David Lloyd George
David Lloyd "Webber-Boy" George, affectionately known as the Welsh Wizzard , was Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War I and its aftermath. He lead the Liberal Party and couldn't keep his 'wand' in his trousers. Besides that, Lloyd George is still considered one of Britain's greatest Prime Ministers after Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and the mighty Lord North.
To later generations Lloyd George's name has been associated with overblown musicals and gender-bending singers who like to handcuff house guests to the radiator. Nowadays he is most famous for being the lead-singer of the 1980's band Culture Club. His most famous hit with the band was 'Karma Chameleon' which spent six weeks at #1 in the UK charts and was the biggest-selling single of 1984. However, Lloyd George's earlier claim to fame was to do with politics, social reform, war and shaking hands with Hitler. It has been a full and active life by anyone's book
David Lloyd George spoiled his entrance as Welsh National hero by getting himself born in - Manchester. This made him eligible for playing for Manchester City football club but instead Lloyd George chose to be brought up in North Wales within spitting distance of Mount Lisa Snowdon, a masticular shaped rock that went on to influence the politician's interest in women.
Entering parliament as a Radical Liberal in 1890, Lloyd George lived up to his party's reputation for hypocritical philandering by involving himself with a series of married women. That he had a wife and family back in Wales didn't seem to bother Lloyd George but it has been suggested by some of his biographers that his need to work up excuses why he wasn't coming home at the weekends. It also helped to develop Lloyd George's oratorical skills and plausible excuses about to avoid getting hit by a frying pan in the capable hands of his wife Margaret.
If Lloyd George had just stayed as a priapic political back bencher, he would have not got the one thing that really drove him:Success and a chance to say 'Up You Boyo' to his enemies in the Liberal Party and opponents in the Conservative-Liberal Unionist coalition. In 1901 Lloyd George made his opposition to the Boer War made public by demanding British minister Joseph Chamberlain stand trial for illegal monocle wearing. It caused a riot in Birmingham where Chamberlain was a political God, though unlike God, Chamberlain suffered a stroke and lived on as an orchid wearing cucumber. It was an early example of Lloyd George's notorious ruthless streak.
In 1905 the Liberals returned to office and got busy with their radically-correct political agenda. Lloyd George got his first real job as Minister of Trade and also, rarely, a real friend in the otherwise absurd Winston Churchill. Like Lloyd George, Churchill was something of an outsider, with the added burden of being a ex-Conservative turncoat. However, unlike Lloyd George, Churchill kept his cigar firmly in the marital box. Lloyd George of course couldn't but did partially regulate his sex life by turning one his daughter's teachers Frances Stevenson into number one mistress.
In 1908 Lloyd George got a leg up (rather than a leg over) when he got the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer. His immediate boss, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, was also something of a flirt too with women but typically didn't take it further than sending drippy love letters to various young women. Lloyd George had meanwhile decided he was going to slap a tax on upper class orgies and introduced his 1909 budget to 'make their Lordships squeak'. It was a clever tactic as the House of Lords threw out the entire budget and created a political crisis for the next couple of years which eventually saw them lose their main powers (except those of patronage and useless politician parking). Lloyd George was hailed by the left as a hero, the Great Radical and was talked off becoming the next British prime minister.
Perhaps because Lloyd George was now leading a more disciplined regular life with a wife in Wales and a mistress in England, he gambled money in some shady financial dealings. He used inside knowledge to buy and sell shares of Marconi in the hope of turning that into a franchise for fancy Italian restaurants with wireless telegrams so that people could send messages warning of ICE WARNING AHEAD:MY HUSBAND HAS RETURNED or ABLE SEAMEN REQUIRED: INQUIRE WITHIN and other such late Edwardian music hall innuendo. However, a message went astray and was traced back to one of Lloyd George's seedy Liberal friends. There was a denial, cover up, whitewash and finally an enquiry which concluded that eggs are eggs and elephants have wings..so nothing was out of place. Prime Minister Asquith thought he now had his rival Lloyd George in a handy place, just a whisper to a friendly newspaper and the Welshman's career would end down a South Wales mine shaft. That was until an Austrian archduke got himself shot in Sarajevo and set in motion World War One.
