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From early 1899 onwards, the position grew increasingly tense as conflict with the Boers appeared nearer. Appropriations were increased for the Army in Cape Colony and plans were under way to send out additional troops. These appropriations were criticised by Campbell-Bannerman on 21 April in the Commons. By June, the Liberal leader's criticism of British intentions had significantly increased. Speaking at Ilford on 17 June, in the most effective speech Campbell-Bannerman had made since becoming leader, he made a forceful plea for a peaceful settlement between Britain and the Transvaal.

Meanwhile, with the exception of Scotland, the MacDonald-Gladstone pact worked extremely well; and outside Scotland only two Liberal-held seats were attacked by Labour. Though many factors combined to favour the Liberals, the landslide victory of the election came as a stunning surprise. On 12 January the Liberals gained their first victory in Ipswich. The following day Arthur Balfour lost Manchester East. The defeat ofBalfour was the prelude to a Liberal landslide in industrial Lancashire. Even the staunchest of Conservative citadels, in the hitherto safe rural shires, fell to the Liberals.

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.

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