The Conservative Collapse


Why was the Conservative Party increasingly unpopular from 1902-1905? 

Boer War 1899-1902

Although the Boer War was a victory for the British, it wasn't necessarily an easy one. It cost £200 million was 20,000 lives and last 3 years. The difficulties the army had in defeating such a weak power made people wuestion whether Brtian was still the strong power it once was. For example, 8000 out of the 12,000 soldiers were demmed to be too unfit to fight. The Boer War acted as a catalyst for changing opinions- why weren't the Conservatives doing more for the British?

As a result of the Boer War, Balfour imported 50,000 Chinese workers into the Transvaal in order to revive the economy- mainly in the gold mines- in 1902. This decision received a backlash from the British people- people found it exploitative. Campbell-Bannerman described it as 'Chinese Slavery' and trade unions believed it was inhumane treatment of fellow men. 

Furthermore, the policies introduced which allowed Britain to win were controversial. Lord Kitcheners ''Scorched earth'' involved the total destruction of the Boer's land and setting their properties on fire. Concentration camps were also used on 26,000 victims, 80% of whom were women and children- the victory over the Boers was not an honourable one, but used ''methods of barbarism' according to Campbell-Bannerman. 

Joseph Chamberlain's Tariff Reform

This policy was to add protectionist tariffs on trade outside the empire, whilst allowing free trade within the empire. His motive was to create imperial preference in order to boost the economy and spend the extra money on social reform, such as pensions. As a result, the party split into factions. 'Whole Hoggers' agreed with tariff reform whereas 'Free Fooders' emphasised the importance of free trade. There were also the 'Balfourites', who, like Balfour, failed to come to a clear decision and wanted compromise. Chamberalin eventually left the cabinet after the policy never went forward- af it did, C.T Richie, Chancellor, threatened to resign. 

Arguments for Tariff Reform (Whole Hoggers)

  • Extra income to be used for welfare reforms and pensions
  • Help to boost the empire and the economies of British


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