The Formation of the Liberal Ministry, December 1905
The resignation of Mr Balfour’s Unionist ministry was announced on 4 December 1905. Sir Henry CampbellBannerman, leader of the Liberal party since 1898, became prime minister on the next day. Lord Selborne, recently appointed high commissioner in South Africa, had begged Balfour to carry on until February or March of the following year, but to no purpose.1 Balfour had resigned, rather than seek a dissolution of parliament. This meant that another ministry could be formed before a general election could be held. In this way he avoided the embarrassment of a Conservative and Unionist ministry being defeated at the polls, and he hoped to give the electors the policy of a Liberal government to attack. The procedure conceivably led to the formation of a more right-wing Liberal government than might have been the case if an election had preceded the formation of a ministry:2 once free trade had been secured by an overwhelming electoral decision in its favour, Grey would almost certainly not have taken office.
KeywordsPrime Minister Free Trade High Commissioner Liberal Party Ofpartisan Speech
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