Liberals and Conservatives in the Early Twenties

  • Michael Kinnear


Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman referred in 1905 to the Conservatives, but spoken twenty years later his words could with greater justice have been applied to the Liberals. In 1914 the Liberals formed the Government, but by 1925 they were a fragment of forty M.P.s without major influence on either Government or Opposition. Their fall was the most dramatic change in party fortunes in the past century and a half, and there have been many interpretations of it, most of which have stressed underlying defects in the Liberal position. It is a simple matter to list these defects, and the factors favouring the Conservative resurgence. There can be little question that the Liberals faced many problems after the war, but there was a future for them if they accepted a lesser role than they had had previously. As late as 1923 the Liberals won practically as many seats and votes as Labour, who formed the Government. This demonstrated that they were not finished; but, to use Campbell-Bannerman’s phrase, they needed more of reality. The Liberals were facing decline, not disaster, which is what their leaders gave them. On the other hand the Conservatives faced challenges too, but chance and effective leadership transformed their position of marginal improvement into more than two decades of overwhelming dominance. This chapter considers the basic position of the Liberal and Conservative Parties, and the actions of their leaders between 1919 and 1922; the remainder of the book examines in greater detail the development of Conservative opinion in the turning-point of the 1920s, the crisis of 1922.


Labour Party Liberal Party Conservative Parti Conservative Party Party Organisation 
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© Michael Kinnear 1973

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  • Michael Kinnear

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