Welsh Radical Was a Great War Leader and in Peace Forged Huge Social Reforms; We Need Your Help in Deciding Who the Most Influential People Are in the Past 100 Years of Welsh History in the Fields of Politics, Health, Music, Literature, Art, Sport and Business. the Seven You Select Will Be Crowned Our St David's Day Icons. Today Political Editor David Williamson, Argues for David Lloyd George to Be Our St David's Day Icon for Politics

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Welsh Radical Was a Great War Leader and in Peace Forged Huge Social Reforms; We Need Your Help in Deciding Who the Most Influential People Are in the Past 100 Years of Welsh History in the Fields of Politics, Health, Music, Literature, Art, Sport and Business. the Seven You Select Will Be Crowned Our St David's Day Icons. Today Political Editor David Williamson, Argues for David Lloyd George to Be Our St David's Day Icon for Politics


* ERE is a question to ponder: If David Lloyd George had grown up in a Wales with a National Assembly, would the Senedd and not Westminster have been the focus of his ambitions? This moustached figure who is remembered as the last Liberal prime minister, as the man who led Britain out of World War I, and as the architect of much of the modern welfare state was the definition of a passionate Welshman.

Although born in Manchester, he was raised a Welsh-speaker in Llanystumdwy. He took pride in a non-conformist heritage which also served as the springboard for a career in politics.

As a solicitor he demanded and then secured the rights of non-Anglicans to be buried in parish graveyards according to their own rites.

This triumph led to him being chosen as the MP for Caernarfon Boroughs. He did not slip off his Welsh identity when he stepped through the gates of Westminster but continued to champion nonconformist causes, such as the fight for disestablishment.

Was his ambition at this time to be a Welsh Parnell and win autonomy for the land he considered home? He certainly tried, and spectacularly failed, to unite the self-government movement Cymru Fydd with the Liberal associations of Wales. Today, would a devotee of the Eisteddfod who had such a fiery love of Wales pin his hopes on winning a place in the cabinet in Cardiff or Whitehall? If Welsh Home Rule had been a reality he might well have made his home in a legislature in Cardiff, or wherever it would have been located. But the Lloyd George who followed his uncle's encouragement and became an MP shaped Britain and its empire.

He was a vehement opponent of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and accused Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain of profiteering. In 1906 he was brought into the government as President of the Board of Trade and scored an early success in preventing a railway strike. He was then handed one of the great offices of state, becoming Chancellor in 1908.

This was an era when the goals of the Liberal Party dovetailed with the values of Welsh nonconformists and he taxed tobacco and liquor, alongside income and land.

But coupled to such fiscal puritanism was a concern for those who lived in fear of sickness and destitution and a desire to "lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor".

Fighting for social reform meant championing political reform and taking on the power of the House of Lords.

When peers threw out the "people's budget" of 1909 which contained proposals for a higher rate of income tax the country went to the polls. The Liberals were returned to power with the support of Labour and Irish nationalists, and the 1911 Parliament Act stripped the power of the Lords to veto money bills.

Lloyd George deserves the title "radical" for his willingness to take on vested interests and show Britain, and the world, that a new, fairer ordering of society was possible. His revolution had a distinctly Welsh flavour - and not just because it was a vision of reform that would be applauded in Welsh chapels.

His foes stirred anti-Welsh prejudice in opposition to the National Insurance Bill. A "mistresses and maids" rally was staged at the Royal Albert Hall at which there were cries of "Taffy is a Welshman, Taffy is a thief!" According to the National Library of Wales, the event climaxed with Lady Desart declaring: "England ... never did nor never shall lie at the proud foot of a conqueror."

The outbreak of the First World War put normal politics on hold. The same verve with which Lloyd George fought opponents of reform was on display in his next roles as Minister of Munitions and Secretary of State for War. His energy contrasted with the performance of the prime minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, and in 1916 Lloyd George was appointed to lead a Conservative-backed coalition.

At that year's Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth he delivered a speech of Churchillian eloquence which showed his vision for Britain.

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Welsh Radical Was a Great War Leader and in Peace Forged Huge Social Reforms; We Need Your Help in Deciding Who the Most Influential People Are in the Past 100 Years of Welsh History in the Fields of Politics, Health, Music, Literature, Art, Sport and Business. the Seven You Select Will Be Crowned Our St David's Day Icons. Today Political Editor David Williamson, Argues for David Lloyd George to Be Our St David's Day Icon for Politics
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