The Growth of the Labour Party and the Decline of the Liberal Party

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The Growth of the Labour Party and the Decline of the Liberal Party

At the end of World War One in November 1918 the Labour Party emerged as a strong political Party. Prior to this it was the Liberal Party that was expected to be the main opposition to the Conservatives, with Labour as a party who used the popularity of the Liberals to become noticed. However, it soon became apparent that the Liberals were a weak and flagging party who were unable to unite as one to make decisions. It is evident that the First World War may have been an important factor in the growth of Labour and the decline of the Liberals.

It seems that the decline of the Liberals began with several problems that can be traced back to pre-war times.
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The Liberals were hesitant to support women's suffrage because it was hard to know whom women would vote for. Between 1911 and 1914 the Suffragettes became increasingly militant as the Liberals refused to find parliamentary time to debate the question. The party claimed the issue was 'a constitutional not a moral question'. The suffragette issue damaged the Liberals as their evident reluctance to treat it as a matter of belief weakened their moral standing. Their failure to resolve the issue proved to be a political embarrassment.

Between 1908 and 1914 the position of Trade Unions legally improved, but these years also saw the most active period of Trade Union action. This included industrial unrest and much strike action. Two reasons have been given to justify this industrial unrest: syndicalism or a response to the current social and economic conditions. However, it is possible that the Liberal government were to blame for this industrial unrest. They were accused of not taking quick enough action to reverse the Osbourne judgement (where Trade Unions could not ask for a political levy) which was a great embarrassment to them. The political levy was declared illegal in 1909 after a union used part of the fees to fund the Labour Party. There was then a feeling that Liberals were determined to undermine the Labour
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