‘There may have been a time,’ remarked a writer in a 1905 issue of the Labour Leader ‘when liberalism meant something.… Today it is merely an ante-room to toryism, a kind of lavatory where the parvenus tidy themselves up and change their garments as they press in amongst the old nobility.’1 The immediate cause of this damning indictment was the inability of the Liberal Party to produce a very positive programme on which to fight a general election which everyone knew could not be long delayed. When the election did eventually come, in January 1906, the liberals had still failed to come up with any substantial programme, other than that of reversing the major pieces of legislation enacted by the late unionist administration. The electorate apparently did not share the views expressed in the Labour Leader, however, for the liberals were returned with an overwhelming majority. Yet within twenty years of this great triumph the party lay in ruins, divided and dispirited, its place in the nation’s political edifice taken by the Labour Party. Henceforth the basic divide in British party politics was to be between collectivism as represented by the Labour Party and anti-collectivism as represented by the conservatives.


Trade Unionist Social Reform Labour Party Liberal Party Conservative Party 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth D. Brown

There are no affiliations available

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