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Why did Balfour resign in 1905?

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Introduction

Why did Balfour resign in 1905? By 1905 Arthur Balfour and his government were in trouble. Whilst still maintaining a majority in the House of Commons and a strong power in the House of Lords, the popularity of the government was beginning to fall. With the loss of recent by-elections Balfour decided that resigning might be the wisest choice of action. There are two main possibilities as to why Balfour chose this drastic choice of action: the first is that he had grown tired of parliament and with falling public popularity and party confidence he decided that he would retire. The second reason is that Balfour saw divisions in the opposition headed by Campbell-Bannerman, and decided to exploit it by forcing the Liberals into taking office with very little chance of forming a cabinet. ...read more.

Middle

There was also the fact that there had been no general election, bar the Khaki election of 1900, for 10 years. Another cause of unpopularity was the rising level of unemployment since 1904 and the increasing anger of the general dismissal of the Irish Home Rule problem. One of the key features of the Unionist party was that it was its nature averse to change and that was exactly what the people wanted (particularly the ideas associated with the welfare state), and Balfour was unable to provide it. In essence this reason for Balfour's resignation is summed up by the following quotation from Grey's thoughts "...it was more than 2 years since the Free Trade members of the government had resigned; the shock of that had not broken up the government then and could not be the reason for its resignation now. ...read more.

Conclusion

Balfour thought that if Bannerman was forced to take office then he would be unable to form an effective government and that the liberals would be forced to form an unpopular and weak government. Asquith says that he had seen this written elsewhere and believed it to be true "Mr. Balfour was reputed at that time to be a past-master of political tactics." If a liberal believed that Balfour was a tactical genius then it is most likely that the resignation was a tactical move. In conclusion, I believe that Balfour's resignation in 1905 was a tactical move, as he had no strong reason to resign due to his majority in the House of Commons. He gambled on the supposed weaknesses of the Liberal party. That move failed, as the liberals were able to create a strong and able government. Balfour lost the general election and his seat at Manchester. Paul Wimpenny 12KJP ...read more.

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