After Britains victory in the war, a general election was called in 1918, which Lloyd George, as the hero from the war, won with a landslide victory. Although Lloyd George had just achieved a great election victory, his political position was still very vulnerable. After Asquiths depart from office, the Liberals had been split, with about half of liberal MPs supporting the old Prime Minister instead of the new. Lloyd George had tried to repair this growing rift in his party by offering Asquith the post of Lord Chancellor, but Asquith, rather foolishly, refused this generous offer.
There was no longer any hope of re-uniting the party and Lloyd George had become a Prime Minister without a party. So, Lloyd George, not only had to run a struggling coalition, he had to do it, in effect, without the support of a party. Many factors were contributing to the problems of the coalition. The labour party, led by their coalition representative Arthur Henderson had left the coalition in 1917, leaving it comprised of mainly Tories, with an ex-liberal Prime Minister. The conservatives were perfectly happy to continue with the coalition. They had not won an election since 1902 and they had lost all their self-confidence.
They hoped to profit at the coupon election from the Prime Ministers popularity. The coalition had no apparent or coherent philosophy and was in some respects, incapable of effective action. It had too much confidence in itself to listen to the pessimists. In fact, had they paused to consider the warnings they received, many problems wouldnt have arisen. During the war, a common enemy had united the coalition. All their personal differences and policies were unimportant and disregarded in the light of the situation. After the war, the key question was, could the two elements of the coalition co-operate together successfully.
All this rested on how long Lloyd George could retain the support of the Tory Backbenchers. The conservatives, if they withdrew from the coalition, would have a comfortable majority and therefore Lloyd George had to maintain his popularity with the voting public to convince the Conservatives that the depended on him. Lloyd George could not delegate important tasks to his colleagues because he had to seem personally responsible for the successes. This was dangerous as it also meant that he would seem personally responsible for the failures also.
It caused many fellow ministers to consider him as too dominant. As both the cabinet and the coalition, were conservatives dominated, Lloyd George had to follow their lead in many respects. He relied on the Conservative Party leader, Andrew Bonar Law as a mediator between the Prime Minister and Backbenchers. He was a man of great ability but his most important skill was not in leading the Tories, but in understanding them. This was essential for Lloyd George who had to please these ministers and not to be seen to neglect them. Unfortunately, this arrangement was not to last indefinitely.
Although Lloyd George, revelled in political security, he saw the need for political realignment and wanted to form a new centre party with his liberals and all but the very extreme right-wing Tories. These groups had had a natural and effective co-operation for years. In March 1920, many Tories petitioned for this single united party, but Lloyd Georges plans were spoiled by the coalition liberals who were unwilling to be tied to the conservatives permanently. Lloyd Georges ideas became known as the fusion and despite the lack of liberal support, he kept trying, undeterred, but he never got any closer to his ideal party.
The failure of the fusion did not mean the end of the coalition but it did leave Lloyd George vulnerable and reliant on Bonar Law. In 1921, Bonar Law resigned due to ill health. This was a huge blow for Lloyd George. His replacement, Austen Chamberlain was no substitute for Bonar Law. He was deficient where Bonar law had excelled, out of touch with party feeling and very aloof. The root of his trouble was his vanity. He would not wear glasses, although he was very shortsighted. He insisted on wearing a monocle in a vain attempt to look like his famous father. This meant that her could only recognise people at a distance of a few feet.
His Backbenchers were annoyed and felt that their leader was ignoring them. He also failed to communicate well and didnt tell his Backbenchers of his critical views of Lloyd George. He was therefore seen as Lloyd Georges creation. The results of all this political uncertainty and tension was that problems began to multiply for Lloyd George and his coalition. The strain was beginning to show. All these problems were heightened by public expectations. These were very high and too much was expected of the coalition. In return for this faith, their disappointment in this failure was bitterer.
In 1918, after the war, Lloyd George inherited a changed and damaged Britain. During the war, it had become essential that the government were more involved in peoples lives. This meant that the old policy of Laissez-faire was effectively over. Also, ministers became more accountable to the people they represented. The Representation of the People Act of 1918 gave the vote to more people than ever before. Britain was at last becoming the true democracy and proper democracy it had the potential to be. With this change, not only ministers, but also all political figures and institutions became answerable to the people that voted for them.
Public opinion at last held more weight and influence. Lloyd George, as well as the rest of the country had to become accustomed to these changes, but at the same time pressing problems with the economy had to be dealt with. The end of the war brought with it a natural slow-down economically. Fewer raw materials, food were needed, as Britain was no longer forced into self-sufficiency. This meant that a slump occurred in many industries. This was natural and expected as the war had stimulated the economy to a level no longer required.
