There were many reasons why the liberals lost power during these years, most notable the split in the party over Irish home rule, and the fact that chamberlain left the party. Also, with the conservatives growing in numbers and a reform of the electoral system the liberals had little hope of winning again, despite their best efforts to fix votes.
The liberal's main problem was their prime minister, Gladstone. He was perpetually pushing for home rule in Ireland, something that people in mainland Britain either didn't care about or opposed - hardly a vote winner. He tried to pass the first home rule bill in 1886 at an age of 75. In this first home rule bill he proposed that Ireland establish a separate Irish parliament, though with strictly limited powers. Westminster would have still had control of the Irish armed forces, foreign policy and trade.
This first bill got support from Parnell's nationalists, who of course voted for it, being Irish nationalists.
However, Gladstone didn't get a lot of support from the rest of Britain. Gladstone's main areas of support were on the Celtic fringe, areas like Wales, Cornwall and Ireland. The conservatives opposed the bill, and somewhat more importantly so did a section of the Liberal party itself. Chamberlain and some of the more right wing liberals were among the 93 people from the party who voted against the bill. The bill was only defeated by a margin of 30, so if even half of those in the liberal party hadn't gone against their leader Ireland would have been on its way to independence, and the liberals would have potentially gained a lot more seats and kept their power.
The liberals were also lacking in other departments. The party's creed was outdated and the only main policy...