Asquith and the 1915 Election

2 Jan

..that of course never was. I have recently read Jenkins biography of Asquith, which is a wonderful read.

In 1914 Asquith as Prime Minister took his fairly fractured Government into war and did so against a fairly fractured opposition. In taking the Party into the Great War there came an unravelling that lead to him losing the confidence of two Governments in the next two years. He did however avoid having to hold an election in 1915, planned for the summer. In doing so did he, in all likelihood, avoid losing office ?

Could an Election have been held in 1915, even with the War underway it’s not beyond belief that had “normal” politics continued then an election would have been called. The extension of the Parliament was only agreed when the Coalition was formed.

What we do know

  1. The Liberals were losing by-elections at an alarming rate, whilst the Unionists were holding seats.
  2. The Unionists were not a strong opposition, certainly there were questions over leadership.
  3. The Liberals still had to resolve the Ireland bill and Welsh Education Act, both of which were kicked into the long grass in August 1914.
  4. The Irish situation was unlikely to favour the Nationalists and likely to see the early rise of a more republican tendency.
  5. Asquiths leadership was dwindling, he had used up his political capital in 1910 for a messy outcome against the Lords.

What we don’t know …well the result of the election. There isn’t even any polling data. However there is a clear model that shows Government support dwindles over time, this would have been the Liberals looking for a 4th consecutive win, when the last 2 were close draws.

What we could have been left with though if there had been an election in 1915 is different impacts on the future careers of Lloyd George and Churchill, possibly no Easter rising in 1916, a slower demise of the Liberal party and possibly less sympathy for Mr Asquith!




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