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Why did Lloyd George fall from power in 1922?

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Lloyd George won overwhelmingly in 1918 as “the man who won the war”. How is it that he fell from power in 1922 never to return to the premiership? A multitude of problems struck both Lloyd George and his government some were his own faults others were political circumstances beyond his control. These problems progressively mounted up so high they obscured Lloyd George’s successes and toppled him from power.

Lloyd George’s post as primeminister was in a way doomed from the beginning. He came to power at the head of a coalition party making enemies along the way. Most notably Asquith and many other Liberal MPs people whom should have been supporters. Instead he became a prisoner of the Conservative Party the main bulk of the coalition. Lloyd George’s policies of reform and views on the Irish question were incompatible with many conservatives. Whom when it came to 1922 would abandon him. This incompatibility stifled the coalition’s progress. The high hopes of a “land fit for heroes” meant this lack of progress especially hurt his reputation in office.

This lack of progress was also due to a general downturn in the economy: caused by WW1 and the growth of competition abroad. A policy of retrenchment was introduced after a short boom. Retrenchment did not allow the kind of reform people wanted. Lloyd George earned the anger of workers wanting reforms by refusing to nationalize mines and using heavy-handed tactics dealing with a strike in Glasgow. Had Lloyd George not been part of the coalition would he have adopted this policy and lost the sizeable support of the miners? Or was nationalization not practical and fear of revolution justified? Lloyd George’s stance and Liberals in general also were confused on issues such as industrial relations. In the polarization of politics that was happening the Liberal party in the middle didn’t seem to have an obvious set of principles that were relevant to the unfolding century which wasn’t helped by the fact it was split.

Lloyd George did however create a period of relative stability in Ireland that lasted for 50 years. Unfortunately this wasn’t realized in 1922. The partition of Ireland wasn’t liked by unionists for whom any break up of the nation was a grave mistake or Nationals for whom partition of Ireland was unnatural or Liberals who were disgusted at the ruthless treatment of citizens of the realm.

Quite the opposite was true for the Treaty of Versailles seen even by Lloyd George himself as a failure but ironically probably on its own had little to do with his lack of popularity. The treaties that followed the end of the war took a lot of the primeminister’s time away from the domestic agenda. It was more of an example of the primeminister seeming above ordinary politics away in fancy palaces in Europe than failure of policy. Liberals felt the treaty too harsh and others that it was not harsh enough. Lloyd George was fast loosing support for an already weak power base.

Lloyd George’s style of government aggravated people. In the war he seemed to undermine the civil service by bring his own people in. He seemed to have a presidential style rather than one of a primeminister and in order to get things done was often ruthless in dismissing those he saw to have failed. On top of this he was struck by scandal. In his private life he seemed to be cheating on his wife and mistress and worst of all dispensed with the formalities of selling peerages and knighthoods for money. If nothing else this alienated him still further from any support he might have had in the conservative ranks as well as with the general public.

Lloyd George had lost the support of many Liberals who had stuck with Asquith and through his style of government, scandal, the Irish settlement and apparent failure reconstruction Lloyd George lost support in and out of the coalition. The final blow was foreign policy in Chanak. Lloyd George seemed to be war mongering telling troops to resist Turkish forces in Greece at a time when the British people were still hurting from the effects of “the war to end all wars”. Bonar Law wrote, “we cannot alone be the policemen of the world”.

Britain’s role as a superpower was in decline, the economy was in relative downturn and the British Empire seemed to be falling apart starting at home with Ireland. Lloyd George was probably an able enough a politician to have at least coped with this situation had he had the support of a party behind him. In part it was his style of government, personality and scandal that made him less popular within the coalition confounded by Bonar Law leaving his prominent place as mediator between Lloyd George and conservative backbenchers. But it was the split from the Liberals and with that the loss of control of the party machine and a party with the same ideologies that meant the coalition was not as effective as it could have been.

This was converted into failure for Lloyd George who couldn’t fulfill the overly ambitious hopes of the post war years. The cumulating of many problems culminating in Chanak and without a firm power base (caused primarily by the split in the Liberal party) Lloyd George fell from power. The lack of support within the coalition led to decisions, which lost him even more support out of it, which in turn led to the conservatives feeling Lloyd George had lost his popularity and therefore his usefulness causing their departure from the coalition. The break up of the coalition forced Lloyd George’s resignation.

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