Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Robert Lloyd George's DAVID & WINSTON in The Weekly Standard

Another round of applause for Robert Lloyd George's thoughtful study of the friendship between David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill in The Weekly Standard: "For all of the big and small studies of various stages of Churchill's career--the early adventures in Cuba, the Northwest Frontier, and in Sudan, the heroics of the Boer prison camp escape--little has been written about the epic friendship of his political life, the one with the Liberal party giant David Lloyd George. The account of that friendship by Robert Lloyd George, great-grandson of the great man, goes far to fill the lacuna. The subtitle may overreach a little--a friendship that "changed the course of history"--but not by much. For an unbroken period of 44 years, the two were close friends, sometimes rivals for power and sometimes, together, decisive partners in events of global significance: The 1914 declaration of war against Germany, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Norway debate in the House of Commons that brought Neville Chamberlain down and Churchill to power. When Lloyd George died in March 1945, Churchill, still prime minister, worked through the night preparing the eulogy he would deliver at the Welshman's funeral the next morning. An unlikelier pairing for a half-century of political friendship would be hard to envisage. Lloyd George, 11 years older than Churchill, was born into humble farming circles in Wales and left school at 15. A lay preacher in his teen years in nonconformist chapels, he began his law career by defending poachers out of an office in a back room of his house. He entered parliament at 27 as a Liberal member determined to fight for the rights of the poor and disadvantaged. Churchill, by contrast, was a grandson of the Duke of Marlborough and the son of a Tory cabinet minister. His American-born mother had a string of well placed Establishment lovers who ensured that young Winston always secured a ringside appointment as a war correspondent in the late Victorian colonial wars. But it was four years after he first entered Parliament as a Tory in 1900 that the friendship with Lloyd George began. The Welshman--he was both the last Liberal prime minister and the only Welshman to occupy the post--joined forces with Churchill on the issue of free trade, something both men instinctively thought good for Britain and for the working man. Soon that conviction, and a growing appreciation for the Liberal social agenda, led Churchill to "cross the floor" of the House and join the Liberals. But it was Lloyd George who decisively influenced Churchill to "discover the poor," as one contemporary put it, and push through Parliament the most progressive social legislation that had ever been enacted in Great Britain: old age pensions, unemployment compensation, and other social reforms that culminated in the "People's Budget" of 1909. During the years leading up to World War I, Churchill, as first lord of the admiralty, pushed through an expensive modernization and build-up of the Royal Navy. This briefly raised tensions with Lloyd George, who was chancellor of the exchequer and responsible for the budget. But Churchill demonstrated great loyalty to Lloyd George by defending him against charges of financial impropriety when the Marconi Company won a government contract for empire-wide wireless communications. That gesture proved invaluable after Gallipoli: Churchill was forced to resign from the cabinet, and would have remained out of office for the rest of the war but for the stubborn backing he received from Lloyd George, who became prime minister in 1916." - David Aikman.

1 comment:

Kate Lord Brown said...

Adding this to my Christmas wish list - my Welsh great-grandmother was a George, close relative to the great David!