Case Study 1: Was World War I responsible for the decline of the liberal party?
Prior to the turn of the 20th century there were only two main political parties – the Tories (Conservative) and the Whigs (Liberals). Within a decade of the ending of World War 1 the two main parties were the Conservative and Labour party leaving the Liberals in the third position.
G. Dangerfield in “the strange death of Liberal England” in 1936 wrote the following:
“The year 1910 is not just a convenient starting point. It is actually a landmark in English History, which stands out against a peculiar background of flame. For it was in 1910 that fires long smouldering in the English spirit suddenly flared up, so that by the end of 1913 Liberal England was reduced to ashes. From these ashes, a new England seems to have emerged.”
G. Dangerfield argues that the Liberal party began to decline prior to WW1 and that the Liberal party would have declined whether WW1 occurred or not – that the Liberal party actually declined before WW1 had even begun.
The idea of suffragettes should have been a Liberal idea however many of the main party leaders tended to be against the suffragettes and their policy of force feeding suffragettes on hunger strikes in prison didn’t go down very well with many Liberal voters.
However Trevor Wilson in “The downfall of the Liberal Party 1914-35” in 1966 wrote the following:
“The Liberal party was like an individual who after a period of robust health and great exertion, experienced symptoms of illness (Ireland, Labour unrest, suffragettes) before a thorough diagnosis could be made he was involved in an encounter with a rampant omnibus which mounted the pavement and ran over him.”
Trevor Wilson argues that whilst the Liberal party did have some problems before WW1 that the Liberal party would have continued to prosper however that WW1 caused the rapid decline of the party, WW1 being represented in his writing by “a rampant omnibus...