The General Election of 1915

Ian Garrett shows that well-informed counter-factual speculation can help us understand better the causes and consequences of what did happen.

‘Well, Peter Snow, over to you – how is it looking for Mr Asquith?’

‘Not so good at the moment, David. The Liberals are struggling against the Conservatives in many areas of the country, but they are also expecting to lose seats in working- class areas to the Labour Party. Last year’s events in Ireland haven’t helped the Liberals either.’

So, if there had been a BBC election night broadcast in 1915, for the election that never happened, would the scenario outlined above have been the way that election – not then actually held on one day of course – would have developed? Was the Liberal government of 1914 on its last legs, ground down by problems in Ireland, the suffragette crisis, and by the rise of the Labour Party? Would 1915, if the election had happened, have seen the collapse of the Liberal Party? Or was Asquith’s government no different from most governments – facing problems no doubt, but not on the scale that would suggest a fatal, and irreversible, decline?

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