Balfour's leadership was responsible for the decline in the popularity of the conservative party between the years 1902 – 1906. Explain why you agree or disagree with this view. ( 24 marks )
Balfour's leadership along with other key factors, including chamberlain's influence, the Boer war and the liberal party's actions, overall led to the decline in popularity for the conservative party giving the liberals their first taste of power in the 1906 general election.
Balfour's character consisted of a very cautious, indecisive man which came across when faced with Chamberlain and his debate on 'tariff reform', which stated that all non-British colonies should have to pay tariffs on imports into Britain, making foreign goods more expensive. At this time free trade was thoroughly indented into British society and nearly all voters were against the idea. Despite Balfour expressing his opinion that he had no settled convictions for tariff reform, when he was faced with the endorsement of tariff reform by a 'retaliationist' who embraced tariffs as the most effective means of forcing protectionist nations to the negotiating table, Balfour consistently rejected the protectionist argument which Chamberlain endorsed. When its ambiguity provoked conflict within the Conservative Party, Balfour’s failure to clarify his policy or assert his authority only exacerbated the confusion and bitterness. Balfour’s reputation paid a high price for this indecisive leadership. If this wasn't enough Balfour resigned in 1905 without asking for a general election, leaving the party extremely angry and had to appoint Campbell-Bannerman to take his place. Not only did Balfour anger the Conservative party, he also annoyed the working class. He failed to recognise that taking no action of the 'Taff Vale' incident was an unpopular move. The railway workers on the Taff Vale railway went on strike in 1901. The management replaced them with National free labour association workers and then...
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