Lloyd George initially was against war as he feared it would curtail his access to exotic European adventures but his friend Churchill said it would be 'enormous fun'. So Lloyd George agreed to stay on in government. However, his enthusiasm began to wane when her learnt Britain's generals had no clue how to fight a modern war but that it was good for morale to keep feeding British Tommies into their human sausage making machine.
With Asquith frequently found nursing a bottle under the table or writing drippy love poetry, Lloyd George found himself more and more involved in running the main war effort. His deadliest enemy was Lord Kitchener who hadn't forgiven Lloyd George for rubbishing his reputation in the Boer War and privately asked if anyone would 'mind me take the Taff round the back and face a firing squad' but it was the great war hero who died first - drowning when he refused to leave a sinking ship enroute to Russia to beef up the Eastern Front. However this only left Lloyd George to deal with General Haig who still preferred the military doctrine of the time which was 'we can suffer more casualties than you Fritz'. With Britain's allies France, Russia and the Italians also suffering from their own ruling class of idiots and losing the war, Lloyd George resolved to remove his old boss out office at the first opportunity.
In December 1916 Lloyd George finally got his way and became Prime Minister. The first Asquith knew there was a problem when he returned home and discovered the locks to Number 10 Downing Street had changed. He also found all his furnishings were in tea chests, stacked up in the street. When Asquith complained to King George V of his treatment, the British monarch told the Liberal leader to 'stop crying like a baby' and confirmed Lloyd George as prime minister.
The new government was a coalition of Conservatives, pro-war Labour and those Liberals who decided do abandon Asquith and 'Join the George'. Lloyd George also brought back his old chum Churchill who had been consigned to digging drainage ditches in France for his failures to smash the Turks in the Dardenelles. But Churchill was an exception. Every other leading Liberal refused to join Lloyd George's government and instead stayed with the old booby. So the prime minister filled his government with his various friends in business and the press. In return they were encouraged to write open cheques (made out to personally to Lloyd George) and a promise of a peerage and the chance to cross the Atlantic in the Queen Mary the next time she got frisky at Ascot.
In 1917 the Americans had somehow found themselves involved in a European war but had as yet, no army to actually send over and do anything useful. This was a dangerous time for Lloyd George as the Russians had decided they hated each other more than the Germans and had gone home to sort it with a nice little civil war. The French army likewise was preferring to go on strike for bigger baguettes and the Italians had contrived to get themselves crushed by the Austro-Hungarians, an empire that was also showing signs of falling into a fresh dug grave. This meant Lloyd George had to rely on the British army but their commander General Haig was still working on an old plan, this time with added mud and sewage for a series of battles around Ypres in Belgium.
If the Western Front was blood and misery and the Eastern Front a Russian vodka drinking party, at least in the Middle East Lloyd George could boast of success. T.E.Laurence, a cartographer in Cairo had abandoned his post and British army uniform to 'go native' and persuaded the Arabs that they would get cheap British-Indian tea if they started a revolt. If in fact the 'revolt' was largely blowing up the train line between Damascus and Mecca (the fares were horrendous), it kept the Turks busy and unable to stop a white kneed English and Commonwealth army sneaking up Palestine and capturing Jerusalem in time for Jesus's birthday in 1917.
By 1918 with the fourth year of war, Britain and France were now up against the Germans alone. The Russians were gone and the Americans hadn't yet arrived as they needed to find a batch of gumshoes that fitted their feet for The Front. Lloyd George tried out some of his 'Welsh Wizzardry' on the Germans, producing rabbits out of hats and white mice out of mittens. He also decided to keep most of the British army at home to prevent General Haig from using them as more barbed wire decorations.
