A Short History of the Liberal Party, 1900-1984 by Chris Cook

By Chris Cook

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When, in January 1903, the Newmarket constituency was lost, the seventh by-election defeat since the passing of the Education Act, it was perhaps understandable that the Liberals believed the long winter of their discontent was drawing to an end. The unpopularity of the government, however, was not the only lesson of the by-elections. Liberals were attracting not merely Nonconformists outraged by the Education Act, but also gaining support from the political wing of the Labour movement, now indignant at the outcome of the Taff Vale decision.

A section of the hostile vote was made up of 'Hartingtonians' and Conservatives as well as committed 'Radical Unionists'. Isolated from the bulk of Liberals, Chamberlain now began to establish his own independent organisation in Birmingham, the National Radical Union. Cut off from the party organisation, Chamberlain found himself moving closer to the Hartingtonians, and a large number of those with whom Chamberlain had opposed the Home Rule Bill in the Commons were men who stood closer to Hartington and his 'Committee for the Preservation of the Union' than the Radical politics of the Birmingham Unionist leader.

The only member who left with him was Trevelyan. Chamberlain was forced to base his objections to Gladstone's proposals on specific principles, objecting to the removal of the Irish MPs from Westmins2 D. A. Hamer,John Morley: Lzberal Intellectual zn Polztzcs (Oxford, 1968) p. 198. Liberalism in Eclipse 23 ter. What was even more crucial was the fact that although he could win a declaration of support from the Birmingham Liberals for his own plan for 'Home Rule All Round', Schnadhorst and the rest of the National Liberal Federation had gone over to the support of Gladstone.

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