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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 10:14 GMT
Lloyd George 'would not last' now
By Tom Bourton
BBC Wales news website

David Lloyd George

David Lloyd George, one of Wales' most successful statesmen, might have struggled to reach the heights of his career in today's politics, experts have said.

Speaking on the 60th anniversary of Lloyd George's death, BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr said the Welsh Wizard "would not last five minutes" in Westminster now.

Historians and descendants of Lloyd George agreed the former Prime Minister would have found the power of the modern press difficult to deal with.

During his 50-year career as an MP, Lloyd George led the country to victory in World War I and is credited with founding the welfare state. He also became a Lord shortly before he died in 1945.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's 60th anniversary of Lloyd George's death, many experts asked by the BBC Wales news website felt that rumours over affairs and scandals - particularly one over accepting money for honours - would have brought his career to an abrupt end.

"There is no way he would have lasted five minutes," said Mr Marr.

"Given his background in sexual activities and using the honours system creatively, he would have been eviscerated - hung upside down - by the press."

I think he would be a very great force today - he would have survived in the present political climate
Nephew Dr William George

Mr Marr added that Lloyd George was a brilliant speaker, and it should be assumed that he would have adapted to television, but that he would have needed "a spin doctor of creativity and force not yet seen" to keep him in power.

Historian Deirdre Beddoe agreed that the press would have picked up on his "standards of sexual behaviour".

She added: "He wouldn't get away with half of what he got away with now - they had a much more restrained press.

"I am a great admirer, but there isn't much call for oratory skills apart from at conferences these days.

"You have to think he may have been away from Westminster now - as a fervent nationalist, perhaps he would be seen better in the context of the Welsh assembly."

Lloyd George with Winston Churchill in 1910
Lloyd George walking with Winston Churchill in 1910

Leading Liberal historian Alun Wyburn-Powell added the Welsh Wizard would have "hated the discipline of a modern political party", but that he would have found his place.

"Today Lloyd George would stand out as an energetic visionary fundraiser, excellent on attracting media attention," he said.

"His skills could probably be most useful today as Overseas Development Secretary - fighting to raise the profile of a crucial cause such as Africa, but spending most of the time out of the country."

Lloyd George was the last Liberal Prime Minister, and after the coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberals collapsed following the First World War, the party began a rapid decline.

He continued to lead them until 1931, but at a time when the Labour party was gaining strength.

His nephew Dr William George said he would have stayed loyal to the Liberal party, and said he would have welcomed the Welsh assembly, but opposed the war in Iraq.

"I think he would be a very great force today - he would have survived in the present political climate," he said.

'Enchanting man'

However, his grandson Viscount Tenby, now an crossbencher in the House of Lords, said Lloyd George "was never a great party man" but agreed his skills were timeless.

"He was from an era of great orators - I remember him as an enchanting man," he said.

"The thing that made him stand out was that, politicians now effect an interest in people, but it wasn't feigned in his case - I think that is remarkable."

As for potential scandals, Viscount Tenby said the political climate had changed now.

"I think people handled these things very differently in those days - now everyone salivates at the least bit of scandal," he said.

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