Why The Unionists Won The ‘Khaki’ Election Of 1900
- Pages: 3
- Word count: 646
- Category: Election
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The Unionist victory in 1900 was basically due to Unionist strength against Liberal incompetence. In September of 1900, Salisbury decided to dissolve Parliament to hold a general election. This was a tactical move, as the government had a majority of 120 and two years left on their current term in office. This is due to the “Septennial Act, which laid down a maximum life of seven years for a Parliament. ” (Addison) This tactical move by Salisbury was cleverly calculated to occur at the same time as Britain seemed to be doing best in the Second Boer War.
As a result, they capitalized on Liberal weakness and apparent Unionist strength to hold office until January 1906. This suggests that a factor for the Unionist victory was the perfect timing of it, when Britain seemed to be at its strongest. The Khaki election of 1900, is so called as it was an election heavily influenced by wartime sentiment. Britain in September of 1900, appeared to be doing very well in the Boers. Johannesburg had fallen on the 31st May and it was now “widely mistaken that the war was over.
As a result Salisbury saw that victory in South Africa was too good an opportunity to miss. This ‘victory’ would have caused a feel good factor around Britain and overwhelming support for the current government, the Unionists. This evidence suggests that the Unionists won the 1900 election primarily due to the success in the Boers. Combined with this, there is the ineptitude of the Liberal party. The Unionists were currently “united by war” whereas the Liberals were badly divided by it.
The Liberals were split three ways into: opponents of the war, Liberal Imperialists and a Centre majority, who accepted the war but felt the Government was too harsh. This would have caused leadership problems and the party would not have been united enough to fight an election campaign. Churchill declared that the Liberal party were “a squabbling, disorganized rabble. ” This can best be shown by the Pretoria letters which were sent by Liberal figures to wish the British good luck in the war, contrary to the party’s beliefs.
This united with the fact that the Liberals were unable to provide candidates for all of the 163 constituencies compared with the 141 constituencies the Unionists were able to feature in, severely damaged the Liberal’s election hopes and consequently, their eventual result. Another key factor in the Unionist victory was the superiority of the Unionist candidates and therefore the Unionists carried more credibility. According to the sheet, “Lord Salisbury was seen as safe on foreign policy as Hicks Beach on finance. Joseph Chamberlain and Arthur Balfour in particular, were key campaigners.
Addison says that: Joseph Chamberlain was the hero of the hour, epitomizing the spirit of aggressive imperialism. It was Chamberlain who had pressed most strongly for a general election, and he who proclaimed that a vote for the Liberals was a vote for the Boers” This evidence suggests that Chamberlain was a strong campaigner, who could undermine his opponents and actually turn their campaign theme on to them. His comment on the vote for the Liberals shows this. Addison is keen to suggest that Chamberlain was proclaimed as the man that won the election due to his work being integral to the Unionist success.
This evidence further reinforces the idea that the Unionists were more dominant than all of the other opposition and therefore deserved to win the election Overall, the election was decisive success for the Unionists. This was due to the fact that they had capitalized on poor organization of the Liberals, foreign successes in the Boers and excellent leadership and campaigning by Salisbury and Chamberlain. They had previous credibility like Hicks and Salisbury from the last election to further enhance their chances but overall these factors proved to be the difference between a Unionist victory and a Liberal defeat.