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Why did the Liberals concentrate on poverty? 1906-11.

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Introduction

Why did the Liberals concentrate on poverty? 1906-11 Britain was traditionally a hierarchal society and there was a major gulf between the rich and the poor. The upper classes reasoned this because they thought that the working class wasted their money on activities such as drinking. In their opinion, it was their own fault for being poor. Also, there was no realisation of to what extent Britain was suffering from poverty. People simply ignored the situation, or were hidden from the truth; this also accounted for the Conservative government who were in power at the time. When Rowntree and Booth released a report, which looked at poverty in Britain, the dire situation of much of the British public became apparent. The Rowntree and Booth report raised alarm bells as it proved that the working classes had no choice about being poor, and even if they saved and invested their money perfectly, it was still very unlikely that they could escape poverty. It also found that they couldn't afford some of the necessities of civilised life. This led to poor health amongst the poorer classes. The Boer War supported this claim as one third of people who had applied were rejected, as they were unfit. The findings of the report with the support from the Boer War caused a debate over 'National Efficiency'. ...read more.

Middle

One of the first things Bannermann did was to reverse the 'Taff Vale' judgement by protecting unions' right to strike. This gives the party more support from the working class. Other reforms passed by him did go against the ideas of 'Classical Liberalism', but only gave minor provisions to the public like school meals (Education Act 1906), and better working standards (Merchant's Shipping Act 1906). These types of legislation were geared up to tackle the problem with national efficiency. They did begin compensation schemes such as the 'Workman's Compensation Act' 1906. These types of reforms showed the changing attitude of the government (gained support from lower classes). However, it is thought that the Conservatives lost power in the 1906 elections rather than the Liberal party winning it: education act 1902, and the poor leadership of Balfour. Although Campbell-Bannermann was seen as a new liberalist, this was not necessarily the case, as he didn't include any radical 'New Liberalist' ideas into his campaign; sat back and watched the Conservatives make crucial mistakes. Therefore, in his office 1906-08, the fact that he didn't do much, could suggest that he wasn't a true 'New Liberalist' politician. When Campbell-Bannermann resigned in 1908, Asquith took control (much more of a radical new Liberal). Under Asquith was his the main two cabinet members Churchill and Lloyd George who were also very keen to try out some of the more socialist ideas in order to solve problems in Britain. ...read more.

Conclusion

Finally, the 'National Insurance Act' of 1911 gave a direct payment to qualifying members of the public. The two types of insurance given were health insurance, and insurance against unemployment. This supported the 'Workman's Compensation Act' of 1906 and meant that if poor people got injured of ill, they were covered (given compensation). Between 1906 and 1911, the Liberal party exercised their new, radical ideas. These ideas had an enormous impact on the working class and encouraged a new way of governing Britain (state intervention). Many reasons can be given for the reasoning of why the Liberal party concentrated on poverty. One of the most obvious reasons was because there was a real problem that needed to be dealt with; Rowntree and Booth report publicised this problem. Secondly, the growing number of working class voters meant that a new franchise was made. This new sector of voters was also very disillusioned as they were often very politically unaware. Because the Liberal party was traditionally a broad church, the votes from these people needed to be won; they knew that a focus on poverty would win these votes. The concentration on the poor by the Liberal party reflected their new way of thinking. This New Liberalism involves state intervention and also a bigger focus on certain Marxist views (redistribution of wealth). The reforms passed by the Liberal government of 1906-11 could be reasoned by their genuine belief that the gulf between the social classes in Britain needed to be narrowed. ...read more.

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