The Liberal Party, 1906-1911 - AS British Domestic Issues 1918-1951

Just a set of backgound notes on the liberal party. Hope they're helpful!

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The Liberal Attitude

"PEACE, RETRENCHMENT and REFORM" - this had been their views in the late 19th Century. They were quite 'Gladstonian'. They wanted progressive change, but at the same time didn't want to intrude on peoples conomic and social liberties. This is why they supported FREE TRADE

By 1890 - this approach was too RESTRICTIVE. Progressive and radical liberals were trying to oppose Gladstone, as he was very dominant until his death.

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Joseph Chamberlain

Chamberlain was one of those who couldn't convince the Liberals of his progressive views.

He left the party to join the conservatives after Gladstone attempted to grant Home Rule to Ireland

He was concerned about pushing policies on National Poverty. He feared those in poverty would turn to socialism.

Despite his leaving, he still left a legacy on the Liberals - one that caused them to turn to NEW LIBERALISM.

Gladstone died in 1898. David Lloyd George took over as Party Leader. His political hero was Chamberlain. He agreed that to stop the rise of socialism they needed to broaden their political appeal. To do this, he pursued a policy of SOCIAL REFORM. He allied himself with Winston Churchill, who believed that new state services were in order. 

SOCIAL REFORM became the Liberal Party's main policy, but this didn't mean they were moving away from personal freedom. They felt equal opportunity needed to be provided in reform. 

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The Liberal Reforms: 1906 - 1911

1905-1908: the PM was Campbell Bannerman - set the Liberals on the path of Social Reform. In 1908: Asquith replaced CB as PM - appointed DLG, who gained a reputation as a social reformer.

The Reforms:

1906 - Trade Disputes Act, Education Act

1907 - Education Act

1907-12 - Set of measures improving Prison conditions, creating the probation service and ending imprisonment debt.

1908 - Childrens Act, Old Aged Pensions Act

1909 - People's BudgetTrade Board Act, Labour Exchanges Act, Development Commission

1911 - National Insurance Act, Shops Act


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The People's Budget

  • The Propertied class were against the Death Duties and the tax increase on land values. They claimed DLG was waging Class War.
  • He responded that he was waging war on poverty. This also met opposition, as only some of the money went towards pensions. The rest went towards funding the Navy warships.
  • The Free Trade vs. Protection argument made matters worse: Being for FREE TRADE, the liberals couldn't pay for welfare through tariffs. And, the conservatives knew they'd lose the PROTECTIONIST argument if the Liberals could fund their budget domestically. They organised a Budget Protest League, delaying the budget for 10 weeks.
  • It got through commons eventually, but they knew their people in Lords would protest.
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The National Insurance Act

Despite it being aimed at helping people, it met strong resistance from the very people the liberals were trying to help. They didn't like the fact that they had to pay compulsory contributions. 

5 1/2 million people were already paying into private schemes, and they didn't want to pay twice.

The Popular Press attacked the Liberals for this, but Lloyd George responded that he was giving them "9d for 4d". He managed to ease resistance from insurance companies, who were afraid they would lose money, by making them an integral part of the scheme.

He also appeased Labour, who wanted it to be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy by promising to get payment from MPs. he honoured this committment in 1911

The suspicious response is understanderble, as most workers distrusted the State after their tretment throughout the 19th Century through the workhouse, compulsory education and vaccination - none of which had really helped them very much. Many thought the Act was designed to put them in their place

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The Liberal's Achievements - success?

Their Scoial reform Programme was a key step to Britain becoming a welfare state:

  • It met RESISTANCE, and wasn't as radical as some would've liked
  • It was collectivelt a CONSIDERABLE ACHIEVEMENT
  • Established the RESPONSIBILITY of the government to provide for those who couldn't provide for themselves. 
  • They had the INTENTION, but not the RESOURCES to achieve their aims immediately. 
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