The Essay: Reasons for the Growth of British democracy

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David Lloyd George is another character to consider. The Gladstone Era had come to an end by 1900 and the ‘Gladstonian’ age of Liberalism was over. From 1900 ‘New Liberalism’ was emerging as the vibrant new force in British politics and this new brand of Liberalism was spearheaded by Lloyd George and a young Winston Churchill. The ‘New Liberals’ believed that state intervention and social reform was needed to alleviate the problems caused by extreme poverty – Gladstone believed in the ‘laissez faire’ approach – the government should not interfere in people’s lives and they should be left alone to deal with their own personal affairs.

In any democracy power must rest with the elected house. Prior to 1909 the unelected House of Lords could reject reform passed by the elected MPs in the House of Commons. In 1908 the Liberals were in power. H.H. Asquith was PM and Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is the job of the Chancellor to raise money to implement party policy and in 1909 he presented a ‘War Budget’ to the Lords. The War was on Poverty and this declaration of war would be funded by taxing the rich. The budget would help the government a system of National Insurance. However, many Conservative supporters (traditionally wealthy) would be affected by this so the Lords prevented the Bill going through. Lloyd George and Asquith were furious and called two general elections on the issue in 1910 – the Liberals won both.

George said, the men in the House of Lords were men with no training, no qualifications, no experience….were simply those whose sole qualification was that they were the first born of persons who had as few qualifications as themselves.


he Lords finally accepted defeat after King George V threatened to swamp the Lords with 1000 Liberal Lords – this would spell the end for Conservative Lords and power. The 1911 Parliament Act changed the parliamentary system in that the Lords could only delay bills for a maximum of 2 years. The right to veto any money bills was taken away completely. The same act also made elections more regular – every 7 years to every 5 years. So, there is an argument that the concept of New Liberalism and the tenacity of Lloyd George taking the fight to the Liberals helped make Britain more democratic. Lloyd George – PM during WW1 – also supported the extension of the franchise to women in recognition of their work during the Great War.

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