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Critical Book Review - The Strange Death of Liberal England Dangerfield, G. (1966)

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Introduction

Critical Book Review The Strange Death of Liberal England Dangerfield, G. (1966) The Liberal Party came to power in 1906, and was arguably the most talented ever assembled, names such as Asquith, Lloyd George, Churchill and Lord Grey aimed to modernise the structure of British society. It was rather disheartening for the Liberals to find that almost all of the Acts they tried to bring through Parliament were quashed by a rather heavily Conservative influenced House of Lords, unable to gain any satisfaction they threatened to saturate the House of Lords with Liberal peers until the battle was won. By 1912 the welfare state was in existence due to the National Insurance Contributions System, and the 'People's Budget' with its wealth taxation was to fund this system. A coalition was forced during the time of the First World War, and after the Liberals were never quite the same party again. A major landslide pursued spanning a number of years, and the Liberal party have always held 3rd party status ever since. In fact, they nearly disappeared altogether in the 1950's. George Dangerfield writes his book on the bases of the story from back to the outbreak of the War and shows the reader that it was not just upsetting a stable and secure way of life, ...read more.

Middle

of their chance to vote for so many years, the chances were they would vote for any other party but the one in Government. The final straw to add to the pressures facing the Liberal Government was the age-old argument about the Irish Home Rule, which had again raised its ugly head. Troops were to be drafted in to disarm the Protestants of Northern Ireland who had become increasingly worried that a centralised government would be set up to rule Northern Ireland in Dublin, and the likelihood of an army mutiny was imminent, when World War One started and the pressure on the Government from Ireland ceased during this time. I feel this book is written from a Labour viewpoint. The way Dangerfield sets the scene quite vividly in this book for its pre-eminence as the party of the Left by showing the downfall of its predecessor in that position. Individual character's leap out of the story - an irritated George Lansbury berating the Prime Minister for his treatment of the suffragettes, and having to have his ejection from the House explained to him by his Labour colleagues; and a totally bewildered and demoralised Asquith weeping at the despatch box as he tries to explain how his good intentions have brought on even more strike action. ...read more.

Conclusion

"...But the cause of Women's Suffrage - here at least she could pursue, with unflagging diligence, her late husband's work. Women had already obtained, or were clearly destined to obtain, all the minor recognitions that a political democracy can afford; only one reward, but that the most vital and the most obstinately contested, was still denied them - the Vote. To the vote, therefore, Mrs Pankhurst offered her life..." (Dangerfield, G (1997) The Strange Death of Liberal England - p142) In spite of this, George Dangerfield's book was written in the 1930s. It is instinctively readable and very objective for its time. It is important to bear in mind also that he was telling the tale from newspaper cuttings, memoirs and published records, when many of the key players were still alive, very little private correspondence which could have been seen as potentially controversial had been released, Dangerfield's book, I feel is a miracle of intuition and interpretation. It, for me, has been essential for an understanding of politics within a democracy, and also gives an example to learn from, rather than being bogged-down with detail and continuous theory. It is also a great study in human relationships and the rather farcical nature of life. Dangerfield tells this somewhat complex account very well and amusing in parts. After some 65 years, this book is still as readable as ever. ...read more.

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