Balfour's Government

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The Failures of Balfour's Government

  • Prime Minister for 3 and a half years
  • Time in office was regarded as a failure
  • Wealthy aristocratic background meant he had little in common with ordinary people
  • He believed in parliamentary democracy as long as the masses voted for the upper classes 
  • During this period, the Conservatives lost a series of by-elections 
  • Resignations from Cabinet on policy issues
  • Lack of decisive leadership from Balfour
  • Issues of the Education Act and Tariff Reform caused this weakening in the ranks
  • Caused the loss of their popularity
  • United the Liberals in a common cause
  • Adverse publicity after the Boer War
  • Reluctance to act over the Taff Vale Case 
  • Balfour's government can be credited with several notable successes which had positive consequences 
  • For example, the Entente Cordiale and the setting up of the Imperial Defence Committee 
  • Led to important army and navy reforms 
  • Conservatives seemed unable to trumpet their successes
  • Failures played out in ful glare of public attention 
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Balfour's Education Act

  • Considerable achievement 
  • Hostility expressed towards it by the Nonconformists was harmful to the government 
  • The Education Act established State responsibility for secondary education
  • The old school boards were abolished 
  • Responsibility for financing and running of the schools was transferred to the 140 newly created Local Education Authorities (LEAs), run by county and county borough councils 
  • LEAs were authorised to build new secondary schools 
  • Religious issues
  • The provision of money from the local rates was also to be used for the Church schools that were included in the reform, but still retained a measure of independence
  • Brought a storm of protest frmm Nonconformists 
  • Believed Church schools were being advantaged by the Bill
  • Children fro working and lower middle-class families could now benefit from an education beyond primary level for a small weekly fee
  • Did not appear to impress those who opposed the measure
  • It established a national system of secondary education 
  • Caused considerable controversy and played a part in the Conservative defeat in the general election of 1906
  • Helped to reunite the Liberals and strengthen their opposition to the government 
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'Chinese Slavery'

  • Aftermath of the Boer War
  • Conservatives met with a public outcry over the issue of 'Chinese Slavery'
  • To assist with the reconstruction at the end of the Boer War, the government allowed the Rand mine owners in the Transvaal to bring in thousands of indentured Chinese coolies to overcome a labour shortage
  • Contracted to work for a particular mine owner and obliged to live in single-sex compounds
  • Isolated from the local population
  • Paid for their work and far better of than if they had been in China
  • Whole scheme raised clear comparisons with the slave trade
  • Indignation from the middle-class voters on humanitarian grounds over working and living conditions
  • Generally accepted exaggeration
  • Set a precedent that would undermine unions in the case of industrial action 
  • Strengthening Liberal opposition was not slow to heap criticism on Balfour's government 
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Balfour and the Trade Unions

  • Many groups of workers depended on the support of their trade unions 
  • Help them to improve conditions and wages
  • Unions had won important legal rights under both Gladstone and Disraeli
  • Unhappy with the Taff Vale Judgement in 1901 
  • Attacked union power and implied financial ruin for any union that called a strike
  • Baflour rejected constant union appeals for amending legislation 
  • Angered the workers
  • Huge increase in support for the LRC
  • The small group of Labour representations in the Commons looked to an alliance with the Liberals to achieve some of their political aims
  • 1905 = Liberals had been brought together and had the prospect of support for the time being of the new Labour Party 
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Conservative Division over Tariff Reform

  • Raising issue of tariff reform became a major cause of Balfour's resignation and defeat
  • Policy of free trade had been pursued for the latter half of the 19th century 
  • No tariffs levied agains ttrade with other unions
  • The Budget of 1902 had introduced a duty of 1 shilling on imported wheat
  • Helped to cover the cost of the Boer War
  • Chamberlain suggested there could be a reciprocal arrangement between Britain and its Empire
  • Imperial Preference - would lift this duty on wheat from the colonies. This would mean a return to a system of protected trade, except for the colonies, for the first time in 50 years and the propsal divided the Conservative Cabinet
  • Came against the background of Britain's contracting global economic and industrial power
  • Believe that if Britain consolidates its political, economic and miliary ties with its empire the country would be able to face any threat from the increasing influence of other countries 
  • Chamberlain envisaged some of the revenues being used for education, naval defence and also an alternative to raising direct taxes
  • This would be a divisive and damaging policy
  • Balfour appeared uncertain as to whether to adopted tariff reform
  • Chamberlain pushed on without regard
  • Criticised for his blinkered and inflexible approach 
  • Put forward some strong arguments for tariff reform  
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Conservative Division over Tariff Reform

  • Powerful speech in Birmingham in 1903
  • Chamberlain spoke against those in favour of Balfour's government 
  • Speech caused uproar and pressed home the split in the Conservatives
  • Same day = Balfour spoke in London in favour of scrapping the shilling tariff on wheat
  • Lack on consensus in the Cabinet was revealed
  • Resignations and dismissals
  • Liberals began to pull together 
  • September 1903 = Chamberlain resigned from office
  • Free to pursue his scheme of tariff reform
  • He set up the Tariff Reform League to finance his campaign 
  • Moved away from his original argment for Imperial Preference 
  • Moved to protectionism 
  • Continued to apply criticism of Balfour for evading any debates on free trade
  • Spslit the Conservatives and reunited the Liberals 
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