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"Describe the main factors in the Liberal victory in the 1906 election"

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Introduction

History Essay "Describe the main factors in the Liberal victory in the 1906 election" The Liberal Party won an overwhelming victory in the 1906 election due to a variety of reasons. Many of these relate to mistakes on the Conservatives behalf, but it was equally important how the Liberals managed to capatalise on these errors. I believe Tariff Reform to be the most damaging issue to the Conservatives and the one that had the greatest impact on the 1906 election. Joseph Chamberlain, secretary of State to the Colonies, became convinced that Britain's future could only be secured if free trade was abandoned and was replaced by a system of preferential tariffs. His idea was that Britain would charge tariffs on imported goods, except those from the British Empire. This would allow the raising of revenue to be spent on social reforms, such as pensions and imperial ties would be strengthened. 'Protection, by preserving the profitability of industry, would also maintain the rate of employment.' ...read more.

Middle

The Liberals capitalised on this error and produced propaganda hoping to destroy Unionist popularity even more. The political scandal that followed the protests had not abated by 1906, and it certainly harmed the Unionists at the polls. In 1904 unemployment stood at 600,000 and it was recognised that a scheme needed to be proposed to help the unemployed who at the time had no benefit. The result was the Unemployed Workmen Act 1905. Many authorities were set up in each London borough to provide money, casual employment for the temporarily unemployed, and to refer the permanently unemployed to the workhouse. The major financial resource came from the Queen's Fund, amounting to �153,000; as well as a local rate of no more than one penny in the pound. The fact that the Bill couldn't be reversed meant it was only carried with opposition support and was strongly resisted by die-hard unionists. The workers were no better off; destitution was the main problem, and the Bill did not attack the root of this. Employers also objected as the government was interfering with 'free-market'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Balfour attempted to exploit potential rifts in the Liberal Party to weaken the party and increase the chance/possibility of tuning around the Conservative electoral slide. He did this by resigning from parliament rather than being dissolved. Thus the Liberals are forced into government (rather than holding an election) for a year before the 1907 election. Balfour hopes that within this year the rifts in the Liberals will show so that the Conservatives will win back the public before 1907. But Balfour's tactical plan backfired on the Conservative Party as the Liberals made a 'good job' of governing. Under the leadership of Campbell Bannerman, and his desire to keep the conservatives out of government, they succeed in their ideas of Free Trade etc. Bannerman manages to stand above the 5 factions; he holds people from all these factions and unites them in government. To conclude I would say that the main issue involved in the Liberal victory were the many careless reforms introduced by the Conservatives and in particular Balfour. The most important of these reforms being Tariff Reform which overall united the Liberals and divided the Conservatives. Robert McEwan ...read more.

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