The Liberal Government, 1905–10

  • William D. Rubinstein


Balfour’s expectations that the Liberals would be unable to form a stable government appeared to be firmly grounded in political reality. A few months earlier, in September 1905, Asquith, Grey, and Haldane, the three most prominent Liberal Imperialists, had met at Relugas, Sir Edward Grey’s fishing lodge in Morayshire, and contrived what has become known as the ‘Relugas Compact’ under which none would serve in a future Liberal government unless Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the party’s leader, agreed to go to the House of Lords, becoming a figurehead leader with real power lying in the hands of the Liberal Imperialists in the Commons. There was also the question of whether the former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, who had been increasingly estranged from the Liberal party, would serve. After being asked by the King to form a government, Campbell-Bannerman proceeded to do so with considerable skill. There was no question of his actually going to the Lords, and, despite the ‘Relugas Compact’, all the principal liberals agreed to join the government, the exception being Rosebery, who refused to serve but was not missed: he never held any office again. The Liberal Cabinet formed by Campbell-Bannerman in 1905 was acclaimed even at the time as a ‘government of all the talents’, and has assumed legendary status since, but it is important to note that many of its members, so famous now, were little known then, or had reputations very different from their historical ones. David Lloyd George, for instance, was known then chiefly as a troublemaking Welsh radical and ‘Little Englander’. Although obviously articulate, his capacity for office was unknown as he had never before held any government position.


Prime Minister Labour Party Liberal Party Liberal Government British Prime Minister 
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© William D. Rubinstein 2003

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  • William D. Rubinstein

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