Despite its predictability, there was little the government could do. They were forced to relinquish their former policy of non-intervention in a vain attempt to control l the slow-down. To contribute to the situation, British goods were no longer competitive on the international export market. She had been the first country to industrialise and other countries had now followed her example, only they had the benefit of heignsight and could learn for Englands mistakes. They perfected the long-established techniques of this country and forced Britain out of the market.
She could no longer compete. Reconstruction had begun during the war and was continued but Lloyd George after it. In a speech delivered on 12th November 1918, he outlined his ambitions and hopes for the future. He wanted to raise standards in health and housing, a minimum wage, shorter working hours and agriculture reform. Basically, he wanted a land fit for heroes. These were the expectations of the people. Dr Christopher Addisons housing act of 1919 placed the obligation upon local authorities to see that all citizens were provided with decent homes.
Private housebuilders were given subsidies to build the houses. The government offered to meet the costs of all municipal housing. This act has been and was criticised for being extravagant but over 200000 new houses were built with this aid between 1919 and 1923. This is a huge achievement, under the circumstances. The unemployment act of 1920 extended unemployment insurance to millions more workers, covering the majority of the wag-earning population. Benefit was to be paid for the first 15 weeks of unemployment, but unemployment continued to rise and the scheme needed constant modifications.
Despite this, the principal of comprehensive protection of unemployed workers had been addressed and without these measures, the unemployment situation would have been much worse. In 1920, the agriculture act had maintained a previous system of price guarantees for wheat and oats. Greater protection was also given to agricultural wages and the protection of tenure was given to tenant farmers. All the above mentioned reforms were curtailed when the slump began in April 1921. Lloyd Georges solution was to set up a committee of businessmen, under the direction of Sir Eric Geddes.
This commission was to investigate the economic problems and they produced their first report in February 1922. It recommended sweeping cuts in public spending. Addisons housing program had cuts imposed on it, causing Dr Addison to resign and defect to he labour party. Also, the new agriculture act was repealed only a year after it was first enforced, as the wheat priced plummeted and the cost of subsidising the farmers rose steadily. The provisions made by the unemployment act were extended and the unemployment fund could borrow up to 30 million from the treasury to finance the unemployment benefit.
Due to the sorrowful conclusion to Lloyd Georges reconstruction policies, many people considered them to be a complete failure, but they were, in fact, a relative success. Much was achieved, as the situation would have been worse without the efforts of Addison and other similar policies. People now saw that the land fit for heroes that they had been promised couldnt be delivered by Lloyd George. All the problems outlined so far have been long-term trends or short-term causes, but without a trigger, Lloyd George might not have fallen. In this case, there were several triggers, each heightening the problems and contributing to the crisis.
One of these triggers was the Irish policy adopted by Lloyd George. Ireland was and had been for many years, under the control of Britain, as part of the empire. Members of Sinn Fein wanted an independent Ireland and so they refused to take up their seats in the House of Commons in 1918 and instead, formed their own government. This new Irish government was not recognised as legitimate by the British government and so the nationalists used force to try and influence their legitimacy. In response to this violent outburst, Lloyd George set up the Black and Tans, a military unit who fought the violence with violence.
In Britain, these aggressive tactics made the Prime Minister unpopular, not only among the British people, but also among his fellow ministers. Eventually talks began with the Irish nationalists, but Lloyd George knew that he must, under any circumstances retain the largely industrialised are of Ulster in the north of the country. He used his great negotiating power with the nationalists and a deal was finally reached which entailed that the unionists could rule all Ireland with the exception of Ulster and Ireland could become a dominion. Under these rules, Ireland was still within the empire.
This point was crucial for Lloyd George, as he had to retain the support of the unionist conservative party in his government. Ireland also, under the deal, still had to swear allegiance to the crown and monarch. This treaty became known as the Anglo-Irish treaty and was signed by both sided in 1921. As a short-term solution to the problem of Ireland, this treaty was successful. Although, many Tories were not pleased as they saw it as sign that they were going to loose the empire, overall Lloyd George had succeeded in meeting all the political demands made of him. In Ireland, the treaty was treated as a scandalous deal.
