chapter  4
4 Pages

The limits of independence, 1906–14

The years after 1906 were difficult ones for the Labour party. The very magnitude of its success at the election of that year created expectations among its supporters which it could not fulfil, and the objectives which it had set itself were found to be in conflict. Labour wanted to establish its own political identity, to champion its own causes and policies. It also wanted to sustain its growth and organizational expansion. But the policies which it approved could only be effected if they were taken up by the Liberal government, which had won a commanding parliamentary majority in 1906; so that the more effective Labour became as a political pressure group, the more it would seem dependent upon the Liberals. Much the same was true of its prospects of growth. The new party had already benefited from a covert understanding with its radical counterpart. Its further advance seemed to rely upon the co-operation of the Liberals, but the latter would clearly not be willing simply to withdraw from more and more seats. On the other hand, if Labour sought to compete with the Liberals on a wide electoral front, the latter would fight back, and endanger the seats which it already held.