British History AQA. Liberal Revival? 1902-1915

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A2 History Revision
Liberal Party
In 1902 the Liberal Party under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was an ineffective opposition to Balfour's
Conservative government. The real leader should have been H. H. Asquith, a very clever barrister, but he still
depended on his earnings at the Bar so had not gone up for it. The Liberals were still weak since the split over
Gladstone's 1886 Home Rule Bill. In 1892-95 the split was just made worse. However Liberal fortunes started to
change as people opposed Balfour's government. Campbell-Bannerman was a compromise candidate with a safe
pair of hands with plenty of previous government experience ­ `good honest Scotchman' (Queen Victoria)
`easy-going disposition' (himself). This first made it difficult for him to pull the party together over the Boer War,
but ultimately made him popular across the Party. His reputation was rising by January 1906. By the time of
Balfour's resignation in December 1905, the divided Liberal Party had overcome most of its differences and
appealed to the electorate enough in January 1906 to achieve a landslide victory. But it had just as much to do
with Balfour's mistakes ­ his policy decisions on education and tariff reform and lack of any real social reform
programme had turned the electorate away from voting Conservative. By early 1905 Balfour's government was
clearly doomed.
Balfour's failures
He was prime minister for 3 and a half years. He was politically astute but his cool detached manner and his
wealthy background meant he had little in common with ordinary people. He was an indecisive leader. It was not
all bad ­ some successes such as the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904 and the Imperial Defence Committee
that led to important army and navy reforms.
1902 Balfour's Education Act: Can be regarded as a considerable achievement but the mostly Liberal
Nonconformist hostility was harmful. The Education Act established State responsibility for secondary education.
The old school boards (set up by Forster's Education Act) were abolished and responsibility for financing and
running of secondary schools was given to 140 new Local Education Authorities (LEAs) run by county and county
borough councils. The LEAs were authorised to build new secondary schools but there was a religious issue. Under
the new scheme the provision of money from local rates was also for Church schools that were included in the
reform but still had some independence. This brought protests from Nonconformists who thought Church schools
had an advantage from the bill. Working-and lower-middle-class children now having education beyond primary
level for a small weekly fee did not impress the opponents. It cause huge controversy despite establishing a
national system of secondary education. The Liberals were reunited in their opposition.
`Chinese slavery': After the Boer War the Conservatives had a public outcry. To help reconstruct after the war, the
government allowed the Rand mine owners in the Transvaal to bring in thousands of Chinese workers to cover the
labour shortage. They were kept in poor conditions and middle-class voters were angry on humanitarian grounds
although the accusation of slavery was generally accepted as exaggerated. It scared trade unions as the workers
thought cheap foreign labour would be used in the UK to break a strike.
Balfour and the trade unions: many groups depended on their unions to improve conditions and wages and the
unions had won important legal rights under Gladstone and Disraeli. The trade unions had hated the Taff Vale

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A2 History Revision
judgement in 1901 which attacked legal power and implied financial ruin for any striking union. Balfour rejected
constant union appeals for amending legislation which angered the workers and brought a huge increase in LRC
support. For the Liberals the spin-off was that the small group of Labour representatives in the Commons looked
to an alliance with the Liberals to achieve some political aims. By 1905 the Liberal Party had the prospect of
Labour support as well as opposing Balfour.…read more

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1909 Liberal budget with Balfour's encouragement, the ensuing crisis led to the Liberals calling an election which
they won. Balfour resigned after as he was pushed out, and replaced by Andrew Bonar Law, a tariff reformer and
a good debater. Under the new Conservative leader the emphasis changed towards dealing with the
re-emergence of the Irish Home Rule question.…read more

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A2 History Revision
their wages. Payments were at a flat rate and hit the poorest workers the hardest. Many workers regarded
National Insurance payments as nothing more than a pay cut, arguing it was a waste of money to insure against
illnesses they might never have. Only the lowest paid workers were covered and it only included men. It was not
administered on a national basis - no Ministry of Health until 1919. Did not include dentists and opticians and left
out the worker's family.…read more


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