Recollections of David Lloyd George, Part I

Lucy Masterman’s husband was one of Lloyd George’s closest associates during the formation of the National Health Insurance and the controversies over the Parliament Act of 1909-1911. Mrs. Masterman draws on the records she kept at the time to offer a vivid portrait of Lloyd George’s intuitive political genius.

In 1908 I was married to Charles Masterman, who became a junior Minister in the Asquith Government during our engagement. For the first few months we were chiefly pre-occupied with affairs at what was then the Local Government Board, where John Burns was his chief, and which was proving a rather thorny assignment.

Burns was an attractive personality, but badly at sea in a Government Department. He was afraid to consult his officials on matters he did not understand for fear they should despise him, whereas no official expects a Minister to be versed in every detail of departmental matter and is only too delighted to brief him to meet Parliament.

In particular, the unemployed were one of the leading issues of the day, and Bums was showing himself extremely unsympathetic to their plight. Altogether, by the end of 1908 Masterman was getting very restless, as were many of his friends still below the gangway.

It was on October 17th, 1908, that he first came into contact with Lloyd George. Masterman was then negotiating between the Government and Arthur Henderson, leader of the Labour Party, who said that he was having great difficulty in holding his men from voting against the Government. I kept a diary at that time and find the following entry:

“Oct. 21. C. spent all Thursday seeing various Ministers at their request, S(idney) Buxton and Lloyd George, and Asquith for a moment. Ll.G. went off about the Budget and Land Taxation and said to C.: ‘You must persuade Churchill, he is not with us on that.’ He then went on to describe the behaviour of the Government. ‘First we said, “We’ll have the parson out of the schools.”

The House of Lords said, “No, you shan’t.” We said, “What, you say we shan’t! Then we’ll have a go at the Scotch landlords.” Then the House of Lords said, “Hands off the Scotch landlords,” and we said, “What, you won’t let us touch the Scotch landlords, then we’ll go for the brewers.”

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