The 1905 General Election

Arthur Balfour, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1902-1905.

Long time readers will know I’m not exactly enamoured with the work of Norman Friedman, so the following may not be a surprise. While checking something in his The British Battleship I was struck by a mention of a British General Election in 1905. There was, of course, no such thing. Arthur Balfour, the Unionist Prime Minister, resigned on 4 December 1905 and was succeeded by the Liberal leader, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the following day. However, Parliament was not dissolved, and a General Election called, until 8 January 1906. Hence why the resulting election is known, even by Wikipedia, as the 1906 United Kingdom General Election. And yet Friedman makes no fewer than five mentions of a 1905 election, and not consistently either. The reader may make of it what they will. I’m just disappointed.

“In October 1905 the Conservatives lost a snap election.”

“In the late 1905 General Election the Liberals, led at that time by Henry Campbell-Bannerman, defeated the Tories.”

“In November 1905 the Tory Government called an election.”

“By that time the Conservatives had lost the November 1905 election.”

“The 1905 election came so late in the programme cycle that the incoming Liberal Government felt unable to change the 1906-7 programme.”

Salvation Lies in Extravagance

Edwin Montagu

On 23 March 1915 the newly-appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Edwin S. Montagu, wrote to Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, about the looming ‘Shell Crisis’ which would, in a matter of weeks, be a factor in the latter succeeding the former. Montagu proposed that the War Office should have a civilian Secretary of State instead of Lord Kitchener or that Lloyd George be appointed Minister of War Contracts (‘one or the other’). He also outlined his idea of what should drive procurement:

I am quite clear that the only attitude in which a Minister can hope for salvation at the end of this war is the attitude which says – it is possible that I paid too much for this; by careful search I might have made a less extravagant bargain for that; it is true that these things are not as good as they should be, but I went on the belief that something is nearly always better than nothing and that extravagance is the only method to speedy equipment.

Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, CHAR 13/44/122.

Whether Montagu would have advocated the same principle with regard to PPE, Track and Trace, and vaccine procurement is anybody’s guess.