By Chris Cook
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Additional info for A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900–1984
The record of byelections fought when Rosebery was pressing this proposal was not encouraging. Such a programme of legislation undertaken by a government with a slim and declining majority (by December 1894 byelection defeats and withdrawals from the party had reduced the Liberal majority from 40 to 32) in the face of the hostility of the Parnellite section of the Irish, who had gone into open opposition to the government when it refused to press Home Rule after the 1893 defeat, proved unprofitable.
71-3. of the Liberal Party, 1895-1970 (1971) 38 A Short History of the Liberal Party to be disappointed, both in their expectation of an early general election and in their hopes of an alliance with the Conservative Free Traders. Although negotiations took place between Devonshire, Earl Spencer and Asquith in December 1903 and January 1904, they eventually collapsed over the vexed question of the 1902 Education Act. But though Liberals were disappointed in their hope of an early general election, the by-elections continued to bring them fresh victories.
Secondly, it was apparent that the leadership of the party were personally antagonistic towards one another. Stansky's study of this period reveals the almost oriental intrigues that dominated Cabinet decision-making during the administrations of both Gladstone and Rosebery. 5 One basic conflict was between Harcourt and Rosebery. It was a real divergence of principle over the policy of Imperialism and the foreign policy that a Liberal Government ought to pursue. Many members of the Cabinet, however, showed themselves all too eager to conduct their disputes on the lines of personal vendetta.
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