To what extent did Arthur Balfour cause the defeat of the conservatives in the 1906 election?
Arthur Balfour was elected as prime minister in 1902 after Salisbury retired and gained the approval of the unionists, even though it appeared to quite a few people in the parliament that Arthur Balfour wasn’t actually up to the job. Many say that the Tariff reform was his down fall in the long run but it is debatable. He steered the Education act through parliament, which benefited a lot of people. Even though he took on the tariff reform he knew the risks, which was carried with it, but chose to try and change it. Many people disliked Balfour because of his involvement in Chinese labour. He allowed a large number of Chinese labourers to work in South Africa goldmines in terrible conditions for seriously low pay. This caused a humongous outrage back in England. The public were afraid that his involvement in Chinese labour would end up bringing it to Britain. Trade unions believed the conservatives were against them after the judgement in the tariff vale case. The 1906 election was a landslide defeat for the conservative party. The liberals were lead by the sitting minority prime minister Henry Campbell Bannerman and they won a large majority in the election. The primary reason for the defeat was the split among the conservative party over the free trade. Before Arthur Balfour became prime minister, Britain had led the world in industry and manufacturing but now other major countries like the USA and Germany were beginning to overtake Britain’s industry in some major areas. Conservatives had believed Britain’s prosperity came from free trade but other countries now putting tariffs on goods from Britain. Chamberlain proposed tariffs on goods coming from abroad thought there should be preferential tariffs for goods coming from colonies. This abandonment of free trade split the party e.g. Chamberlain resigned and Churchill went over to the Liberals. So already cracks...
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