28/12/1918 Britain’s votes are counted: Lloyd George’s coalition wins a landslide victory #1918Live

Two weeks ago the United Kingdom held its first election since 1911. Because of the large numbers of postal ballots from men serving overseas with the armed forces, the votes are only counted today. And the result is a landslide victory for the Conservatives and Prime Minister Lloyd George‘s faction of the Liberals. Lloyd George has just led the country to victory against Germany, so it is perhaps not too surprising that voters have rallied to him and his Conservative allies.

Asquith‘s faction of the Liberals win an impressive number of votes (only slightly less than Lloyd George’s) but lose most of their seats; Asquith himself fails to secure re-election. Aside from the coalition’s popularity, Asquith suffers from his own association with the less successful early years of the war. His long opposition to votes for women may also have counted against him now that women are voting for the first time. Labour meanwhile win more seats than the Asquith Liberals and substantially more votes than Lloyd George’s Liberals; although they are only the fourth largest party in parliament, their power is clearly on the rise.

Although women now have the vote, the election is not a particularly successful one for women candidates. Christabel Pankhurst, a leading suffragette, narrowly fails to secure election and is defeated by John Davison of Labour. The only one of the sixteen women’s candidates elected is Constance Markievicz of Sinn Féin. Markievicz stood on an abstentionist ticket and is currently in jail, so she will not be taking her seat in the House of Commons.

Markievicz was elected in Ireland. The results there have followed an entirely different pattern to the rest of the United Kingdom.

image sources:

David Lloyd George (Wikipedia: David Lloyd George)

Constance Markievicz (Badass of the Week)

Results map (Wikipedia: 1918 United Kingdom general election)

14/12/1918 Britain votes #1918Live

Today the people of Britain go to the polls. The electorate has been greatly expanded since the last election in 1911: all men aged 21 and over are now able to vote, as are women over 30 if they meet minimal property requirements. No one is quite sure how this extension of the franchise will affect the composition of the House of Commons but all parties are competing for the attentions of the new voters. Prime Minister David Lloyd George hopes that the coalition government of Conservatives and his faction of the Liberals will be returned to office, while Labour and Asquith‘s Liberals are trying to overturn the government’s majority.

As well as voting for the first time, women are now also able to run for office, following a change to the law in November. However, only a small number of women have put themselves forward for election, including former suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, standing for the Women’s Party. Other candidates are running as independents or for Labour or the Liberals. In Ireland Sinn Féin has put forward two women candidates, Winifred Carney and Constance Markievicz.

Although Britain votes today, it will be some time before the results are known. Because so many voters are still serving overseas in the armed forces, the results will not be counted until the 28th of December.

image sources:

Lloyd George campaigning (University of Oxford World War 1 Centenary: Lloyd George’s Ministry Men)

Cartoon from The Railway Review, newspaper of the National Union of Railwaymen (University of Warwick Library – ‘The parliamentary battlefield’: Government, Labour and the khaki election)

19/2/1918 A new commander for the British army #1918Live

Since December 2015 General William Robertson has been serving as the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, making him Britain’s most senior army officer. Robertson’s rise to this exalted rank is quite an achievement, as he joined the army originally as a private. Robertson has been close to Haig, Britain’s Western Front commander. Although their relationship has frayed somewhat, Robertson has endeavoured to shield Haig from the criticisms of Britain’s politicians.

Unfortunately Robertson is unable to protect his own position. Today he finds himself reassigned to a more junior role as a result of a dispute with the government over the inter-Allied Supreme War Council in Versailles. Robertson’s replacement is Henry Wilson, an Anglo-Irish general known for his love of political intrigue.

Robertson’s departure leaves Haig in an exposed position. The bloody slaughter of Passchendaele has seen Lloyd George lose confidence in the Western Front commander. Unfortunately there is no obvious candidate to replace him and with a German offensive imminent now is not the time to put a new man in charge. Haig looks like his post is secure for the time being.

