influenced by old liberal ideals. The majority of this social legislation was passed after the Campbell Bannerman government. As Campbell Bannerman was a stern supported of old Liberal values it can be seen that these legislations were the difference between old liberalism and new liberalism. It is said that once Campbell Bannerman was out of the way new liberal ideas could be put forward and these were in the form of social reforms. ...read more.


Harcourt formed the basis of new liberal social funding by introducing a distinction between productive and unproductive wealth in 1892. This was during the government of 1892-1895 under Campbell-Bannerman, who was an old-fashioned Gladstonian in his attitudes. The fact that this very prominent new liberal policy was introduced during an old liberal government shows how little difference old liberalism had with new liberalism. Potter wrote "In many ways, in the Edwardian period, Liberalism underwent a change of emphasis rather than of aims." In conclusion new liberal ideals were not that different from old liberal values. While it is true that after the Campbell Bannerman government many new liberal ideas were put forward but the similarities with old liberalism can not be over looked. The large amount of legislation credited with new liberalism is really only the result of two MP's who were often opposed by the their own cabinet. The spending of social reform may have doubled but this was only due to a new freedom produced after the fall of Campbell Bannerman leadership. The government still maintained many old liberal ideals but was just able to take these ideals further in a time when these changes were becoming more acceptable and more dependant upon. Richard Delany 08/05/07 ...read more.

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