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He had been in Parliament for twenty years, and had served both Gladstone and Rosebery as Home Secretary, before becoming Campbell-Bannerman's 46 A Short History of the Liberal Party Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although, late in 1907, there had been talk of a move to draft Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, no one challenged Asquith's succession in 1908. The new Premier entered office with two important advantages. He was, as one early biographer wrote, outstanding among Liberal statesmen as the one politician who most united the party.

For whilst The Liberal Ascendancy: 1906-1910 43 Campbell-Bannerman soon established an undisputed command over the Commons, proving himself an able parliamentarian, he was a weak leader of a government. His policy was to allow each Minister to care for the problems of his own department. At no time did CampbellBannerman play the part of a leader or Prime Minister. Indeed, as his private secretary recorded, 'he was continually forgetting that he was Prime Minister' . 1 Hence, lacking leadership, the Liberal Party lacked also both impetus and direction.

The result was a triumph for Labour, whose candidate, the trade unionist Peter Curran, topped the poll with 4698, compared with the 3930 of the Conservative, 3474 for the Liberal and 2122 for the Nationalist. It was significant that the Liberal polled only half the 1906 total. The advent of 1908 brought new electoral setbacks. Three more Liberal seats were gained by Conservatives early in 1908. The municipal election results were equally depressing, with such traditional Liberal council strongholds as Coventry and Nottingham falling to Conservatives.

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