“The Conciliation Bill which [the Parliamentary Conciliation Committee] promoted obtained a majority of 109 in July 1910… a majority of whom favoured female enfranchisement… However, this decision provoked a crisis within the Liberal Party. The Conciliation Bill proposed to enfranchise about one million women who were heads of households … prominent Liberals condemned the bill as fundamentally detrimental to the party’s interests… Moreover, the 1910 elections underlined the danger of taking any unnecessary risks…By November 1911 the cabinet had resolved its dilemma in what at first appeared to be a neat way – the government now intended to introduce a bill of its own to reform the registration of parliamentary electors; though this would not include women’s suffrage, it would be open to amendment by suffragists in the Commons. This expedient had a number of short term results. The prospect of achieving votes for all men reassured the Liberal Party. The WLF were evidently satisfied that a government bill… offered an excellent prospect and they concentrated on promoting an amendment to it. Conversely, the Pankhursts were provoked into a dramatic resumption of militancy which played into Asquith’s hands. Finally, the prospect of a more democratic measure of women’s suffrage attracted some Liberals away from the Conciliation Bill, and this, combined with politicians’ reactions to the renewed suffragette violence, led to a narrow defeat for that bill in 1912” (Martin Pugh, The March of the Women p140-141)
“Although they believed the government’s franchise bill had a better chance of success, the NUWSS continued to urge enactment of the Conciliation Bill. But the WSPU revived large-scale militant action prior to the vote on it. In reaction to the WSPU violence, constituency support for women’s suffrage declined and MPS who had expressed support began to waver. Even though the 1912 Conciliation Bill was essentially the same as the one passed by a large majority in 1911, it was defeated by a vote of 222 to 208. A relieved Asquith informed the Liberal chief whip: “I think we are now nearly out of the wood”. The defeat was due in part to the withdrawal of Irish nationalist support, but 26 Liberal and Conservative MPs who had pledged to support the bill (many of whom had voted for the 1911 bill) voted against it, and 66 who had abstained in 1911 voted against it. The NUWSS believed WSPU militancy was responsible for this!” (Harold Smith, The British Women’s Suffrage Campaign 1866-1928 p45)
To what extent was suffragette militancy to blame for the Failure of the 1912 Conciliation Bill?