Why did Lloyd George win so convincingly in the 1918 general election yet fall from power in 1922

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Lloyd George’s popularity based on his achievements during World War One may be seen as what led him to win the General Election so overwhelmingly in 1918. However, his approach within the political arena and towards social policies in the early 1920’s contributed to his eventual downfall. After winning WW1, Lloyd George could sit proudly as the head of Parliament and use his popularity to sweep aside all opposition, dissolve parliament, call a general election and win it convincingly. During the war, Lloyd George gained a reputation as man who could ‘get the job done’.

This made him extremely popular to the electorate, especially after gaining admirers with his confidence and belief that the war could be won in 1916 when the press and balloters began to have doubts over Asquith’s leadership. Lloyd George wanted the best people to help him win the war and did not care for their party political beliefs. To run the war, he created a cross-party war cabinet, consisting of Bonar Law, Curzon and Milner from the Conservatives and Henderson from the Labour party.

This dynamic group of politicians helped enhance his ever-growing reputation and is one of the main reasons why he won the 1918 election so convincingly. Bringing to an end the ever-challenging wrangle from rebellious railwaymen and miners until they no longer posed a threat and commanding peace amongst trade unions also pitched in towards his sweeping election victory. He also brought the Admiralty under his control in 1917 through insisting on the introduction of the convoy system.

Successfully solving the Irish Home Rule Question, something that had up to then eluded every British diplomat before him for the past one-hundred years contributed towards him winning the 1918 election, too. By solving the problem he once again assured the voters that he was a man whom was capable of ‘getting the job done’. Lloyd George was even able to win the Maurice Debate in May 1918. When Sir Frederick Maurice wrote a letter to The Times accusing Lloyd George of lying to the House of Commons about the strength of the British army Asquith used it as a chance to debate in the commons and win a vote of no confidence in Lloyd George.

However, Lloyd George presented figures apparently from Maurice himself and so gained the support of important party members, all bar Asquith. Growing support from the Conservatives over way he handled the Maurice debate and social policies during the war as well as his rising popularity amongst voters were the main reasons why Lloyd George was victorious in the 1918 general election. However, once the elation of post-war success subsided Lloyd George swiftly found himself with a lot of problems that would need tackling.

50,000 peopled were killed during the war and 1,500,000 found themselves permanently affected by the effects of wounds and gas. This left a whole generation of parents and loved ones to bear the grief alone and contributed towards demoralising the countries resolve. This meant voters were beginning to lose confidence in Lloyd George and so contributed to his downfall in 1922. With the war over and the demobilisation of troops from the army in 1919, Lloyd George also had to find jobs for four million people who now found themselves unemployed.

First signs of his inept manner were shown when he ordered officers holding key civilian jobs within the concerning the armed forces to be released first, leaving the run-of-the-mill ground troops without much chance of finding professions. This caused upheaval as thousands of rank-and-file army troops demonstrated outside parliament about the abuse they felt they had suffered. Lloyd George quickly backtracked and adopted his ‘first in, first out’ policy- giving the longest serving men the opportunity to find employment first.

In having to change this policy, Lloyd George made himself look foolish in front of the electorate, causing them to lose confidence in his ability as leader. This loss of confidence would serve to further hinder his chances of winning the next election, contributing further to his fall from power. Even though his new ‘first in, first out’ policy meant that millions of workers did successfully find employment, Lloyd George soon found himself with even bigger problems to tackle.

As inflation rose dramatically following the removal of government’s wartime control on prices during the summer of 1919, workers soon found themselves not being able to pay modern day prices for essentials such as food. Labourers yet again protested, arguing for better working conditions and an increase in wages. Lloyd George was unable to help the ever swelling numbers of those in the working class due to economic constraints and so they all turned against him, meaning he would gain fewer votes in the next election which contributed to his downfall in 1922. Britain’s economy was also in disarray.

In order to keep the war going Britain had lent around i?? 1,800,000 to Allies and borrowed about i?? 850,000 from the USA. Due to chaos across the world because of inter-war years, Britain got very little money back whilst still being indebted to the USA. Because of this, Britain never regained its role of pre-war international financial dominance; something the electorate would not be able to come to terms with. This also contributed to Lloyd George’s downfall, as he was now becoming even more unpopular with balloters. Another reason for Lloyd George’s loss of popularity was The Geddes Axe.

