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Why were the Conservatives more successful than the Liberals in maintaining themselves in power from the middle of the 19th Century to the late 20th Century?

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Introduction

Why were the Conservatives more successful than the Liberals in maintaining themselves in power from the middle of the 19th Century to the late 20th Century? The Conservatives managed to maintain a period of dominance from the middle of the 19th Century to the late 20th Century for many reasons. The electoral system favoured them, meaning that they did not even have to get more than 50% of the vote to win the election. They were very organised, and had strong leaders who knew how to appeal to a wide sector of the electorate, and could adapt to suit the needs of the country. This factor was helped by the weakness of the opposition - the Liberals and Labour, who had no one strong leader and were wracked by divisions. The electoral system in Britain favoured the Conservatives, helping them to dominate. The 'first-past-the-post' system, whereby whoever polls the highest number of votes in a constituency becomes its MP, meant that the Conservatives did not even need to win the majority of the votes cast. The 1918 Representation of the People Act preserved 'plural voting', allowing owners of business premises outside their constituency could vote twice, and graduates could also vote for University seats - both categories were likely to be Tory. ...read more.

Middle

Any defeats the Conservatives suffered were not crushing as a result, and they were able to recover. The weakness of the opposition was another important factor in the Conservatives maintaining support. The Liberals were divided on how to appeal to the electorate, with 4 possible methods; Gladstone's response, which failed to generate mass support and provoked irreconcilable differences over Home Rule for Ireland; Joseph Chamberlain and the Radical Alternative, whose radical policies made him enemies, and he also resigned over Home Rule; the Liberal Imperialists, who advocated Imperialism, which was discredited during the Boer War. Only New Liberalism had some success, winning the 1905 general election. The split between Asquith and Lloyd George in 1916 was something the Party never recovered from. When they put themselves forward as the party of economic radicalism in 1929, the results turned out to be very disappointing, their seats only growing to a total of 59. The Liberals also supported council-housing, but the Conservative desire for a property owning democracy was far more popular. People liked the idea of self-help. Labour was also very unlikely to overthrow the Conservatives; they were a new party, and its organisation was no where near as well-funded or efficient as the Conservatives'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Disraeli was another strong leader; from 1872, he realised he needed to appeal to a wider section of the electorate. He advocated imperialism, as it appealed to everyone. He also passed social reforms in the 1870s, appealing to all classes, showing that he could adapt to changing circumstances. Although the Conservatives were the dominating party during the middle of the 19th Century to the late 20th Century, it could be argued that to some extent they did not completely maintain power. The Liberals defeated them in 1905, by convincing the public that Conservatives meant high prices. The people also wanted domestic reform, which the Conservatives apparently could not deliver. Doubts also began to rise that empire was not the way forward, after the Boer War. By 1900, the twenty years of Conservative domination had begun to crumble. To conclude, the Conservatives were the dominating Party because the electoral system favoured them, allowing them to keep the majority of seats. An important reason was the weakness of the opposition, which meant that no party could be any real rival to them. Their strong leadership and party organisation were also very important factors, helping to compound the support of a wide sector of society. The unity within the party was also important, but perhaps to a lesser extent. Yasmin Sarioglu 13V ...read more.

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