Friday, January 18, 2013

David Lloyd George - 150 yrs old.

I joined a group of mostly Welsh persons at Parliament Square, Westminster this afternoon to remember David Lloyd George, contender for greatest British Prime Minister of the 20th Century. We sang Fy Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in front of his statue, along with a male voice choir. He is certainly on the short short list. Today is the 150th anniversary of his birth (in Manchester - a standard quiz question). He is best known for 5 reasons - in no particular order. 1) Great war leader. 2) Laid foundations of modern welfare state 3) negotiated Treaty of Versailles and would have preferred less onerous reparations, thus reducing the risk of 2nd World War 4) So randy he was also known as 'the Goat' 5) Handed out honours for cash.

But for me the truly amazing achievement was to serve as 'effectively' the leader of the Conservative dominated Coalition from 1916-1922, until he overstretched Tories patience and was replaced by Andrew Bonar Law. How on earth does a second language English speaking Welsh radical from a little village in Gwynedd manage to lead the Tories for 6 yrs?

The most fascinating conversations I used to have with my good friend, the late Lord Hooson was when he was telling about his meetings and conversations with Lloyd George (and Churchill). He must have been the most amazing personality. I have visited the Lloyd George Museum at Llanystumdwy on two occasions, and felt overawed by his presence - even if his statue there is of him when a slim and short young man. The statue in Parliament Square is as we remember him as Prime Minister.

I strongly recommend Ffion Hague's biography (sort of) of the great man through the eyes of the women he loved, and who loved him, 'The Pain and the Priviledge'. His prodigious appetite for affection and female company led to his 'The Goat' nickname. And there can be no doubt that the Lloyd George ruthlessness played a big part in the end of the Liberal Party as a great force in British politics. It was nice to see a descendant of Asquith at today's celebrations - so perhaps the great rift is finally healed. Could be a good omen for Nick Clegg!

There were plenty of negatives and close shaves with Lloyd George. The Marconi shares, the honours for sale scandal and the serial womanising would have done for him today. But what an amazing man. When I did a radio programme, Beti a'i Phobl, involving invitations to dinner of 4 greatest persons in the history of man, my first guest was David Lloyd George. I would not have invited my wife along though- or given him her mobile no..

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