Liberal Reform

1913 Words8 Pages
Between 1850 and 1914, Britain considered herself to be a world superpower, leading by example in terms of democracy, lifestyle and military power. However, by 1906 Britain’s extreme levels of poverty were beginning to embarrass the government, a blight on Britain’s record on the world stage. The principle of ‘laissez-faire’, which had been used by previous governments, began to face scrutiny: and so, in 1906, the Liberal Government began to implement changes to combat poverty and help the poor. However, their motivations are not as clear cut as their actions for it was a number of factors that contributed to the passing of the various reform acts. National security, national efficiency, the social investigators and both political and human…show more content…
The working class had voted Liberal since enfranchisement, but the formation of Labour caused competition for the votes of the poor as they were founded by Trade Unions, workers and socialist organisations: seemingly a far more relevant party for the working class. This was important as across the country Liberal safe seats became under threat, and they had to fight to retain the working class vote- which meant finally acting for the benefit of the poor. However, in 1903 a secret pact was made between Liberal Chief Whip Herbert Gladstone and the secretary of the Labour Representation Committee, Ramsay MacDonald which agreed that Labour and Liberal MPs would not stand against each other for fear of splitting the vote and instead a Conservative MP getting in. This suggests that the Liberals did not so much see Labour as a threat but a party that could be worked with to oppose the Tories, and therefore did not implement policy so as to win working class votes. A further political motivation was municipal socialism. Across Britain, local authorities (by in large, those that were run by Liberals) were taking matters in to their own hands and introducing reform through tax-increases. This was a key factor in the Liberal’s motivation as the party could not be seen to be endorsing inequality across the different areas of Britain, or face losing their Liberal councillors to the Labour party if they weren’t helped to implement measures with…show more content…
The Humanitarian Argument was recognised as an official pressure, one of many organisations that said that it was all fine and well children getting free primary education, but the poor couldn’t use it as they were unable to concentrate due to hunger or illness. This was clearly important to the Liberals as one of the first reforms implemented was The Free School Meals Act of 1906. However, the MP to propose this was backbencher William Wilson of the Labour Party- suggesting that without influence from another party, the Liberals would not have implemented any such act, and therefore were not motivated by The Humanitarian Argument. Overall, humanitarianism does not seem to have directly influenced the liberals to the same extent as either the social investigators or national efficiency. Whilst it created some pressure, the research of the social investigators actually laid the ground for their argument and caused a great deal more support from the wealthier classes. National Efficiency did also create pressure, but it was mainly internal and did not create much public support for
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