David Lloyd George was born in 1863 and died in 1945. Lloyd George was the major British politician present at the Treaty of Versailles and while at Versailles it was Lloyd George who tried to play the middle role between the total retribution of George Clemenceau and the seemingly mild rebuke of America’s Woodrow Wilson.
Lloyd George was born in Manchester but he was brought up in Criccieth in north Wales. He was articled to a solicitor at Porthmadoc. He was elected Member of Parliament for the Caernarvon boroughs in 1890 and he served this constituency as MP for 55 years. Lloyd George was a member of the Liberal Party – north Wales being one of the last strongholds of the Liberals as it declined in the first half of the Twentieth Century.
His talents, especially as a speaker, soon brought him the notice of the Liberal hierarchy. Though he had been tainted as being pro-Boer during the Boer War, he was made President of the Board of Trade in 1905 and promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1908.
Lloyd George is very much associated with reforms that benefited the majority of society. Reforms such as the Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 and the National Health Insurance Act of 1911 did much to aid the poorest in society and, therefore, the most vulnerable.
Lloyd George also helped to set-off the clash between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. His 1908 ‘People’s Budget’ planned to introduced a super tax on the rich to help pay for more reforms that would be used to advance the lifestyles of the poor. The Lords rejected the budget and lead to the clash between both bodies that resulted in the passing of the Parliament Act of 1911 which stated that the Lords only had the power to delay any act passed by the Commons – the Lords could reject a passed act by the Commons three times, but after this it became law anyway. Lloyd George remained chancellor until 1915. After this, he was appointed Minister of Munitions to deal with the crisis that was seriously affecting the British Army fighting on the Western Front – lack of ammunition, shells etc.
The leader of the Liberals at this time was Herbert Asquith. He was deemed by both Lloyd George and the Conservatives to be a leader who lacked energy during the war. In December 1916, Asquith was replaced as Prime Minister by Lloyd George who lead a coalition government that was heavily supported by the Conservative Party. Though Lloyd George was not on good terms with the generals fighting the campaign on the Western Front, they respected the energy he brought into the political side of the campaign.
Lloyd George was Britain’s senior representative at the Versailles settlement. He had put himself into a difficult political position. On the one hand, his public image was that Germany should be smashed and that those responsible for waging war should be held to account. This fitted in with the huge anger directed against the Germans that was felt in Britain at this time. However, he was also extremely concerned by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The last thing Lloyd George wanted was for the revolution to spread west and he saw Germany as the only country that could possibly act as a barrier against the Communists. Therefore a devastated Germany was not his private option as this would play into the hands of the Communists. Therefore, he had to be at his political best at Versailles. The final treaty had to come across as tough on the Germans but it also, from his point of view, had to leave Germany sufficiently strong to combat any Russian expansion west.
Lloyd George was also Prime Minister when the Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920.
The very public humiliation of Britain at Chanak in the Chanak Crisis of 1922 lead to the Conservatives withdrawing their support of his coalition government. Lloyd George resigned as Prime Minister in October 1922 and 1922 is the year of his last major input into politics in the sense that he was in a position to do something.
Lloyd George only became leader of the Liberal Party in 1926 after the retirement of Asquith. However, many in the party were highly suspicious of Lloyd George as they saw him as betraying Asquith in 1916. By 1926, the Liberals were no longer a major political force in Britain and Lloyd George became a solitary figure in politics. He was shunned by some in his own party and condemned by many when he spoke out in support of German grievances in the 1930’s. In September 1936, he visited Hitler but by the time of the Munich Agreement, he was an opponent of appeasement.
Lloyd George remained a popular figure in north Wales. He was very keen to bolster Welsh culture and preferred to speak Welsh when staying in Caernarvon. Lloyd George had his critics, but to many in Wales he remains a hero.