By Chris Cook
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Extra info for A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900–1984
Similarly, the Federation agreed that its relationship with the official leadership was purely advisory. There were no more 'omnibus' resolutions proposing specific measures for a Liberal Government to undertake. The heyday of the caucus was over. Although the Liberals had been soundly defeated in the 1895 election, the party remained a potent force at Westminster. Despite the crippling divisions among the party leaders, the Liberals were able to prevent the Conservatives getting their education proposals through the Commons.
What, then, had gone wrong? Partly the explanation was to be found in the personality of the new Premier. For whilst The Liberal Ascendancy: 1906-1910 43 Campbell-Bannerman soon established an undisputed command over the Commons, proving himself an able parliamentarian, he was a weak leader of a government. His policy was to allow each Minister to care for the problems of his own department. At no time did CampbellBannerman play the part of a leader or Prime Minister. Indeed, as his private secretary recorded, 'he was continually forgetting that he was Prime Minister' .
In addition, the party lacked anything resembling a coherent unified policy. The outcome of the election was a crushing Liberal defeat. The Conservatives, with 341 seats, gained a majority of 152. The Liberals were reduced to 177. In addition, there were 70 Liberal Unionists and 82 Irish Nationalists. The extent of the Liberal disaster was evident when both Harcourt and Morley were defeated in (heir own constituencies. It was a defeat which took the Liberals, in an atmosphere of bitter mutual recrimination, into a period in opposition which was to last for ten years.