The unionists had achieved none of the demands that they had initially presented and they still had to swear allegiance to the monarch, they had not the independence they wanted. Ultimately, the treaty had the expected effect. Lloyd George knew that the division would result in an inevitable civil war in Ireland, but he also knew that while Ireland was fighting itself, it could not fight England and in that respect he was safe and the Irish question was resolved. In the long term, the division of Ireland by this treaty has caused and is still responsible for the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland.
The Irish question increased Lloyd Georges unpopularity both because of the harsh methods of dealing with the violence and because of the new treaty. Despite this, it was not this issue that was Lloyd Georges greatest error in foreign policy. After the First World War, Lloyd George had helped to negotiate the Treaty of Sevres with Turkey, where most of the Ottoman Empire was parcelled out around Europe. The terms of the treaty were harsh, so harsh in fact that they provoked a nationalist revolt. Mustapha Kemal led a war of liberation.
He wanted to regain Smuma from the Greeks. The area of Chanak was guarded by allied troops when the trouble began and all but Britain withdrew their troops. Instead of withdrawing his troops, Lloyd George gave the order that an ultimatum was to be delivered by General Harrington. Fortunately, Harrington disobeyed the order and instead entered into peace negotiations. Finally and amicable settlement was reached. Lloyd George had offended the traditional pro-Turk stance of the conservatives and a feeling of political rest stirred among the coalition government.
The whole affair appeared that the Prime Minister was recklessly risking war in a time, only 4 years after the Great War and in a climate of great war-weariness. This incident greatly damaged his public standing and heightened his unpopularity. The other treaty, for which Lloyd George had been responsible in the aftermath of the war, was the Treaty of Versailles. Here, his role had been as a moderator between the USA and France. At home, he also had to act as a moderator. The conservatives feared that the treaty would be too lenient, yet the Liberals were worried that it was too harsh. Unfortunately, he couldnt please both.
Also, Maynard Keynes book made it fashionable to condemn the treaty and Lloyd Georges part in bringing it about. Lloyd George attended many meeting but still his policies would not work. He could not overcome Frances resentment of Germany or the USAs isolationism. His work appeared to be meaningless. The next nail in Lloyd Georges coffin, as it were, was the honours scandal. If it had come at a time of political stability, it would not have had much influence or impact, but coming, as it did, no top of the Irish settlement and the Chanak incident, it had both. It seemed to show the moral bankruptcy of Lloyd George.
He was accused of selling knighthoods and peerages. He had never had a reputation for honesty or orthodoxy; he rarely visited the commons, leaked secrets to the press, had a wife and mistress and was unfaithful to both and had once summoned the entire cabinet up to Inverness for a cabinet meeting because it was more convenient to him and his holiday plans. The Tories, who were very moralist, were appalled with his attitude. The money raised from the sales went into Lloyd Georges personal fund. In fact the conservative hypocrisy was shown by this scandal as they pocketed half of the profits from the sales and then complained.
It was not a new thing for honours to be sold in this way, but Lloyd George bestowed peerages on three very disreputable characters and it was this that caused the outrage. As a result of the scandal, a committee or privy councillors was set up to consider all political candidates for honours. Finally, on the 19th September, Austen Chamberlain called a meeting of the conservatives in the Carlton Club in London. Here he lectured backbenchers that they must maintain the coalition as they couldnt win an election without its support, but he was inept and failed to make it clear that he wanted a reconstructed coalition, with a different leader.
Most Tories would have agreed that Lloyd George was no longer a desirable leader of the coalition. Stanley Baldwin made an excellent speech. He picked up on an earlier comment about Lloyd George being a dynamic force, and illustrated how a dynamic force can be a terrible and dangerous thing. Bonar Law was Lloyd Georges former partner and his speech was more moderate, but still, it was clear that he no longer thought Lloyd George should lead the coalition. Bonar laws presence was vital, as he was needed to rally the discontented Tory majority.
A motion was passed saying that the conservatives would fight the next election alone. Chamberlain, a constant supporter of Lloyd George, resigned as leader the next day and later that evening; Lloyd George resigned as Prime Minister. He had at last fallen. As I have shown above, there were many factors that contributed to the fall of Lloyd George. He ascended to the role of Prime Minister of the country in a time of economic and political instability and unrest. He had not only these problems to deal with, but he had to appease a conservative-majority coalition government and all without a party of his won.
The triggers that led directly to his down fall all heightened public dissatisfaction with him as a person and as a leader and all, because they came together, contributed to his fall from power, so soon after winning a huge majority in the general election of 1918. Public expectations were too high and any man would fail to meet these high demands made of him. It is therefore not surprising that Lloyd George fell from power, it is perhaps a wonder that he lasted so long.