This article examines the nature and motivation of Liberal opposition to the Conservative government's policy in Afghanistan, around the time of the second Anglo-Afghan war. Particular emphasis is given to the way in which Liberals deployed the opinions of Lord Lawrence, the former viceroy, in order to support their arguments. The example of Lawrence is important, for it demonstrates how high-ranking ‘Anglo-Indian’ administrators could, upon their return from the imperial periphery, have an important influence on politics in the metropolis. The article also considers how Conservatives responded to the Liberal attack, and asks whether the apparent frustration of Liberal opposition should be explained by the strength of imperialism in Britain.