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Example text

By 1903 both the LRC and the Liberals were united in opposition to the government. Given that past relations between the Liberals and the Trades Union Congress had been good (Henry Broadhurst, the TUC General Secretary, had been a Liberal candidate in 1895), and given that neither group had found much advantage in their lack of unity during the 1895 and 1900 elections, there were powerful figures on both sides who saw the considerable advantages that might come from some sort of accommodation. Early in 1903, significant moves towards an 'entente' between Labour and Liberals were made.

Whilst the Liberals could point to some successful legislation - the establishment of parish councils, Harcourt's important fiscal innovation of graduated death duties, Henry Fowler's Indian legislation, together with the competent records of Asquith at the Home Office and Rosebery at the Foreign Office- the overall state of the party was one of confusion and disunity. The party lacked both finance and enthusiasm, with the result that in the election of 1895 many Conservative-held seats went uncontested.

So much was clear from the failure of the 'Round Table' conferences on the possibility of Liberal reunion in 1887, but the party could still try to win over those who supported Unionism for the sake of Chamberlain's reputation as the leader of the Radical movement. Hence, after 1886 the progressive image was cultivated to the extent of defending those accused after the 'Bloody Sunday' affair in Trafalgar Square, and inserting a commitment to an Employers' Liability Bill in the party programme, The Liberals ran many working-class candidates where conditions favoured this (notably in Birmingham by-elections against Chamberlainite Unionists), and by 1892 were calling for the payment of MPs to allow further working-class representation in the House.

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