The Liberal government suffers a surprise defeat

The defeat by 7 votes was on a motion to reduce the Secretary of State for War’s salary by £100. Questions had been put regarding the lack of supply of cordite and small arms ammunition. Inadequately briefed Campbell Bannerman, the Secretary of State, and his team struggled to make a convincing reply. As the Tory big guns including Balfour and Chamberlain entered the debate, the Liberal whips realised too late that something was up. In what was described by Asquith as ‘a snap vote in a thin House on a side issue’ the opposition was victorious by 132 votes to 125. ‘It is a chance blow’, Harcourt wrote to Rosebery later that night, ‘but in my view a fatal one’.