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.