Wartime

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  • The Liberal Party
    • Britain at war
      • Total war created a challenge to Lib values - principles of personal freedom, peace and retrenchment impossible to preserve without compromise in wartime
      • Economic free-trade, non-interventionist beliefs destroyed
      • Rationing, conscription and extension of State authority were responses to total war
      • August 1914 - DORA. Libs disagree with extensive state powers
        • e.g government control of arms factories, censorship, import duties, MoM, guaranteed minimum wages...
      • Shell crisis 1915 and failure of the Gallipoli Campaign 1915 - where an attempt was made to knock out Germany's ally, Turkey, by an Allied landing in Gallipoli
      • 1916 Military Service Act - compulsory enlistment single males 18-41, 1918 - 18-50 including married men
        • 50 Libs voted against it, saying that it was an invasion of individual freedom. Most accepted it due to necessary circumstance - argument from necessity damaged liberalism as a political philosophy
        • Reginald McKenna and Edward Grey opposed it
      • 1917 German U-Boat campaign - 4 weeks' food left at one point
      • Growth in govt. power led to a huge extension of State bureaucracy
        • Challenged Lib principle of individual liberty
      • Union of Democratic Control protested against war, represented Lib anti-war tradition - constant reproach to the govt.
      • Britain's entry into the war destroyed the image of the Libs as a peace party
      • Abandonment of free trade
      • Main problem for Libs was that although most accepted that war was justified, it was hard to accommodate it easily within the Lib programme as developed since 1906 - Libs found themselves diverted from social reform by the demands of war
    • Lloyd George
      • Wartime political truce allowed him to develop his ideas of consensus politics
      • Advocate of inter-party co-operation from 1914
      • His 2 wartime budgets in 1914 and 1915 doubled income tax and greatly increased government expenditure - introduced 'super-tax'
      • Support from Bonar Law
      • Pre-1914 record - at the time of the impasse over the Lords, DLG had unofficially discussed the possibility of a coalition with Cons. Indicated that he took inter-party dealings seriously
      • MoM - 1914, 1,330 machine guns, 1918 - 250,000 guns+ supply of shells had begun to exceed demand
      • Helped Churchill break a strike among munitions workers in Leeds by threatening to send strikers straight to war front
      • At loggerheads with the military generals who wanted to continue their war of attrition in Europe
        • Set up a 3 man war council with him as chairman - Cons. keenly supported his initiative
          • Believed that he understood and represented the needs of the nation - he knew the people and the people knew him
        • Tried to outwit the generals without at the same time weakening the war effort overall
          • Keeping the army deliberately under-resourced while maintaining that his govt. was making every effort to meet the demands of the service chiefs
            • Wanted the generals to reconsider their unimaginative strategy of mass attack
              • Success in persuading the Admiralty in 1917 to adopt the convoy system as the main defence against the deadly U-Boat attacks showed what could be achieved when new thinking was given a chance
      • 130 of the 272 Lib MPs declared their readiness to follow DLG - created a party split that could never be healed
      • A.J.P. Taylor said DLG's supporters were 'rougher in origin and in temperament'
      • Refusal to contemplate anything other than total victory
      • Methods as PM - increase number of Cons. in govt. to 44 (12 Lib, 2 Lab), then run the war with a small inner war cabinet (1 Lib, 5 Cons, 2 Lab)
        • Garden Suburb allowed instant decision-making - but criticised for trying to detach govt. from parliamentary scrutiny, turn British premiership into an American-style presidency, dictator
      • Maurice Debate 1918
        • General Maurice publicly accused DLG of deliberately distorting the figures of troop strength in order to suggest that the British army in France was stronger than it actually was
          • DLG defended himself so confidently that it was Asquith that appeared unconvincing. Commons voted 293:106 in favour of DLG
            • Asquith and supporters looked like a group of disgruntled troublemakers who had irresponsibly sought to embarrass the govt. at a time of great national danger
              • Destroyed chance of Lib reunification + deepened the divide between the 2 factions in the Lib. party
      • Heavily criticised for use of the Black and Tans
      • His success in persuading many of his colleagues to accept increasing state intervention had the effect of diluting his own Liberalism and detaching him from the radical element in his party
      • Ministry of Reconstruction set up to improve social conditions.
        • Education Act 1918 a product of this
          • School leaving age raised to 14
          • Abolition of fees for elementary education
          • Introduction of compulsory medical inspections for secondary school pupils
          • Authorising of LEAs to set up nursery schools
          • Creation of day release colleges so young people at work could continue their formal education 1 day a week
          • Restriction of the employment of children of school age
          • Largely the work of H.A.L. Fisher
      • Asquith's continuing resentment at what he regarded as DLG's disloyalty and betrayal in 1916 meant that a genuine rapprochement (resumption of working relations) between the two was impossible
      • The fracturing of the Lib party left DLG dependent on the support of Bonar Law and the Cons - effectively 'prisoner of the Conservatives'
    • Asquith
      • Patriotic, but his calm demeanour and refusal to be panicked into rash action suggested a lack of dynamism
      • Believed that the war council would be too great an infringement of his authority as PM
      • Cons. informed him that they weren't willing to serve in a coalition govt. if DLG not a member
      • In 1916, only the Daily News supported him unreservedly
      • The Times said he was 'unfit to be fully charged with the supreme direction of the war'
      • No natural allies
      • A.J.P. Taylor said Lib. leaders associated with Asquith were 'men of excessive refinement'
      • Willingness of Lab. to support him earlier had reflected a commitment to the war effort generally, not him personally
      • Blind to larger issues involved
      • Heavily criticised for the British handling of the Easter Rising
    • Liberal-Conservative Coalition 1918-22
      • Bonar Law liked the idea of it - offered his party a return to gov. office after 10 powerless years without necessity of general election
      • Face-saving exercise for Asquith
      • 1918 General Election - 'Coupon Election' - Bonar Law and DLG agree to continue coalition into peacetime
        • Election results: Coalition Cons - 32.6%, Co. Lib - 13.5%, Co. Lab - 1.5% - Co. total - 47.6%. Lab - 22.2%, Asquith Libs - 12.1%, Cons. 3.4%
        • DLG's decision to perpetuate the Lib split by carrying the coalition into peacetime destroyed any chance of recovery and reunification
          • Herbert Gladstone said about the 1918 election: 'Local [Liberal] Associations perished or maintained a nominal existence. Masses of our best men passed away to Labour. Others gravitated to Conservativism or independence.'
    • Acts
      • Representation of the People Act
        • Swelled number of voters from 7 million to 21 million - trebled the electorate - more moved towards Labour
      • Sex Disqualification Act 1919
    • Opinions on decline
      • Trevor Wilson - war was the essential reason for Lib decline
      • Martin Pugh - the key factor in Lib decline was not the war itself, but rather that the Libs failed to seize the opportunity that the war offered
      • Diverted by the demands of war from their progressive policies, the Libs gave ground to Labour as the new force of reform

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