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British Prime Minister: 1916-1922

"Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."

David Lloyd George was born to William George and Elizabeth Lloyd in Manchester on the 7th of January 1863. Shortly after he was born, his father died and so his mother took them to stay with his uncle (Elizabeth's side) in Wales. He turned out to be quite the bright young lad and was steered into becoming a solicitor. Once training was complete he started his own law firm in Criccieth in 1884 (after a brief employment with Breese, Jones and Casso solicitors). He gained a large following from North Wales tenant farmers and quarry-man because of his willingness to defend those that broke harsh poaching laws.

Lloyd George married Margaret Owen in 1888 with whom he had two sons and three daughters. It is said that he had more children than this, but they were not to Margaret, and they were not legitimate.

His family were nonconformists and were worshippers in a place knowns as 'Disciples of Christ Chapel'. Lloyd George was an active member of this church; it was his preaching here that were to be his training grounds in oratory.

His speaking skills in conjunction with his legal mind, led him into his most famed vocation: politics. He joined up with his local Liberal Party, where he became alderman of Caernarfon County Council. After several political campaigns (abolishment of church tithes and land reform issues) he was selected as the Liberal candidate for the Caernarfon Borough constituency (1890). Within a year the current sitting Conservative MP (Edmund Swetenham) died and so a by-election was held. Lloyd George fought for it; his policies included religious equality, land reform and free trade. He became the youngest member in the House of Commons at the age of twenty seven (after a recount).

"Who ordained that the few should have the land (of Britain) as a prerequisite; who made 10,000 people owners of the soil and the rest of us trespassers in the land of our birth?"

Since he had experience with preaching, his public speaking was a little over the top at times; a fact that worried the leaders of the Liberal Party. Lloyd George was particularly vocal in his opposition of the Boer War. The general election was coming up, and said leaders were worried he would lose it for them. Lloyd George's anti-Boer war stance was so unpopular that he inadvertently started a riot in Birmingham in 1901. Upon addressing a crowd he was heckled "Traitor! Traitor! Bloody traitor! Pro-Boer! Kill 'im! Kill the bloody traitor!". He narrowly escaped, disguised as a policeman. Lloyd George was too popular with the Welsh, on account of his spirited speeches on their behalf, and he was re-elected.

Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal Party) became prime minister in 1906 and made Lloyd George President of the Board of Trade. Two years later Campbell-Bannerman had to resign due to illness; Herbert Asquith took his place and promoted Lloyd George to the esteemed position of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He wanted to guarantee money to people who were too old to work, and so he was happy to present Asquith's Old Age Pensions Act, to provide money for the over seventies. This money had to come from somewhere, and Lloyd George had to find £16million to pay for this scheme. This involved creating a scheme which increased taxes without putting to big a burden on poor people. People on lower incomes would pay less per pound than richer people. He also increased taxes on land ownership and the profits gained from the buying and selling thereof. This budget became known as The People's Budget, but there was a problem...

The House of Lords and the Conservatives. Or more specifically the fact that the Conservatives held a majority in the House of Lords and they were making it clear they were going to block the proposed budget. Lloyd George used this to his advantage, and portrayed the Lords as rich men who wished to prevent the poor from receiving their pensions.

This of course meant that the House of Lords's popularity plummeted spectacularly and so the Liberals took this opportunity to try and weaken the Lord's powers. With the 1911 Parliament Act, the Lords could no longer veto a bill. Of course, the Lords tried to block this bill from going through. Herbert Asquith appealed to George V, who agreed and threatened to create 250 Liberal peers if the bill was not passed. The Conservatives didn't want to lose their majority in the House of Lords (and they would lose it for a very very long time if George V created the peers), so they had to let the Parliament Act become law. Good old monarchy.

The next thing Lloyd George did was the 1911 National Insurance Act. All workers would pay a set amount of their wage towards the scheme, this would go towards welfare which meant that the workers would get free medical care and medicine. It would also allow the workers access to 15 weeks of unemployment benefit per year if they needed it. Needless to say, his opponents (ahem, the Conservatives) dubbed him a socialist.

War was declared on 4th August 1914, and Lloyd George almost resigned out of disgust, it was Asquith that convinced him to do otherwise. Although initially extremely opposed the war he soon became one of its biggest 'supporters', even to the point of supporting the war be escalated to ensure a quick victory.

