Formation of Coalition in 1915 (Britain at War 1914-1918) (Britain 1900-1951)

  • Created by: oanderton
  • Created on: 26-08-20 12:37

Party Views of War

  • War had been characterised by a desire for business as usual
  • Liberal government continued to rule alone without bringing any other parties
  • Liberals = anti-war
    • It increased government control over civillian life.
    • Increaed taxation & trade restrictions.
    • Redced private enterprise
    • Involved collabroation with Russia. Russia was seen as a repressive regime.
  • Conservatives =supported the war
    • Less divided in their stance.
    • Less concerned with moral principle
    • Imperialist.
  • Labour = divided
    • Henderson = pro-war
    • MacDonald = anti-war.
    • The bulk followed pro-war Henderson instead MacDonald.
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Liberals: A Conflict of Interest

Liberals were anti war, but were the lone party in a government who were at war.

This created a conflict with key liberal principles of...

  • Increasing control in civilian life
  • Restricting trade
  • Many supported the freedom of smaller nations but opposed militarism
  • Joining Russia seen as obnoxious and repressive regime 
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Impact of the 1916 Shell Crisis

Shell Crisis 1916 = shortage of shells on the front lines.

Was really an excuse for a faliure in tactics.


  • Backbench Conservatives are eager to criticise government.
  • Feelings that the inister of War, Lord Kitchener, was inadequate.
  • Caused dissatisfaction with Asquith's government

Asquith decides to bring in other parties to shoulder responsibility.

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Structure of 1916 Coalition

Saw some changes but did not really amount to power sharing

  • Asquith remained PM
  • Kitchener as minster for war
  • Lloyd George into potentially crucial minster of munitions
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer + foreign secretary remained liberal
  • Bonar Law made colonial secretary, not a major role
  • Balfour made First Lord of the Admiralty
  • Henderson made minister of education but more importantly brought  in as a symbol that Labour would be consulted  

Important cabinet positions went to Liberals - Liberals still hold balance of power.

Conservatives had insignificant roles.

Labour's position was simply performative consultation.

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Significance of the Coalition

  • Facilitated the rise of Lloyd George
  • Lloyd George provided the dynamism of war effort
    • Developed Munitions into the key element of government
  • Little attempt made to interfere with military strategy.
    • Left to Haig and his commanders
  • Conscription was introduced in 1916
    • Emphasis was put on western front
  • Lloyd George supplied a formidable amount of heavy artillery and equipment.
  • Lord Derby made sure he had enough men
  • Led to the disastrous military feats.
    • Somme offensive
    • Major defeat in Iraq
    • Rising in Ireland
      • Forces were diverted to bombard Irish Nationalist armed rebels in Dublin

Coalition could be argued to have been largely ineffective at dealing with the issues the Liberals faced if hadn't have been for Lloyd George as Minister of Muntions.

Lloyd George was the maion reason that issues of military incompetance were accounted for.

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Proposal of 3-Man War Council

War Council proposed by Lloyd George 1st December 1916

  • Asquith accepted the War Council on 3rd December
    • Withdrew this offer 4th December
  • Lloyd George resigned 5th December
  • Asquith resigned 6th December
    • He believed his support with leading ministers meant that a government couldn't be formed.
  • Bonar Law was summoned to form a government.
    • He said he would only do so if Asquith joined
    • Asquith refused
    • Bonar Law couldn't form a government
  • Lloyd George was the only alternative for government
    • Bonar Law, promenant Conservatives, and Labour agreed to serve under him
    • Prominent Liberals followed Asquith

7th December: Lloyd George became Prime Minister

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Support for War Council

1st Decmber 1916: Lloyd George proposes 3-man war comittee.

  • Lloyd George had popularity and press support.
  • Asquith had solid cabinet support

Distribution of support:

  • Liberals:
    • 80 supporting Lloyd George
    • 49 willing to reject Asquith
  • Conservatives:
    • Many sided with Carson of the Irish to get rid of Asquith.
    • Backbenchers were pressuring to support Lloyd George
    • Bonar Law sided with his back benchers
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