Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Great Revival?

A Great Revival?

Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909 is justly famous as a great reforming budget, introducing pensions and increasing social spending at the cost of significant tax increases.  It is understandable that Tony Dolphin should want Darling to emulate it.  Regardless of the intrinsic merits of such a budget, however, Dolphin makes the following claim:

Raising existing taxes and introducing new ones may sound like a sure route to political unpopularity, but the fiscal position leaves the Chancellor with little choice. It may reassure him to know that Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ helped revive the Liberal Party’s political fortunes, showing that boldness can deliver votes as well as economic results.

Um.  The 1906 election was one of the great electoral wins of all time, seeing the Liberals win a majority of 125 and the Conservatives lose half their MPs.  The 1909 budget, which was blocked in the Lords, was the last budget of that Parliament, causing a general election in 1910 to be fought specifically on the question of House of Lords reform, made necessary by the blocking of the budget.  So, how revived were the Liberals by the budget?

There were two elections in 1910, in each of which the Conservatives received more votes than the Liberals, who were forced into coalition government with the Irish nationalists.  The Liberal Party never again formed a Parliamentary majority, and after the war-time coalition ended, never again formed a Government.  Not quite the great revival that Dolphin depicts is it?


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