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Lloyd George earldom - new light thrown by recent article

August 18, 2008 9:00 AM

Old LGHistorians and followers of Lloyd George's career alike have often wondered what provoked the Welsh Wizard to accept a peerage towards the end of his life, a life in which LG had often battled against the House of Lords. In the 1930s, LG had criticised public figures like Ernest Bevin who was tipped for a peerage and he extolled the great radicals of the past such as Gladstone, Bright, Cobden and Joseph Chamberlain who all refused to take seats in the House of Lords. It was certainly against the wishes of his daughter Megan and other members of the LG family. A common explanation has been that his new wife, Frances Stevenson, wished to become a Countess but no documents supporting this theory have ever come to light.

Now a recently published article in the Welsh History Review by Dr J Graham Jones of the National Library of Wales has made it clear that the main reason for LG's accepting the peerage was his reluctance to run the risk of not being re-elected as MP for Caernarfon Boroughs at the post-war general election and ending his life without a Parliamentary platform from which to contribute to public life. Much of this has been known and written about before but Dr Jones gives a new perspective from his work in the archives at the National Library.

Lloyd George had his private secretary A J Sylvester make enquiries with the other parties about the possibility of not opposing him in the next election but the necessary guarantees could not be obtained, even though everyone knew LG was ill and nearing the end of his life. In the circumstances, LG agreed to accept the offer of the peerage.

LG was of course right to be worried about holding Caernarfon Boroughs. When he resigned as an MP to go to the House of Lords, the Liberal candidate Seaborne Davies was elected unopposed in the resulting by-election under the wartime truce between the political parties but at the 1945 general election he lost the seat to the Conservatives, albeit by the narrow majority of 336, in a four-way contest with Labour and Plaid Cymru. Perhaps loyalty to Lloyd George would have been enough to overcome those few hundred votes and ensure he was returned to the House of Commons for the last time in 1945 had he chosen to go before the electorate of Caernarfon District for one final contest.

You can read a story by Martin Shipton of the Western Mail about Dr Jones' new article in Wales Online at: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2008/08/18/lack-of-support-in-constituency-led-to-earldom-for-lloyd-george-says-expert-91466-21551455/