Conservative Dominance in British Politics

Conservative Dominance in British Politics

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Conservative Dominance in British Politics

There are many different factors which contributed to the Conservative
dominance of the period between 1885 and 1905. For one, the electoral
reform of Gladstone's second ministry had a large effect on the
Conservatives period in office as did the skill of Salisbury as a
leader. The role that the government took in terms of its policies and
foreign policy, and the nature of support for the party also played
important roles in the conservative dominance. This is because the
Conservatives lost working class support during its ministry, yet
still managed to dominate politics for nearly twenty years. However,
it can be suggested that due to the split in the liberals and the
weaknesses the party, that conservative dominance was more to do with
Liberal weaknesses than conservative strengths.

One of the key reasons the Conservatives were so successful was
because of Salisbury's leadership skills. This was demonstrated when
he managed to persuade Gladstone that he would (as head of house of
Lords) pass the reform act in return for the Redistribution of Seats
Act. Salisbury knew that the reform act was inevitable, so he used his
political skills to negotiate the redistribution of seats act in
return for the reform act. This ultimately benefited the conservatives
as they won the next election; however, it was a mixture of
Gladstone's weakness to deal with his opposition, as apposed to just
Salisbury's leadership skills. His skills were also evident and
beneficial in the Redistribution of Seats bill as it weakened the Whig
element of the Liberals, and seeing as the Whigs joined the
Conservatives when the Liberals split, strengthened the Conservatives.
Another aspect of this redistribution act which showed Salisbury's
strengths and leadership qualities was how it would mean the
Conservatives would gain the support of the Middle Class. This shows
Liberals weakness and the Conservatives strengths leading to the
party's dominance. It can be argued therefore that the source is
correct in saying that the reason the Conservatives were so dominant
in British politics is because of Conservative strengths i.

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Salisbury's leadership skills. He also dealt very well with the
disputes within the party as shown when he achieved the army funds in
return for Churchill's resignation which was ultimately beneficial for
the Tory party. The appointment of WH Smith showed his ability to
appoint people from different backgrounds to his own and the skills of
Smith shows his excellent judgement.

However there are a considerable number of other factors in explaining
why the conservatives were so dominant. For example, the weaknesses of
the Liberal party. The Liberal split of 1886, due to the Home Rule
crisis, created the Liberal Unionist party, which supported the
Conservatives throughout the period of 1886 to 1895 and shows how it
was a Liberal weakness which strengthened the Conservatives. This is
shown in the 1895 general election when a Conservative coalition with
the Liberal Unionists saw Salisbury return to power. Another key
weakness of the Liberals was the reliance of support on the Home Rule
party which meant if they failed to keep their support, they could
lose the election. The failure to pass the 1893 Home rule bill secured
this fate. They also relied heavily on Welsh and Scottish votes as
they failed to gain a majority in England. The reform act gave safe
Tory constituencies in business areas which showed the weakness in
Liberal policy as that ultimately helped the Conservatives win the
Election. The Liberal party was also under weak leadership which meant
that it was struggling to keep together. Without the leadership
qualities of Gladstone they lacked a unifying factor that they needed.
This helps to show that there were considerable weaknesses in the
Liberal party which would mean that the Conservatives would gain
support and therefore dominate politics.
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