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)