Essays24.com - Term Papers and Free Essays
Search

‘balfour’s Leadership Was Responsible for the Decline in the Power of the Conservative (unionist) Party in the Years 1902 to 1906.’ How Valid Is This View?

Essay by   •  April 17, 2017  •  Essay  •  1,536 Words (7 Pages)  •  405 Views

Essay Preview: ‘balfour’s Leadership Was Responsible for the Decline in the Power of the Conservative (unionist) Party in the Years 1902 to 1906.’ How Valid Is This View?

Report this essay
Page 1 of 7

Arthur Balfour was the Prime Minister between the years 1902 and 1905, and as argued by Graham Goodlad, was “unsuccessful” but an “important and long-serving” figure on the British political scene. At the end of his ministry, he left the Unionist party in a state of division, allowing the Liberals to move into power in following the 1906 General Election. During the period of Balfour’s ministry, he was responsible for several controversial actions that eventually led to the decline in the power of the Conservative Party. Such issues include Balfour’s ineffectual leadership, Balfour’s inept actions on tariff reform, and the rising of the galvanised Liberal Party, however, without the flailing leadership, there, arguably, would not have been an any debate on tariff reform causing the Liberals to reunite, hence, Balfour’s leadership was ultimately the most responsible factor for causing the Conservative decline.

In terms of his character, Balfour was more of an intellectual than a fierce politician, with contemporaries regularly dismissing him as a lightweight, aristocratic amateur. Where his uncle and predecessor, Lord Robert Salisbury had an interest in politics and the country he governed, Balfour was often one to give the impression that he was bored by politics and parliamentary happenings. Unlike Salisbury, Balfour also lacked the key skills in party management and his willingness to devote time to keeping in touch with the party organisation was non-existent.

The privileged upbringing that gave Balfour his enigmatic character meant that he was not the Prime Minister that British civilians needed at the time, with national efficiency flailing, and tensions surrounding poverty rising- he was not using his authoritative power to resolve the condition of England.

Balfour had “no comprehension of the habits of his countrymen”, as said by Austen Chamberlain, which suggests that Balfour was not a Prime Minister for the people he represented, as he did not understand their struggles and “how things strike them” (Austen Chamberlain). An example of where this was seen, was in the passing of the 1902 Education Act. The Act was ultimately a success in hindsight, but where Balfour sought to improve the condition of England and national efficiency, the Education Act was not the immediate solution. The Act abolished all school boards, and replaced them with Local Education Authorities (LEAs) which would use a proportion of local rates to pay for Church school provisions. Grammar schools providing a further “secondary” education were also established, providing a classical education for those with ability.

As a private, Conservative individual, Balfour based the Act on his Conservative views as only those who were rich would be able to afford the secondary education, and this was also of no necessary use as what Britain needed was industrial workers in order to match the growing economies of Germany and France who had already had their industrial revolutions. This shows Balfour’s ignorant attitude that continues throughout his ministry. For instance, it was once quoted by Balfour that he would “rather take advice from his valet than the Conservative Party conference”. His detachment from politics, as well as his own party, can therefore be seen as another reason as to why the Conservative Party declined post-1906.

In addition to the 1902 Act, Balfour also amassed criticisms due to his lack of leadership in the Taff Vale Case in 1901. In 1900, a strike by a Welsh trade union- the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants- against the Taff Vale Railway Company had resulted in the suing of the union. The wider implications to all trade unions following this were as such: no trade union could strike without the underlying doubt that they could be sued. Balfour, the feeble character he was, decided that a royal commission would be set up rather than reverse the Taff Vale judgement. This made Balfour, and thus the Unionist Party lose support they had from the working class as their rights were no longer protected when employed, causing them to move more favourably towards the Liberals who would overrule the decision made by Balfour if they came into power. If Balfour had taken a lead on the Taff Vale Case and overruled the judgement, the Unionist Party would have been in a stronger position due to the gain of the support of the working class and hence, would not have its power declined by the 1906 Election.

A major turning point in terms of how Balfour’s leadership was viewed by the British civilians was through the issue of tariff reform in the years 1903 to 1905. Although Balfour was Prime Minister, he predominantly “sat on the fence” and let Joseph Chamberlain galvanise the Liberal Party, thus causing a further downfall in the already weakening power of the Conservatives; it was a flagging party that had been fragmented.

Joseph Chamberlain at this point in time had been a Liberal Unionist wishing to be able to assert his power in government, and he proposed the idea of tariff reform, which was both dramatic and unprecedented- it stated that all non-British colonies should have to pay tariffs on imported goods, meaning that foreign goods would be more expensive for British people to buy, and therefore, it was thought that people would therefore be more inclined to opt for British-made products which would help to boost the economy. However, what Chamberlain failed to argue was that through implementing selective import controls on imported products would only damage the British home industry in the long term due to retaliatory tariffs being imposed on British exports.

Such implementations would have gone against the free trade that both the Liberals and Unionists

...

...

Download as:   txt (9.4 Kb)   pdf (49.9 Kb)   docx (11.5 Kb)  
Continue for 6 more pages »
Only available on Essays24.com
Citation Generator

(2017, 04). ‘balfour’s Leadership Was Responsible for the Decline in the Power of the Conservative (unionist) Party in the Years 1902 to 1906.’ How Valid Is This View?. Essays24.com. Retrieved 04, 2017, from https://www.essays24.com/essay/balfours-Leadership-Was-Responsible-for-the-Decline-in/76022.html

"‘balfour’s Leadership Was Responsible for the Decline in the Power of the Conservative (unionist) Party in the Years 1902 to 1906.’ How Valid Is This View?" Essays24.com. 04 2017. 2017. 04 2017 <https://www.essays24.com/essay/balfours-Leadership-Was-Responsible-for-the-Decline-in/76022.html>.

"‘balfour’s Leadership Was Responsible for the Decline in the Power of the Conservative (unionist) Party in the Years 1902 to 1906.’ How Valid Is This View?." Essays24.com. Essays24.com, 04 2017. Web. 04 2017. <https://www.essays24.com/essay/balfours-Leadership-Was-Responsible-for-the-Decline-in/76022.html>.

"‘balfour’s Leadership Was Responsible for the Decline in the Power of the Conservative (unionist) Party in the Years 1902 to 1906.’ How Valid Is This View?." Essays24.com. 04, 2017. Accessed 04, 2017. https://www.essays24.com/essay/balfours-Leadership-Was-Responsible-for-the-Decline-in/76022.html.