Death of the Goat
By Steve Payne
On 26 March 1945 Britain's first Socialist Prime Minister, David Lloyd George died in Ty Newydd, Llanystumdwy. He was eighty-two years old.
Brought up in rural North Wales, he became the Member of Parliament for Caernarvon Boroughs in 1890 and held the seat until 1945. Lloyd George was a member of the Independent Labour Party, and following the 1895 General Election the leader of the party Keir Hardie determined it would be necessary to join with other left-wing groups such as the intellectual and largely middle-class Fabian Society, the Social Democratic Federation and the Scottish Labour Party.
He developed as a national figure during the first decade of the twentieth
century by contesting the hereditary power of the House of Lords, describing the
peers as "the first of the litter", "chosen at random from among the unemployed"
and swore to bring their future before "the great assize of the people".
A radical pacifist, Lloyd George's opportunity arose with the outbreak of the Great War on the European continent. Appalled at the prospect of a military alliance with Czarist Russia, Lloyd George wrote a letter to his wife on the eve of war stating "I am filled with horror at the prospect".
He subsequently launched a backbench revolt that caused Britain's neutrality during the needless slaughter in Belgium and Northern France.
Diminished in authority, the Liberal Government of HH Asquith fell shortly
During 1915, Keir Hardie died and Lloyd George became the leader of the Labour Party, forming a new administration during 1916. An ingenious negotiator, Lloyd George persuaded the rump of the Liberal Party to join a national government of unity that broadened Keir Hardie's 1895 popular front. Key to his success in this endeavour was a promise to build upon the social reforms that the Liberal Party had begun in office from 1905.
His many achievements in office included the recognition of Communist Russia, restructuring the Edwardian Labour Relations that were holding back Britain's economic development, and persuading a reluctant France to release her war reparations in exchange for a League of Nations guarantee of her eastern frontier.
Perhaps of longer term significance was progress on the island of Ireland; the forming of the Irish Free State was a breakthrough that no Prime Minister since Gladstone had entertained.
Dubbed "the Goat", Lloyd George was brought down by his notorious reputation for sexual laxity.
Exposure of his long term extra-marital affair with his devoted secretary Frances Stevenson scandalised society, and his elder son joined in the criticism of many that there was something of the night about him . This criticism led the Liberal Party to withdraw from the administration ending his premiership at only fifty-nine years of age, and arguably at the peak of his powers.
In a striking parallel with Lenin, with whom he signed an understanding of
mutual friendship in 1919, Lloyd George would prove to be a man of power and
intellectual prowess that would be succeeded by someone far more ruthless than
Steve Payne, Editor Today in Alternate