The Germans now made their move and in a replay of 1914 (and 1940) pushed the British and French back also to Paris once again. Finally the Americans turned up dressed as rangers and asked 'where they could shoot German bear'. It worked, the Germans were so shocked to see such inappropriate uniforms that they decided to finish the war and blame the Kaiser. Austria-Hungary exploded into bits like an over baked cake in the oven and the war was over. Lloyd George was kissed by everyone. Even King George V gave the Welshman a big slap on the back and offered Queen Mary as an afterthought if he cared to take an interest. Lloyd George declined, called an election and smashed his former Liberal party friends. Asquith lost his seat in the House of Commons and was asked to return his keys to the Ladies shower room. It was an end of the era.
The new coalition government was now essentially a Tory show with a few fig leafed Liberals in there and others who escaped classification. The undoubted star remained Lloyd George. He faced a number of problems to deal with. Working out what to do with Germany, the Irish taking the opportunity to take their balls back home, the communists in Russia and what to do with the Liberal Party. It was a tall order but in 1919 Lloyd George was the peak of his political libido and relished all the challenges.
At Versailles the twinkle eyed British Prime Minister had no problem dominating the show. The French leader Georges Clemenceau had only one reason to be there and that was to squeeze Germany's nuts harder that Napoleon. The American President Woodrow Wilson had arrived in full pious mode with his fourteen points (and no passes) for peace and talked in accent that Lloyd George found hard to take seriously. The Italian representative Vittorio Orlando only got interested when a particular show was on at the Folies Bergère or he cadge free tickets to Eurodisney. Orlando was more of Lloyd George's type, though the men could only communicate via obscene hand gestures. Eventually the German representatives agreed to sign the Treaty of Versailles as their only other option was to be stuffed into a howitzer and be propelled into the air in the direction of Berlin.
In Ireland this wasn't so easy. The Irish wanted a permanent divorce from Britain and declined Lloyd George's offer to buy them the next round. So a rebuffed Lloyd George sent in the Black and Tans to poison the Guinness brewery and burn copies of their Book of Records in Dublin. It didn't work and so Lloyd George invited the Irish leaders to London to greased pig race down Whitehall. The Irish won but Lloyd George cut off the snout and kept that bit back for Britain as Northern Ireland. This upset the Irish that those who stayed in Ireland denounced their colleagues for allowing themselves to get bamboozled by Lloyd George. The was the start of the Feckin War which resembled the Liberal split earlier though this one involved guns, grenades and a lot more shooting.
Lloyd George was still bitter with the Russians for their decision to go home at half time. He had never thought much of them before the First World War and what happened since the removal of the Czar was none too impressive now. Churchill was allowed to run a proxy war, supporting a armies run by Russian aristocrats, ex-generals and anti-Bolsheviks. Lloyd George supported the intervention but let Churchill become the public face of oppression. In the end Britain took their armies back home or redeployed them elsewhere.
However, the one enemy that held more venom for Lloyd George than even his international critics were the Liberals. When he and his own Liberal chums failed to apologise for winning the war under his leadership rather than Asquith, Lloyd George was drummed out of the Liberals and so started his own 'LG Max. Zero added sugar.'
Failure:The Final Frontier
Four years of high powered political affairs had exhausted even the sexually fit Lloyd George. The once lean Liberal Sex Machine (Petite Size) was finding it harder and harder to solve crises. Often cabinet meetings would involve Lloyd George, Churchill and those ministers who had run out of excuses to stay away. All the main Conservative ministers had gone away and were looking for their own political champion.
