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Nevertheless, between 1906 and 1914, the Liberals made a series of welfare reforms including the first state pension, national health insurance system and unemployment legislation.

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Introduction

Today, it is widely accepted that a key function of Government should be to provide for and ensure the welfare of its people. In the early 20th century, that view was not held by the vast majority of people. The prevailing ideology of Laissez-Faire ("leave alone") said that the state should stay out of the lives of the people. Any state intervention in the economic or social world would be a hindrance to individual freedom and a step towards tyranny. Poverty and unemployment were the results of the moral inadequacies of individuals. It is in this environment that the Liberal Government of 1906 would be elected, with a massive majority of 400. Their manifesto promised to protect "free trade", as opposed to the Conservative policy of tariffs. ...read more.

Middle

The forerunner of the Labour Party, the Labour Representation Committee, formed in 1900. It was an uneasy alliance of relatively small socialist parties and the Trade Unions. The LRC vowed to fight for changes in legislation, which would benefit the Trade Unions and the working class in general. This development made the Liberal party uneasy. They were afraid that their working class voters might desert them if they didn't begin to address some of Britain's social problems - such as poverty and unemployment. Lloyd George, speaking in 1904, warned that "unless we can prove that there is no necessity for a separate party to push forward the demands of labour, then the Liberal party in England will be practically wiped out". ...read more.

Conclusion

Surely, it is argued, that if they "feared" Labour so much, they would have attempted to marginalize rather than accommodate them. Motivated by a kind of 'Imperial angst' that had sprung up at the end of the 19th century, the Liberals decided to strive for a new 'national efficiency. The re-unification of Germany, and it's sudden growth into a superpower under Bismarck, coupled with the ever increasing might of the U.S.A, led many to believe that Britain's position as the main Imperial power would be under threat. These fears were only worsened when the 'great British army' had struggled to victory over a group of disgruntled South African farmers in the Boer War. It was believed that social and welfare reforms would be a panacea to these problems, creating a more cohesive society and a population of skilled and healthy workers who could work productively and be good soldiers if and when required. ...read more.

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