"Modern warfare, we discovered, was to a far greater extent than ever before a conflict of chemists and manufacturers. Manpower, it is true, was indispensable, and generalship will always, whatever the conditions, have a vital part to play. But troops, however brave and well led, were powerless under modern conditions unless equipped with adequate and up-to-date artillery (with masses of explosive shell), machine-guns, aircraft and other supplies. Against enemy machine-gun posts and wire entanglements the most gallant and best-led men could only throw away their precious lives in successive waves of heroic martyrdom. Their costly sacrifice could avail nothing for the winning of victory."

The war was not going well, and in 1915 Lloyd George asked to be made Minister of Munitions. His decisions played a large part in the eventual victory and this did not go unnoticed. During the war, Lloyd George and Asquith had had their disagreements. Notably regarding the issue of conscription (Lloyd George being for it). When Asquith presented measures of conscription to the house, it was seen as a victory for Lloyd George. The death of Lord Kitchener meant that Lloyd George could move into the War Office as War Minister, a powerful position indeed. The coalition government were impressed by Lloyd George's actions (and the position he had attained), and in 1916 the Conservatives met with Lloyd George to collaborate in the removal of Asquith.

This collaboration did not go unnoticed, and a split formed in the Liberal Party. Despite this split, Lloyd George's coalition won 459 seats in the 1918 general election.

Lloyd George thought that the terms in Treaty of Versailles would "plunge Germany and the greater part of Europe into Bolshevism." and he and Georges Clemenceau locked antlers over it. Lloyd George was trying to find some middle ground between Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson, it is to his credit that the Treaty is not as harsh as Clemenceau would have liked.

Lloyd George became a victim of his own ambitions: he had many more progressive reforms he wanted to get through, but his conservative cabinet would not pass them. Ireland was another problem; a civil war was being fought. Lloyd George began the negotiations that would lead to Irish independence in 1921. The Conservatives were not pleased with this 'surrender'. Later, it was alleged that peerages were being sold for large campaign contributors and this scandal, as well as a near war with Turkey put the final nails in Lloyd George's political career. Once Stanley Baldwin's popularity was made clear to him, he resigned at once (19 Oct 1922). He tried several times to revive the Liberal Party, but without much success. Although he was leader of the party from 1926-1931 they were constantly whitewashed at the elections. This lack of power did not stop him from being his usual outspoken self. He continued to push for progressive ideas, but did not have any political backing left. He did publish several reports in order to channel his energies:

  • Coal and Power (1924)
  • Towns and the Land (1925)
  • Britain's Industrial Future (1928)
  • We Can Conquer Unemployment (1929).
David Lloyd George tried to convince Hitler to cease his activities in Europe in 1938. Needless to say, he failed. He died on the 26th of March, 1945 as Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor having received the title just two months previous.

"I have just returned from a visit to Germany ... I have now seen the famous German leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods - and they are certainly not those of a Parliamentary country - there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvellous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook.

One man has accomplished this miracle. He is a born leader of men. A magnetic dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will, and a dauntless heart. He is the national Leader. He is also securing them against that constant dread of starvation which is one of the most poignant memories of the last years of the war and the first years of the Peace. The establishment of a German hegemony in Europe which was the aim and dream of the old prewar militarism, is not even on the horizon of Nazism."
17th November, 1936 (he later reversed this opinion)

Sources:
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
www.llgc.org.uk
www.worldwar1.com
http://www.cartref.demon.co.uk
www.bbc.co.uk

The 'other' famous wartime British Prime Minister. David Lloyd George was a Mancunian born on the 17th January, 1863. His father died while he was only a year old, leaving his mother to look after his brother and himself, along with her brother, Richard Lloyd. Richard was a nonconformist, and "deeply resented English dominance over Wales" *.

He became involved in politics around the same time as he marrier (1888), and joined Caernarvon County Council as an alderman representing the Liberal party. He was very active in lobbying for causes he felt for; notable cases included attempts at abolishing the long-held tradition of church tithes. Another issue he became caught up in was that of land ownership, influenced by the works of Thomas Spence, John Stuart Mill and others. 1890 saw him elected as his constituency's Liberal candidate, and he was swiftly elected to lead the Borough after the unfortunate death of that seat's previous owner, a Conservative.