Then in October 1922 Lloyd George got a message that an uppity Turk general called Kemal Atatürk wanted to take control of Istanbul. The city had been surrended and occupied by the Allies when the Ottoman empire had thrown in their used bed linen at the end of the war. The British had kept Turkish sultan and his harem in office but had taken over the government so as to parcel out the empire to their friends. Now a 'new Turkey' had repudiated all their treaties and now wanted the great city on the Bosphorus. Lloyd George told the British troops to defend this new jewel to the British crown but there was no enthusiasm. Angry and in need of a recuperative shag with his secretary, Lloyd George resigned. He thought he would be back in a week as everyone in Britain asked for him back as leader. There was no response. Lloyd George never got a ministerial office again. It was all over, Lloyd George should have died the way he deserved - getting shot by a lover's angry husband. It never happened.
A Long Twilight Without Vampires
Lloyd George was 59 and he had been pulling the levers of British power for 17 years. Now he was out and politically homeless. His own LG Liberal Party got halved in the next general election and then halved again until there were a bare two dozen lemons. Lloyd George had even by then rejoined his old enemies at the Asquith Liberal party. But that particular horse was on its knees with the jockey roped and corseted into an upright position. El Cid it wasn't. When finally Lloyd George became Liberal leader, his old chap let him down for a prostrate operation in 1931 and sidelined him with hospital food as he watched helpless when the then Labour government fell over trying to defend the Bank of England's gold vaults with a toy sword. Lloyd George was irrelevant, an old goat of a man with just a shock of white hair and wearing his old Wizzard stage clothes to attract attention.
Even Churchill had by now abandoned his old political friend, preferring to make long and slow speeches in the House of Commons. So perhaps it was no surprise that when someone did notice Lloyd George again that he would respond. That this person was a former Austrian draft dodger, painter and professional rabble rouser was of no consequence to Lloyd George. He readily accepted Adolf Hitler's offer for of an all expenses trip to Germany to meet Der Fuhrer and his happy Nazis. For Germany it was a great success and Lloyd George wouldn't shut up about how much he was impressed and that he could. Lloyd George would later deny he had ever been so nice about Hitler but the chance to be treated like a proper statesman again had no doubt spun his head.
In 1939 Britain and France declared war on Germany to commence the Second World War and political thoughts were once again directed to Lloyd George. Could the man who had won the First', do it again and win the 'Second'? Lloyd George expected and received no favours from the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Their antagonism went a long way. Hadn't Lloyd George brought about Old Joe Chamberlain's death? His son hadn't forgotten and nor later on when Lloyd George had sacked the junior Chamberlain from a government job in 1917 'because his head was too small'. Neville Chamberlain said to friends he would prefer to share the same table with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin than sit with the 'old smelly goat'.
The situation changed when Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940. He offered Lloyd George an 'exciting offer'. Jealous that he hadn't been called instead of Churchill to form a government, Lloyd George declined Churchill's job offer: Minister for Agriculture. Appalled at what he saw as a job worthy of a red faced farmer with rosy bum cheeks, Lloyd George said no and spent more time on the golf course. His real hope was that Churchill would screw things up again and then the British would turn to a proven World War winner. It was a fanciful scenario but Churchill stayed on in office and the call to the randy old Welshman was never sent. There would be no Clemenceau second act, more likely a Petain one as Lloyd George's 'peacenik' speeches in the House of Commons emptied the chamber quicker than if someone threw an anthrax bomb in there.
Lloyd George died in 1945. A few months later the old Liberal party more or less curled up its toes following their election failure that year. It was an apt epitaph.
Return to Favour
The memory of the former Prime Minister got forgotten until his reputation was reappraised in the 1980s. There had a been a minor revival when the Birmingham based rock outfit The Move renamed themselves Wizzard in homage. Later George O'Dowd changed his name to U.C.Boyo Lloyd George but decided to anglicise it to Boy George. The old welshman may have liked the reference but perhaps not the cross dressing gender-bending favoured by Boy George. But then Lloyd George always did have an eye and inside trouser leg for the 'laydees'.
- Due to his being Welsh in origin, and his love of producing Phil Spector influenced glam rock.
- If you have my copy, please return it eh?.
- A false dawn