Explain Why The Liberal Party Achieved Essay

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Explain why the liberal party achieved a landslide victory in the 1906 election (12 marks)
One of the main reasons for the liberal landslide victory in the 1906 election was their exploitation of conservative mistakes. Joseph Chamberlains’ idea of Tariff reform split the conservative party in half. His scheme of placing higher tariffs on non-empire goods was strongly opposed because free trade had served Britain so well since 1846. A split conservative party was much weaker and it was tariff reform that was largely to blame for Balfours resignation as he failed to bring unity to his party. When the conservative party introduced Free Education in 1891 they lost the non-conformist vote to the liberals. As non-conformists were a sizeable proportion of conservative support, this was a significant loss. As the liberals were campaigning to shut down the religious schools to be funded by the scheme most non-conformist votes went to them. This was Balfours scheme, and he didn’t see it through sufficiently. It was conservatives in power at the time of the boer war, although this war ended in victory the conservative underestimation of the boers cost them. The war occurred because Britain wanted to extract gold from an area of land in South Africa. They did not expect the boers to fight back so well, this made the military look weak, they resorted to burning down houses and killing many people. The conservatives were highly criticised for their treatment of the boers. Due to a shortage of workers at the end of the boer war, the conservative government allowed 50,000 Chinese workers to be sent into South Africa to work in poor conditions for poor pay. The conservatives were heavily criticised for this exploitation of imported workers as well, it was a political scandal and the liberals spoke out against it meaning again they were gaining votes from conservative’s losses. Balfour having allowed this to happen faced outrage towards him and his party. Another factor contributing to the liberal victory was its leadership and party unity. The liberal parties’ organisation had been greatly improved under Herbert Gladstone. Many local associations were revitalised and seats were targeted for the election. Their leader Henry Campbell-Bannerman was a firm believer in free trade, Irish Home Rule and the improvement of social conditions which appealed to non-conformists and other groups alienated by the conservatives. Campbell-Bannermans strong leadership and unified party differed largely from the split and weak conservative party. Liberal leadership was strong, creating policies the public supported and forming alliances such as the Lib-Lab Pact. The Lib Lab pact was a secretive deal formed between liberal and labour. Liberals and LRC made agreement where the Liberals wouldn't oppose Labour candidates in the next General Election in 30 constituencies in England and Wales where a Labour candidate was likely win a seat. In return, the LRC restricted their candidates in other constituencies and so prevent a split in the anti-Tory vote. Doubtful if actually helped Liberals in election but increased size of Conservative defeat.

‘The constitutional crisis in the years 1909-1911 strengthened the Liberal Party’