chapter  III
35 Pages

The 'Khaki' Election of 1900

T h e General Election of 1900 resulted in a Conservative majority of 134 seats over the combined Liberal and Irish parties. This victory, large by any standard, was especially unusual because, defying the 'swing of the pendulum' theory, it was the second successive victory for the Unionist cause. Fought nationally on the platform of the government's policy in South Africa, it has been ignored by historians perhaps because it was such an obvious vindication of that policy. And while it is true that imperialism was one of the first truly national issues,1 it is not true that this meant that local issues were no longer significant in influencing the course of the election. Many constituencies can be distinguished where the significance of agricultural issues, ritualism and social reform were dominant themes of the campaign.2 It is with the latter that this chapter is primarily concerned; for there is a natural correlation between working-class constituencies and social reform as an issue.