The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918

By David French | Go to book overview

1
'Restitution, Reparation,
Guarantee against Repetition':
The Lloyd George Government
and its Objectives, December
1916-January 1917

IN September 1916 Lloyd George had promised to deliver the knock-out blow against Germany.1 When he became Prime Minister his mandate to govern rested on two things: the fact that a minority of Liberal MPs and a majority of Unionist MPs believed that he was more likely to achieve victory than Asquith, and the fact that the political divisions of the House of Commons made it impossible for the Unionists to find a leader from amongst their own ranks who could draw sufficient support from the Liberal and Labour parties.2 Lloyd George was thus a Prime Minister without a party while the Unionists were a party without their own Prime Minister. With the benefit of hindsight it is apparent that their mutual dependence made each the prisoner of the other and that Lloyd George was indeed the only possible Prime Minister. But, lacking his own secure power base, he was averse to testing the precise degree of his support. So uncertain was he of his own political standing that when he finally dismissed the CIGS, Sir William Robertson, in February 1918, he warned one of his aides that 'we may be out next week'.3

Although senior Liberal ministers, with the exception of Christopher Addison, refused to serve under Lloyd George, most

The quotation in the chapter title is Lloyd George, cited in Hansard, HC Debs., 5th ser., vol. 88, col. 1335, 19 Dec. 1917.

____________________
1
D. Lloyd George, War Memoirs ( London, 1938), i. 509-10; J. Grigg, Lloyd George: From Peace to War, 1912-1916 ( London, 1985), 424-8.
2
The best study of British domestic politics during the war is J. Turner, British Politics and the Great War: Coalition and Conflict 1915-1918 ( London, 1992).
3
G. Riddell, Lord Riddell's War Diary 1914-1918 ( London, 1933), 314.

-13-

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