David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd George (1863-1945) (4/5)

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To this day the only Welshman to serve as British Prime Minister, Lloyd George was Britain’s war-time leader during the last two years of the First World War, replacing the weak and indecisive Herbert Asquith. Born to a lower-middle class class family on the 17th of January, 1863, he was brought up as a Welsh-speaker. He received an education at the local Anglican school in his childhood home, the Welsh village of Llanystumdwy.

As a young man, he took an interest in lawyership and politics, campaigning for the Liberal Party in the 1885 election. In 1905, as president of the Board of Trade and a member of the ruling Liberal cabinet, he made great progress in aiding the poor workers of both Britain and her empire. Afterwards, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer and introduced the People’s Budget, which aimed to improve living conditions for the poor and did so with some success, after passing narrowly in the House of Commons, introducing crucial unemployment insurance and national insurance for workers with sickness.

In 1916, his great efforts as a statesman and his natural charisma were recognised, and he took over the premiership from the mediocre Herbert Asquith to become the leader of the world’s greatest Empire during one of the greatest wars in history. He restored national morale, which had taken a serious hit during Asquith’s premiership, and effectively mobilised Britain, leading her to a great victory in the First World War.

After the war, he continued to enact several critical post-war social reforms, laying the foundations for the welfare state that would be taken up over two decades later by Clement Attlee, after the conclusion of the Second World War. However, it is from this point that his political career entered a decline. Foreign policy crises and ineffectiveness in managing his own popularity within the party that he led resulted in a fall from power in 1922. Furthermore, blunders motivated by his own greed such as the sale of knighthoods and peerages cemented the damage done to his reputation after the war, ensuring that he would never again return to power in his lifetime.

As a Prime Minister, Lloyd George boasts perhaps one of the most controversial and complicated legacies of them all. However, his effectiveness in leading Britain through one of her greatest struggles remains undisputed by historians, and the reforms he enacted that laid the foundation for the modern welfare state ensure his legacy as one of Britain’s most formidable and effective leaders.

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