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To What Extent did the Liberal Party’s Reforms After 1906 Succeed in Addressing Britain’s Social Problems?

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Introduction

To What Extent did the Liberal Party's Reforms After 1906 Succeed in Addressing Britain's Social Problems? In 1906, the liberal party's general election manifesto spoke of the previous conservatives government's "failure to deal in a serious spirit with the social questions of which so much was heard at the general election of 1895" (liberal manifesto 1906 at www.politicalstuff.co.uk) . This essay will attempt to answer the question of whether the liberal's were successful in dealing with the social problems of the time, which the conservatives were deemed to have neglected. In order to effectively answer this question, first one must realise exactly what were the social problems in early Edwardian Britain:- It can be said that there was no single massive problem; more a number of smaller interrelated problems, for example unemployment, poor health and an outdated system of relief. These problems were deemed so serious that they were thought to be effecting both the home economy and the security of the empire, even the traditionally Laissez Faire, non - interventionist Liberal party decided that massive government intervention had become necessary. It is often said that the Bore war of the late 19th / early 20th century woke British politics up to the fact that reform was essential, it was around this time that it was realised the huge extent poverty and poor health in working classes - the army was rejecting recruits at an alarming rate, and performance in battle was often poor. ...read more.

Middle

It is argued that this policy, once again, did not go far enough to meet the problem of poverty and the associated health implication. This is because children only received one meal a day, which is not enough to encourage ample growth. As well as this, while school meals were provided, health care was not, this is vital as children are often the most at risk from ill health / disease. In addition to the old age pension and free school meals, the liberals had many other policies to try and address the social aliments of the time. One of the biggest of these aliments was the nations health as a whole, health care especially amongst the working classes was previously a rarity. When the liberal government introduced health insurance benefits in 1913 to workers below the tax limit, this, along with the introduction of a national panel of doctors, massively helped the nations health provision as 15,000,000 (Thompson, 1975)workers were covered by the insurance. Although definitely a huge improvement, the Health insurance policy was deemed to not have gone far enough to truly help the desperately sick; most hospital care was not covered by the insurance- therefore the outdated and inefficient systems of Charitable and poor law aid still had to be relied on. ...read more.

Conclusion

More specifically, it is argued that this lack of expenditure resulted in the unemployment insurance only protecting a small sector of the workforce along with that the old age pension only helping a very small group of the poor (Thompson, 1975). The blame for this lack of expenditure is often squarely levied at the liberal party, with two of its key figures, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill seemingly unwilling to offer support its policy's with effective amounts of investment; Semmel states that "both Lloyd George and Churchill continued to oppose the large service expenditures imperialists" (Semmel, 1960). Instead, money raised from the increased tax revenue of the "peoples budget" of 1909, that could have been used to support social reform was more often than not used for other purposes, most notably on naval expansion. When analysing the extent of the reform, it is also worth keeping perspective on the society where they were taking place; the welfare state was a completely new and alien idea and government social intervention was an idea not easily digested by the populace as a whole. Perhaps the liberal party did as much as they could, especially considering the fact that as that Michael E Rose States in The Relief of Poverty, laissez-faire was "strongly entrenched as an attitude of mind. Self help and independence were praised as virtues" (Semmel, 1960). ...read more.

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