The Significance of the Liberal Election Victory of 1906
“A quiet, but certain, revolution, as revolutions come in a
constitutional country” was how Lloyd George hailed the election
victory of 1906.
The significance of the Liberal election victory of 1906 is that it
laid down solid foundations to provide the welfare state we have
today. It also saw the rise of the Labour Party, giving the working
class its own political voice.
The results of the 1906 election were literally a reversal of the 1900
election. The Liberals enjoyed the landslide victory that the
conservatives had six years earlier. The 1900 election gave the
Conservatives 402 seats to the Liberals 183 seats continuing the
Conservative dominance, in the last twenty years the Liberals had only
seen three years in government. The 1906 election result gave the
Conservatives only 157 seats, former Conservative Prime Minister,
Balfour, lost his Manchester seat. The Liberals won 401 seats; these
included 24 Lib-Lab MPs; the Liberals would also have the support of
29 Labour members and 82 Irish Nationalists. This was an excellent
result which gave the new Government a majority of 356.
Although the Conservatives were overwhelmingly defeated, their
proportion of the votes did not go down compared to the election in
1900. The Licensing Act and the 1902 Education Act went against the
strict political and social views of the non-conformists. This was
enough for them to go out and vote Liberal in 1906. This accounts for
a 25% increase in Liberal votes in 1906.
After years of Tory dominance the Liberals turned the 1900 election
result on its head. A major significance was Tariff Reform, this
united the Liberal Party and they stood together and stayed united in
the defence of Free Trade. The Conservatives on the other hand were
split into three groups; the whole-hoggers – they accepted Tariff
Reform; the free-fooders – they supported free trade; the Balfourites
– who accepted limited tariff reform. Some Conservatives defected to
the Liberal Party as a result of this; Winston Churchill was one of
these. It was thought that Tariff Reform would raise the cost of
living, and there would be a trade war in industries such as textiles
and coal. The economic prosperity of Britain depended on Free Trade.
Another significance was the Lib-Lab pact, this was secretly drawn up
in 1903 between Liberal Herbert Gladstone and the LRC’s (Labour
Representation Committee) Ramsey MacDonald, it was agreed that the two
parties would not stand against each other in constituencies, so they
would not split the vote and allow the Conservatives the possibility
to win. This pact was only discovered in the 1950s when Gladstone’s
papers became available in the British Library. This pact helped gain
seats for both parties. The LRC won Liverpool and...