A crushing electoral defeat, failure in the face of their opponent’s progressive moral agenda, and subsequent condemnation as a party incapable of government; this was the ruin that confronted Conservatives in December 1868. They had suffered a historic humiliation at the hands of a charismatic Liberal leader. In November 1871 The Times loftily pronounced a Conservative recovery of power to be impossible. ‘The leaders of the party do not believe in it. The country gives them no confidence. The majority is against them. All the forces of the time are strained in an opposite direction.’1 The popular embrace of the progressive Liberal agenda of political, economic and social reform, promising a more meritocratic and efficient society, had seemingly rendered the Conservatives marginal, irrelevant and unelectable.
KeywordsSocial Reform Liberal Party Conservative Party Party Organization Liberal Government
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