Ex-Prime Ministers, Part Three

David Lloyd George:

On the House of Lords: “…a body of five hundred men chosen at random from amongst the unemployed.”

David Lloyd George was one of the 20th century’s most famous radicals. He was the first and only Welshman to hold the office of Prime Minister. He is remembered as a man of great energy and an unconventional outlook in character and politics. In 1890 he was elected Liberal MP for Caernarvon, aged 27. His scathing wit made him a dreaded – but respected – debating opponent in the House. In 1906 he was made President of the Board of Trade and became recognised as a very able politician. Herbert Henry Asquith later promoted him to Chancellor and he became one of the great reforming chancellors of the 20th century, introducing state pensions for the first time and declaring a war on poverty. In order to pay for wide-ranging social reform – one of his most controversial plans was his intention to tax land. Widely regarded as the man who won the war – DLG signed the 1919 treaty which established the (ultimately failed prerequisite to the UN) League of Nations. He was troubled by domestic problems, though. His agreement to the independence of the South of Ireland was reluctant, and he presided over a period of depression, unemployment and strikes. There were also concerns that he was eager for war in Turkey, and serious allegations that he had sold honours. As a result of the many scandals he had attracted, his popularity faded. When the Conservatives broke up the coalition, he handed in his resignation. Lloyd George remained a very controversial figure; his own party could not decide whether to support him or abandon him. He largely disregarded the problems facing the party, preferring to work for himself. As a result, one of the greatest Liberal leaders was also largely responsible for the party’s downfall. The Liberal party never formed the government again.

 

 Andrew Bonar Law:

“If I am a great man, then a good many great men of history are frauds.”

Andrew Bonar Law was the Canadian-born son of a Scottish clergyman. He worked as a boy on his father’s smallholding and then, at age 12, he went to live with his late mother’s cousins, who were rich Glaswegian merchant bankers in Scotland. With an inheritance that gave him financial independence, Bonar Law entered politics. In 1900 he was elected Conservative MP for Glasgow Blackfriars. He had a reputation for honesty and fearlessness and was well regarded as an effective speaker. These qualities promoted him to Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in 1902. He lost his seat in the 1906 Liberal landslide General Election, but he returned to represent Dulwich following a by-election later in the same year. Though hit hard by the death of his wife, he continued his political career and won the Conservative party leadership in 1911 as a compromise candidate. At the outbreak of war, he offered the government the support of the Conservatives in the coalition. Working closely with the Liberals caused Bonar Law to admire David Lloyd George to such a degree that he even declined the premiership in favour of Lloyd George’s appointment. Upon the Conservatives pulling out of the war-coalition, Bonar Law was invited to form a government – though he only lasted 209 days in office due to ill health.

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