Released on Tuesday February 21, 1922, The Geddes Axe forced Lloyd George into following policies such as the de-control of industries taken over by the government, resistance of proposed expenditure and social reform, safeguarding of industries and cuts to benefits. These were all conservative initiatives and by agreeing with them Lloyd George portrayed himself as a puppet of the conservatives under the coalition government. This is something the electorate would have hated, causing them to turn against Lloyd George and therefore it served only to worsen his reputation, definitely contributing further to his downfall.

The Geddes Axe also led the resignation of Addison and Montagu, two very influential liberal politicians. Massive mistrust from the press and electorate alike ensued as it refined his growing reputation as a selfish dictator, almost certainly contributing further to his downfall. Another disastrous flaw in his decision making was the sale of National Honours. Lloyd George could plead that Government had dishonourably been selling honours for at least forty years. He, however, exploited his position a little too much.

Not only did he sell more honours with less justification, but also to aid his own account, as the existence of the Lloyd George fund still indicates. The ‘Chanak Incident’ of 1922, in which reckless foreign policy headed by Lloyd George had led Britain to the verge of an unnecessary war with Turkey after they threatened to move troops in to a neutral zone, thus breaking the Versailles settlement, also reaped further pressure on him. Lloyd George threatened the Turks with the force of not only Britain, but also ‘The British Empire’ if they went ahead.

This was viewed as completely indecisive and nonessential, adding to Churchill’s former belief that Lloyd George was a man hosting “a series of extremely laborious and mystifying manoeuvres! ” The public sided with Churchill and now hated Lloyd George more than ever. The voters were just coming to term with the consequences of WW1 and feared nothing more than another war. This is what I believe was the final mistake of his term in charge as Lloyd George had now struck fear into the hearts of all those able to vote, meaning he had no chance of winning the 1922 election.

Progressively, Lloyd George also squandered the support of the Conservatives, Labour, the press and most notably of Bonar Law. Through losing Bonar Laws support, Lloyd George lost the aid of the person who kept Conservative backbenchers loyal through the six-year coalition. Bonar Laws loss of confidence in Lloyd George was an important cause of the latter’s downfall as it meant that Lloyd George now found himself having to compete with even more opposition within the political arena, rendering his ability to pass bills and amendments useless.

The conservatives were already becoming increasingly worried that Lloyd George would split their party like he had done the liberals previously and now all of their members were fed up with his socialist approach they set about ousting him from power. By going against anything policies Lloyd George proposed, the conservatives were able to frustrate as they had been up to then loyal supporters and turn them against him, cutting his chances of winning the upcoming election even more.

It can be argued that the Liberal Party was already in decline long before the First World War and so Lloyd George’s fall from power was inevitable due to him being at the head of the party. In the general election of 1910, the liberals lost 125 seats but were still able to stay in power because they retained a majority of over 110 on the conservatives. George Dangerfield shared the belief that the Liberals were already in decline due to them not being able to adapt to changes in society, in particular not being able to meet the expectations of the new industrial working class.

As labour tended to the needs of the ever increasing numbers of working class people who had recently acquired the vote as part of the 1918 Fourth Reform Act, the Liberals missed out on the chance of gaining millions of new voters. Because of this, it is possible to suggest that Lloyd George’s political and social approaches were not the only reasons he fell from power so dramatically from 1918 onwards. Because he was the head of an already floundering party, he would be credited for the blame once they started to fail within the political arena, which would contribute to his eventual downfall from power in 1922.

When the general election of 1922 was called, the Liberals ended up in third place with 115 seats. Most of their pre-war policies had dated badly such as in Ireland where the Irish had moved past home rule, something that Lloyd George had previously tackled successfully to contribute towards his victory in 1918. Britain was also an unequal society where the many enjoyed unfair privileges, meaning Lloyd George could only call upon the support of the middle-class minority.

This diminished number of voters contributed heavily to his downfall in 1922, as he no longer had the vast amount of supporters to call upon at the time of balloting. In conclusion, there are many reasons why Lloyd George fell from power in 1922. For all the success gained through winning World War One, the way in which he approached social policies, such as finding employment for demobilised troops and the way he handled foreign policies like the ‘Chanak Incident’ undoubtedly led to his collapse.

Squandering the support of important politicians such as Bonar Law and Asquith, as well as losing confidence from the press and electorate also hindered his chances of repeating an emphatic election victory. Nonetheless, as far as his own actions do go far in clarifying his collapse from power, being the leader of a party already in a steady decline was something that would always make it difficult to repeat general election success, too.

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