It is because of what Lloyd George begins to do next that starts to make me admire him. He was directly opposed to many of the issues of the time; this hindered his progress along the steps to power, something few politicians would risk doing now. One item worthy of note was his very much vocal opposition to the Boer War, something his Liberal allies in the House of Commons thought sure to lose him his seat in the 1900 General Election. However, he was a popular man with his constituents, and his defense of Welsh Rights in particular led to a successful re-election.

After the 1906 election, the Liberal leadership elevated Lloyd George to the status of President of the Board of Trade. Two years later, Henry Asquith promoted him to an even higher role in the Commons: the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was the opportunity that Lloyd George would need to begin the reforms he had been planning ever since his introduction to the political world.

Another grievance he held was with the Poor Law, and set his mind to "lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor". His first idea to achieve his aims, based on Tom Paine's ideas from his book 'Rights of Man' (1791), was the Old Age Pensions act. This guarenteed a sum between 1 and 5 shillings/week to those over 70.

One of his great strengths was that Lloyd George was a realist. He saw the need to raise the necessary funds for his reforms, and knew that it would inevitably result in raising the taxes. This was also another opportunity for him to attempt to level the score between the rich and poor. He announced his 'People's Budget', which increased taxation all round. Everybody ended up paying 9d. in the pound, but for those earning over £3000 pet annum, this rose to 1s. 2d. in the pound. On top of this, a new supertax was levied on those earning £5000 a year - an extra 6d. in the pound. Labour exchanges and a children's allowance on income tax were also introduced.

This did not go down too well with the Lords, who make clear their intentions of using their positions to block his proposals. To counter this, Lloyd-George made a tour of the country to gather support for his cause, against the Lords. This willfulness to stick to his cause and fight for what he believed was right was to pay off time and time again; in this case, after a while, the Lords succumbed and his budget was seen through parliament.

George was to contine to make more reforms for the benefit of the people. In 1911 the National Insurance Act came to pass, a health scheme which was jointly paid for by workers, employers and the state. It allowed not only health care, but would also pay a small sum to umemployed workers for 15 weeks a year (in any given year).

The Conservatives, his traditional enemies, accused him of being a socialist. Although it is true he drew some influence from notable writers such as the Fabian Society, he was just as much so by non-socialists like Charles Booth. The Labour Party, usually supportive of his measures, were also critical of this new act, some saying it simply did not do enough for the common man. However George did not crumble under this opposition, and continued to push his views through.

When the First World War became all but inevitable, we see a different side of the man. Instead of wishing to fight a quick victory (not unlike the current plans for a war in Iraq), he joined with a number of other seniors in threatening to resign should war break out. It was only the actions of then-Prime Minister Herbert Asquith which prevented him from leaving with the others. Soon he had turned from a non-supporter into one of the key members of goverment hoping for a swift end to the conflict through escalation. This shows a willingness to change his standing when he believes it best; another quality which is seeminly all too rare among today's political elite.

Lloyd George soon proved himself a capable member of the wartime cabinet, having been made Minister for Munitions in 1915, a time when the war appeared to be going the way of the Triple Alliance. Soon the government began to question the leadership of the then-head of the coalition, Asquith, and in the winter of 1916 he was ousted, replaced by Lloyd George.

George was not afraid to voice his views on those running the military side of the war, and took a dislike to one General Haig, whom he believed to have only attained his position through his contacts in the aristocracy. George himself was an "energetic war leader" *, and was to receive plenty of repute for the final victory over their enemy.

George's post-war efforts were also commendable. Faced with the two extremes of the "Tiger", Georges Clemenceau, and the far more lenient Woodrow Wilson, George helped avoid the possibility of the Treaty of Versailles becoming even more of an ill-fated document than it turned out to be.

Alas, the rest of George's post-war leadership turned out to be nothing like that of before. Now he was at the mercy of the Tories, who were still resentful of his previous actions and had no intention of allowing him to continue. After 3 years of frustration he was finally removed by the remaining Conservatives within his goverment.

To me, Lloyd George represented the politicians who were far more active in their roles as public leaders. He was not afraid to take action despite risking his career, and was welcome to change his opinion of matters if he could see a good enough reason. Right up until his death on the 26th March, 1945, he continued to make his voice hearc, even meeting with Adolf Hitler in an attempt to dissuade him from the aggression in Europe that led up to the Second World War. For these reasons, I look up to him as both a role model and an example of politics gone right.


Source used: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRgeorge.htm. All quotes labelled '*' taken from said source.
This was written for We Could Be Heroes: tes's Everything2 Heroes Quest.

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