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

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Why did the Liberals concentrate on poverty?


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’.

The realisation of the state that many people were in was an enormous problem for the government.  The thought of the great British Empire being run and lead to war by unfit, and malnourished men was an overwhelming disgrace.

After the Boer War, a debate arose over the efficiency of the British workforce.  Along with Britain’s decline as a world power, and the Boer War, it was clear that the only way Britain can continue being as influential in the 20th Century would be to create a strong, healthy,

well-educated workforce.

Joseph Chamberlain launched his tariff reform campaign in order to address this problem.  This could be related to New Liberal ideology.

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Chamberlain’s measures whilst in office as Mayor of Birmingham made the Liberal party realise that such ideas as local governments managing their own amenities and facilities, could work and benefit the whole community.  The success of the schemes that were set up raised the possibilities of similar ideas being practiced on a national scale.

There are four other main factors that attributed to the development of New Liberalism.  

Firstly, the report by Rowntree and Booth made many Liberals question their traditional values (believing in a policy of Laissez-Faire and ‘Classical Liberalism’)

Also the economic situation was less secure ...

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