Unconditional Loyalty



The 1906 General Election saw the most crushing defeat for the Conservative and Unionist parties since 1832, yet Birmingham remained immune and its seven seats and those of the immediately surrounding area returned Unionist MPs.

This article seeks to explain this exceptional performance, examining both the unique character of Birmingham, and the powerful influence of its favourite son, Joseph Chamberlain.

Nationally it was a huge Liberal victory, up from 186 to 400 seats; the Unionists were reduced to 157 seats. Chamberlain himself, in the Commons, thought it ‘absolutely without parallel’. The Unionists had been borne down in a torrent of resentment, from Non-conformists smarting over the abolition of school boards, fiscal purists appalled by the threat of Protection to Free Trade, advocates of efficiency depressed by the incompetencies of the management of the Boer War, to trades unionists outraged by the importation of Chinese labour to South African mines. It was a convincing indictment, yet Birmingham somehow survived this electoral tsunami.

KEYWORDS: Joseph Chamberlain, Political Machine, Elections, Birmingham, Andrew Reekes, Books

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