The 1906 Election
Why was this Election Called?
- The Conservatives had been in power for since 1900 and by 1905 were facing much criticism.
- The Criticism was coming from a various things which had occurred during the Con. time in office.
- The Conservative Prime Minister (A.J Balfour) as a result decided to resign his party from Government and the Liberals stepped into power under the leadership of Campbell-Bannerman.
- The Liberals then decided to call a General Election in January 1906.
Who won and why?
- The Liberals won a large overall majority. 400 seats for Libs. and 157 for Cons.
- Conservatives had dropped from 402 (1900) to (157).
- Labour had also risen its number of seats from 2 (1900) to 29.
- REASONS FOR THE LANDSLIDE VICTORY: (occurred in 1906 for Lib and 1945 for Labour)
- Liberals had appeared demoralised and divided over Irish Home Rule... Cons. had won two general elections (1900-1902 and 1902-1906)
Reasons for the Landslide Victory of 1906
The Boer War
--> 1899-1902- took place in South A. against the Dutch settlers living in Transvaal and Orange Free State. The British had had a victory and the Cons. prematurely exploited this victory and the Liberal divisions over the war by winning the 'Khaki Election' in 1900.
---> The Boer War revealed the effect of poverty in the cities as soldiers were unfit and unhealthy, making them unsuitable in combat. The Liberals won support from this as a result by pointing out that the Cons. had failed to acknowledge this.
--->The War enabled Joseph Chamberlain to push his campaign for Tariff Reform. This issue greatly split the Cons.
Reasons for the Landslide Victory of 1906
The 1902 Education Act
- Aroused the fury of many Non-conformists and led them to revert to the Liberals.
- Before 1902 Religious schools had been funded by their churches; however, the 1902 act provided funding for all Anglican and Catholic schools at local rates.
- Great campaign against this. Some Non-C's refused to pay their taxes in Wales.
- Lloyd George led an orchestrated campaign in Wales and persuaded Welsh to show their disapproval of this Cons. policy by voting Liberals in Welsh 1904 election
The 1904 Licensing Act
- Again, this angered the Non- C's.
- The act limited the number of pubs but proposed to compensate brewers and publicans for the cancellation of licenses.
- Brewers supported Cons. = nicknamed the 'Brewers' Bill'
- Non-C's had always voted Lib but switched after Home Rule, but were now reverting back.
- By-elections show that Lib support increased after the disagreements of these acts.
- The campaigns helped re-unite Liberals and laid basis for 1906 success.
The Chinese Labour Issue
- A.k.a 'Chinese Slavery'
- A scandal that damaged the Cons. - Non C's and Trade Unionists upset
- Chinese laborers sent to South A to work for very long hours and very low wages.
- Moral outcry from Non-C's
- Trade Unionists worried that they may be brought into Britain to work cheaply.
- unemployment was high in 1905 therefore this opposition took Cons. votes away.
The Taff Vale Case
- Loss of support due to failure to Taff Vale Court Case.
- In 1901, disputes between Taff vale Railway Company and the Trade Unions in Wales led to strike action.
- The company sued the unions and demanded re-compensation.
- The House of Lords ruled that the company had the right to sue a trade union.
- This upset the unions as it made any striking almost impossible.
- This resulted in trade unions campaigning against the Cons. and promoting Labour.
Neglect of Social Reform
- 1906 Election was not fought on reform.
- However, the idea of poverty and reform was in the air at this time adn the Boer War had exposed some horrendous cases of malnutrition and poverty, especially in the cities.
- The newly organised LRC had started to develop ideas of Reform and the Liberals were also working out a new form of Liberalism.
- The Cons. had done nothing (exc. Balfour Education Act of 1902) during their period in office.
Tariff Reform Campaign
- Joseph Chamberlain campaigned for Tariff Reform.
- He proposed to lower the level tariff for countries in the British Empire, which resulted in a policy called Imperial Protectionism ---> stronger position in the world, protect British jobs and help pay for social reforms.
- Damaged the Conservatives. WC and MC feared that tariffs would increase the 'bread and butter' issue and increase the price of food.
- Churchill voted Liberal on this case in 1904.
- Re-united Liberals on the belief of Free Trade.
- Balfour- Lord Salibury's nephew.
- Poor speaker and did not help the Cons. campaign.
- Not sensitive to public opinion- miscalculated the reaction of the working class.
- Indirectly responsible for the timing of the 1906 election.
- Allowed Chamberlain to make tariff reform a key Unionist party form 1903 onwards.
Attractions the Liberal Party
- Reunited by 1905.
- Divided by Home Rule but united by Boer War and Free Trade.
- 'Broad' party promoted by CB- not dominated by any one issue.
- Exploited Cons. weaknesses.
- Promised Welsh disestablishment (removal of the power of the Anglican Church)