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.

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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.

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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)

4/6/1918 Pemberton Billing wins “Cult of the Clitoris” libel trial #1918Live

Noel Pemberton Billing, MP and patriotic publisher, is being sued for libel by Maud Allan, an actress and exotic dancer. Pemberton Billing had already asserted that 47,000 British sexual deviants in prominent positions are being blackmailed by the Germans to sabotage the war effort. Then in his journal The Vigilante Pemberton Billing published a further article entitled ‘The Cult of the Clitoris‘, asserting that a Miss Allan’s private performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salome is a front for meetings of some of these 47,000 treacherous practitioners of unnatural vice.

Pemberton Billing defends himself at the libel trial. Proceedings at times become farcical. Pemberton Billing has claimed the existence of a Black Book listing all 47,000 of the degenerates being blackmailed by Berlin. It is somehow impossible to produce a copy of this book, despite the fact that numerous persons claim to have seen it. Eileen Villiers-Stuart, called as a witness in Pemberton Billing’s favour, asserts that listed in the Black Book are none other than Herbert Asquith, the former prime minister, as well as his wife, Margot (whom Pemberton Billing has previously accused of being Miss Allan’s lover). When the presiding judge orders Villers-Stuart to leave the witness box, she retorts that his own name is also included in the Black Book. Another witness makes much of Miss Allan’s decision to perform Oscar Wilde’s degenerate play on the Sabbath.

Pemberton Billing gains from the atmosphere of crisis engendered by Germany’s offensives in France. Today the trial ends; Pemberton Billing is cleared on all points. He receives a standing ovation from the court’s public gallery and then from a patriotic crowd gathered outside the court.
In some respects the trial is reminiscent of Mata Hari‘s conviction in France last year on espionage charges. Maud Allan has lost her case but she is perhaps lucky that she is not sent to the firing squad as a scapegoat for military failures.

image sources:

Noel Pemberton Billing (Wikipedia)

Maud Allan (Socialist Review: Homophobia in the First World War)

see also: Noel Pemberton Billing (Spartacus Educational)

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)

15/11/1916 Searching for a strategy: generals and politicians meet in Paris

Allied leaders are meeting in Paris to decide on how best to prosecute the war. The old argument between easterners and westerners continues. The representatives of Russia, Romania, and Serbia favour the despatch of a larger force to Salonika in Greece, to press the Central Powers in the Balkans. For the Serbs this might allow them to regain their country, now under enemy occupation, while the Romanians hope that an increased French and British presence in Salonika might save them from the same fate. The French however are more interested in concentrating on the Western Front, so that they can expel the Germans from their country. The British generals concur, while their politicians are more ambivalent.

Asquith, Britain’s prime minister, attends the conference and dines with Haig. Asquith is pleased with the recent success the British have enjoyed at the Somme. Haig is pleased by this political vote of confidence. He orders his generals at the Somme to halt any further attacks for now, in case something untoward happens that displeases Asquith.

5/8/1916 The Somme: Churchill tries to call a halt

Winston Churchill resigned from the British government after the failure of the Gallipoli campaign. He rejoined the army and served on the Western Front, commanding a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. But the military life turned out not to suit him, so he gave up his commission and returned to Westminster, where he remains a member of the House of Commons.

Churchill has written a memorandum criticising British progress at the Somme. He argues that the battle is a waste of British lives and resources, with the minimal gains failing to justify the losses. He sees no prospect of a breakthrough and effectively calls for the offensive to be halted. Churchill’s letter is not made public but it is circulated to members of the Cabinet and the government’s War Committee.

The War Committee meets today. Robertson, the chief of staff of the British army, reads a report from Haig designed to counter Churchill’s claims. Haig claims three positive results of the battle so far. Firstly, the German pressure on the French at Verdun has been relieved. Secondly the German have been prevented from sending troops east to meet the Brusilov Offensive. And thirdly, the battle has had a generally positive effect on morale. Haig furthermore asserts that the British casualties suffered at the Somme are not particularly heavy. He recommends that the battle be continued, at least into the autumn, if not beyond.

If Churchill’s letter created any misgivings on the part of the politicians, Haig’s report dispels them. Asquith judges Haig’s resport to be “very satisfactory”. The Prime Minister instructs Robertson to reply to Haig assuring him that he retains the War Committee’s full support.

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Winston Churchill (Telegraph)