This morning, the Lib Dems claimed that Nick Clegg would “be the first Liberal leader since 1922 to lead PMQs”.
Being a proud history nerd, I thought, “eh? That’s not right”, since:
a) “Prime Minister’s Questions” didn’t begin until 1961 (although PMs did answer questions in the house before that),
and much more importantly –
b) Asquith was leader of the Liberals in 1922 and he was (famously) Leader of the Opposition.
I mentioned this on Twitter, and people seemed to find it mildly diverting.
So I am a bit startled to have caused the Lib Dem press office to issue a statement rebutting my tweets.* Don’t they have some cuts to announce?
But they seem to have missed my point. Lloyd George was PM in 1922 and would make statements and occassionally answer questions in the House, BUT HE WAS NOT LEADER OF THE LIBERALS.
Let’s clear this up.
H. H. Asquith was leader of the Liberal party from 1908-1926. He was Prime Minister from 1908 -1916
Lloyd George was Prime Minister from 1916-1922 but he was an apostate from the Liberal Party until 1923, having deposed Asquith, the Party Leader, to become PM.
Asquith remained Leader of the Liberals, and when in Parliament, Leader of the Opposition. When the factions merged together again in the run up to the election of 1923, (when they gained nearly a hundred MPs), Asquith stayed the leader.
Lloyd-George only became leader of the Liberals in 1926, by which time they were a rump party.
Why do I mention all of this tedious detail about what was, basically a bit of press blather from the Lib Dems?
The short answer is because I like political history.
The longer and more pompous answer is that it is astonishing that people in the Lib Dems don’t seem to know much about the most important Liberal-Conservative coalition in British history.
They seem especially unaware that it split their party for a decade and was largely responsible for their decline as a national political force. If I were a Lib Dem, I’d be worried that people in my party, including MPs, know little about this.
The final answer is that I think Old Asquith gets a raw deal. He was a decent PM, and it’s sad that the Lib Dems want to be associated with Lloyd-George, who destroyed their party, rather than Asquith, who nearly made them the great progressive party of the twentieth century.
Anyway, enough. I am right. That should satisfy us all.
*This sentence is comical, no?