'The Welsh Wizard'

David Lloyd George, the first Welsh Prime Minister of Great Britain.

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Reaching the top

On 7 December 1916 David Lloyd George, became the first Welsh Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Twenty-six years after entering Parliament on a narrow margin as MP for the Caernarfon Boroughs, this Welsh-speaking, Nonconformist lawyer who had been brought up in Llanystumdwy, had finished his steady ascent within British government.

A Welsh Liberal

Throughout his career, Welsh causes such as the disestablishment of the church and the issue of land reform were central to his politics.  But he rose to British prominence with his vehement opposition to the Second Boer War (1899-1902).  Though his actions threatened the unity of the Liberal Party, dividing it between pro and anti-war campaigners, his attacks against the government’s Education Act (1902) helped reunite the Liberals.  His successful amendment which essentially made the Act irrelevant further strengthened his position and reputation. 

The strength of his reputation earned Lloyd George a place in Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal Cabinet of 1906 as president of the Board of Trade.  His unconventional approach to ministerial work irritated many, but inspired others and, in 1908, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer when Asquith followed Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister.

People's Budget

Social reform was Lloyd George’s main motive as Chancellor and his ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909 sought to introduce old age pensions, unemployment benefits and state financial support for those in need.  The budget was rejected by the House of Lords in 1909. But Lloyd George refused to back down and the budget became law in 1910; the Lords had been defeated.  In August 1911 the Parliament Act was passed, permanently limiting the power of the Lords and opening the way for Irish home rule and Welsh disestablishment. 

War Prime Minister

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Lloyd George, widely considered a pacifist, accepted the need for British involvement and in 1915 became Minister of Munitions.  His energy and will proved to be worthwhile characteristics in his new role and in July 1916 he was appointed Minister of War.  On 7 December that year he took over from Asquith as Prime Minister and took on the challenge of leading Britain through the war. 

When peace was declared in 1918 the ‘Welsh Wizard’s popularity was at its height.  His role in the discussions at Versailles and his contribution to the outcome of the treaty has been widely debated though it seems clear that he occupied the middle ground between Wilson and Clemenceau.  Following Versailles he was wholly occupied by domestic policy and the challenges of post-war politics.  His government was dependent on the support of the Conservatives and this relationship became increasingly strained as the years progressed.  In 1922, Lloyd George became involved in an ‘honours scandal’ in which it appeared he, and his aides, had been involved in selling peerages for money.  This brought an end to his premiership, though he remained in Parliament as a back-bench MP until 1945.

David Lloyd George was made Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor in 1945.  He died on 26 March 1945 at his home, Ty Newydd, Llanystumdwy.

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