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Broad consensus across political parties - Liberal, Labour, Conservative, Ulster Unionists, Irish Nationalists. Handful of Liberals resigned from the Cabinet including John Burns. Some Labour members protested including Ramsay MacDonald who resigned the leadership of the Labour Party. Initial overwhelming support for Asquiths government was lost by poor handling of the war. Asquiths ineptitude?

. Damage to Liberalism.

The outbreak of WW1 initiated a process of disintegration in the Liberal Party, which, by 118 had reduced it to ruins. Trevor Wilson.

The unprecedented extension of state authority completely overrode free trade, respect for individual liberty and the non-interventionist economic theories of Liberalism. War time policies included conscription, rationing, restriction of individual freedom to travel and change jobs, censorship, propaganda, and massive extension of state control of the economy. Survival and victory were the prime objectives and the old Liberal ideas seemed inappropriate.

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. Political Events leading to the Coalition 115


Cabinet too big and it was difficult fir it to be effective. Small groups of ministers made decisions with no proper records. Lord Kitchener was appointed Minister for War - a hero of South Africa and the Sudan but no experience of European War or trench war fare


The failure of the Gallipoli campaign. The Shell Crisis and newspaper attacks on Asquiths government. The First Sea Lord Fisher resigned , blaming Churchill who was in charge of the Admiralty. The Conservative Party was critical of its leaders and the Liberal Government. Negotiations with Italy to persuade her to join the Allies. Asquith suddenly accepted a Coalition to end criticism. Lloyd George had always argued for a broader based government. He became Minister of Munitions, Churchill and Haldane were removed from office, Balfour took over the Admiralty, Henderson was the first Labour M.P. in the Cabinet. Many Liberals were surprised and resentful because they had not been kept informed. May 1th 115, Asquith stated in the Commons that no coalition was contemplated. May 1th Coalition formed.

Was the formation of a coalition in 115 forced on Asquith as the result of his failings as a war-time Prime Minister or an example of political survival by an astute and experienced politician?

4. Impact on the Liberals of Asquiths Leadership 114 to May 115

Asquith has been much criticised for his decisions. The appointment of Kitchener as Secretary for War was Asquith trying to dodge responsibility for important decisions or was he appointing an expert who could provide specialist knowledge? Kitchener proved to be a poor Cabinet member who aroused the contempt and hostility of many Liberals who blamed Asquith.

There had been divisions and reservations within the Liberal Party about the declaration of war but these were largely overcome by Grays speech to the Commons (rd August 114) and the German invasion of Belgium. The bulk of the Parliamentary Liberal Party which had reluctantly supported Asquith over entry into the war became increasingly alarmed at the threat war presented to cherished Liberal ideals e.g. DORA, Censorship, Restrictions on Aliens. All these measures were passed by the Cabinet with little consultation with the Party.

The right and left wings within the Liberal Party were also unhappy. The Left tended to be Pacifists, Radicals and Isolationists. The Right included many businessmen and realists like Addison who wanted a more dynamic war policy instead of Asquiths weak leadership. Many Liberals felt they had been kept in the dark over the Coalition and that it compromised them by allowing the Conservatives back into government without an election.

5. Events leading up to Asquiths resignation 116

Jan - May Conscription Debate.

April Easter Rising in Dublin

June Battle of Jutland.

July Death of Kitchener. Lloyd George becomes Minister of War.

July- Nov Battle of the Somme.

1. No improvement in Government handling of the war. The Dardenelles Committee had become an unofficial War Cabinet but final decisions still lay with the large and unwieldy full Cabinet.

This delay in decision is absolutely fatal…… the Government are really deadfully to blame. They pit off decisions, squabble (and) have no plan of action or operation. I see only one solution - to suspend the Constitiution and appoint a dictator. Captain Hankey, Secretary to the Dardenelles Committee 7 December 115.

. Lloyd George had quickly established himself as being energetic, confident and dynamic as Minister of Munitions, dealing effectively with problems of red-tape and inefficiency eg the adoption of the machine gun on a large scale. He often opposed Asquith over issues like Conscription.

. As Minister of War, Lloyd George found he had responsibility without power as he could do very little to change the Army High Command or their control over strategy. The Somme revealed how unpopular this would be.

December 116

5 Nov Bonar Law put forward Lloyd Georges suggestion of a small War Cabinet with Lloyd George in the chair and Bonar Law and Carson. Asquith was not included. Asquith turned it down.

1 Dec Lloyd George threatened to resign unless the idea was accepted. Asquith insisted he should be the chairman.

Dec Bonar Law and the Conservative ministers met and passed a vote of no confidence in Asquith without declaring support for Lloyd George.

Dec Asquith accepted the idea.

4 Dec Times article said of Asquith that he was unfit to be fully charged with the supreme direction of the war. Asquith blamed Lloyd George and cancelled his agreement, thinking he would have the backing of some leading Conservatives.

5 Dec Lloyd George resigned. Bonar Law and the Conservative ministers resigned. Asquith resigned.

6 Dec Bonar Law was asked to form a government. He would only do so with Asquith in it. Asquith refused. Bonar Law advised the King to send for Lloyd George.

7 Dec Lloyd George became Prime Minister.

6. Impact on the Liberals

Asquith remained very bitter in private against Lloyd George but in public he supported the government although on the opposition benches. All of the Liberal ministers had accompanied him. The left wing of the Liberals under Addison and some right wingers supported Lloyd George (about 10). Asquith maintained control of the party while Lloyd George was forced to rely mainly on the Conservatives for his ministers. Ordinary members of the party were confused as to their loyalties.

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