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Henry Wilson (Wikipedia)

6/11/1917 Rapallo: Allied leaders demand Cadorna’s head #1917Live

Allied leaders are meeting at Rapallo in Italy to discuss the desperate position of the Italian army. Prime Minsters Lloyd George, Painlevé and Orlando are present, together with a raft of other politicians and senior generals from all three countries (and also Smuts of South Africa). A curious absence is Cadorna, Italy’s supreme general.

Caporetto has shattered the Italian army and the country’s leaders are essentially begging their Allies for the help needed to stave off complete defeat. However the British and French have no confidence in the command structure of the Italian army. They attach two conditions to their aid: British and French troops sent to Italy will remain under French command (specifically under Foch, now the French chief of staff) and Cadorna will be removed as Italian commander. The Italians have no choice but to accept these terms. Orlando is no friend of Cadorna and is probably happy to have an excuse to remove him.

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The New Kursaal Hotel, where the Allied leaders met (My Simple Life in Liguria: the Glory Days of Rapallo)

21/12/1916 Lloyd George closes Frongoch, university of Irish rebellion

After the suppression of the Easter Rising, the British authorities in Ireland were left with a large number of rebel prisoners. The round-up that followed the revolt added to their ranks. These were removed from Ireland and interned in Wales at a former prisoner of war camp in Frongoch.

Since then the British have been unsure what to do with these internees. The initial response to the Rising was harsh, with rebels being executed after trial by court martial. This however created problems with Irish public opinion and the courts martial were halted. The British abandoned the idea of subjecting any more of the rebels to trial and held them in Frongoch under wartime emergency powers.

Holding all these people together at Frongoch has had unintended consequences. The inmates of Frongoch have become increasingly unruly and uncooperative with their captors. The round-up hauled in many people of relatively mild nationalist views, but throwing them together with more committed rebels has led to their increased radicalisation. Now they start to plan the next steps in the struggle to separate Ireland from the United Kingdom. Belatedly the British realise that they have effectively created a university of rebellion.

So now Lloyd George, the Welsh prime minister of Britain, decides to close Frongoch. The rebels will be sent home before Christmas, arriving back in Ireland in batches, to minimise the likelihood of their being greeted by anti-British demonstrations.

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Frongoch (Irish Independent)

see also:

Frongoch and 1916: Recreating a Lost Landscape (online exhibition by Inspiring Ireland)

7/12/1916 Lloyd George becomes Britain’s Prime Minister

Britain’s political turmoil has come to an end. Asquith may have thought that by resigning as Prime Minister he would reveal the weakness of his opponents. If so he was mistaken. Admittedly Andrew Bonar Law, the Conservative leader, was unable to attract the support of enough Liberals to form a government. David Lloyd George however has better luck. He rustles up the support of enough of his fellow Liberals to form a stable coalition government with the Conservatives.

Asquith remains leader of the Liberal party. Most prominent Liberals follow him out of government. However the party is now split into factions supporting either Lloyd George or Asquith.

Lloyd George’s appointment is bad news for both Haig, the Western Front commander, and Robertson, the chief of staff of the British army. Lloyd George is unimpressed with how they have been conducting the war. However he does not have any obvious alternative to Haig and Robertson’s approach. In any case, for the moment he feels too insecure in office to move against these powerful figures.

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David Lloyd George (Wikipedia)

5/12/1916 Political crisis in Britain

British politics is in a ferment. Prime Minister Asquith’s handling of the war is attracting much criticism from the press, who are arguing that the country needs more vigorous leadership. Asquith is also facing challenges from within the coalition government, with his Liberal colleague, David Lloyd George, the War Minister, and Andrew Bonar Law, Conservative leader and Minister for the Colonies, plotting against the prime minister.

In an increasingly excited atmosphere, Asquith attempts to sack Lloyd George and reconstitute his government, but then realises that this would lose him the support of the Conservatives and Lloyd George’s allies within the Liberals. So now he tenders his own resignation to the King. He is not quite giving up yet: the Liberal leader hopes that no one else will be able to form a government, which would see him recalled to the premiership.

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Herbert Henry Asquith (Miranda’s Space)