Conservative Success in the Years Before 1906

Conservative Success in the Years Before 1906

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Conservative Success in the Years Before 1906

It’s clear that there is a debate over whether the Tory success was
because of their strengths or because of the weaknesses of the Liberal
party. In this essay I am going to discuss the different views of this
debate.

In the 1880’s, the Conservative party changed itself from being
identified with agricultural interests to being broader by gaining
support from the middle classes.
They also appealed to the
working classes. This would increase their votes as they now had
support from a larger range of classes instead of solely aristocracy.

After the 1884-85 reform acts were passed, a new electoral system was
put into place that favoured the Conservative party, which, in
particular, enabled them to win seats in industrial towns. This was
possibly due to the creation of single-member constituencies.

Another strength for the Conservative party was Lord Salisbury. From
1881 – 1885 he made attempts to widen the gap in the Liberal party and
gain support from industrial areas through both strong and regular
speeches. He also made an alliance with the Unionists to help create a
united front between them. He managed to satisfy everyone by treading
cautiously in his actions.

In 1886 the Home Rule Bill was passed by Gladstone. This bill was
backed by many Liberal MPs, but both the Conservative Whigs and a
group of radical Liberals opposed the bill and ended up leaving the
party. They formed their own party, the Liberal Unionists, which
backed up the Conservatives. However, there was a split between them
and that meant their attempt to bring down the Government (by voting
against the bill) failed. Over the next few years the split grew as
the Liberal Unionists moved closer to the Conservative party.

The Primrose league was set up in the 1880’s, its aim to promote

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Conservative values. They held important functions such as fetes and
tea parties. They were also popular as they encouraged the
participation of women in politics. The party claimed to have members
from both rural and urban societies and the popularity of the party
gradually grew. By 1891 they had exceeded 1 million members, although
the numbers of members and their popularity fluctuated along with the
popularity of the Conservative party.

The results of the 1886 election were due to both the growing
popularity of the conservative party and the split in the Liberal
Unionist party, which had caused financial problems for them. They
then found it hard to employ candidates as they had no money to pay
wages meaning the candidates would have to be wealthy. In the 1886
election, the Conservative’s took 116 seats from the Liberal
Unionists.

But it was not only the split that caused weaknesses in the Liberal
party. In 1894, Gladstone resigned as the party’s leader which caused
problems of authority and in holding the party together. The Earl of
Rosebury was appointed as the new leader; although many did not agree
he was right as he was from the Whig side of the party. Over the next
few years the leader of the party changed, moving from Rosebury to
William Harcourt and finally Henry Campbell Bannerman in 1898. The
changes in the party caused further weakness and they became less
popular as their leadership was unstable.

I believe that both Conservative strengths and Liberal weaknesses
played a large part in the success of the Conservative party before
1906. The problems the Liberal party had with leadership didn’t make
them look stable and reliable to potential voters and, in turn, lost
them support. This only increased support for the Conservatives. I
think the Conservatives may have had the upper hand in their success
as they worked hard on their campaigns and changed themselves to
appeal to wider range of people. Generally I think that the
Conservatives gained a lot of success of their own accord but their
successes were amplified by the Liberals weaknesses.
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