Lloyd George & Churchill by Richard Toye, Macmillan £25 David Lloyd 6eorge's backaround was not nearly as humble as he liked to make out. After the untimely death of his father, aged 41, he was brought up by his uncle, a shoemaker and lay preacher, at his happy family home in north Wales. It could hardly be compared to the grandeur of Churchill's Blenheim Palace, but in many ways he was luckier than young Winston who despaired for the parental love which was deputed to servants and boarding schools. "Please do come," he wrote to his mother, Jennie, when he was 16. "I have been disappointed so many times." And he confided to having not more than a few hours conversation in his whole life with his father, Lord Randolph, who died of syphilis, which had gradually destroyed his considerable mental powers and his political career.
Lloyd George and Churchill stride down Whitehall on the cover of this admirable new study, end), at-ease-with each other for they were in tune with one another on most things, including social reform, keeping the Navy twice as powerful as any other and their own destinies. Yet we are reminded by the author Toye that they also watched each other like hawks and not always with the respect due to great men. And they weren't afraid to pounce. As Lloyd George said of Churchill: "He would make a drum out of the skin of his own mother in order to sound his own praises." Writing to his wife from the Western Front in 1916, Churchill said Lloyd George would not be sorry if he was killed in France; he would simply find it politically inconvenient.
The link between the two men perhaps the most important figures in 20th-century British politics was to last 40 years. Both decisive wartime leaders, they also established impressive track records in domestic reform. Having drifted away from their own empowering party machines, they were to spend long periods out of office yet retained influence as far-sighted visionaries Lloyd George dealing with mass unemployment and Churchill warning the British public of the threat of Nazism. Their alliance was viewed with some misgivings by their parliamentary colleagues. In 1937 Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative Prime Minister, commented: "LG was born a cad and never got it; Winston we born a gentleman and never remembered it."
A cad? Toye says: "Lloyd George was a notorious philanderer and virtual bigamist (know as the Goat') who sold honours to raise money for party funds, but he was also a wonderful listener, speaker and organiser. Churchill was irreproachable in his private life but, for all his qualities, lacked Lloyd George's gift of empathy and his interest in others."
The book covers a large and varied canvas. At the height of his power and popularity in 1918/19 Lloyd George presided over victory in war and then sent British troops to help the White Russians fight the Bolsheviks, whom Churchill hated like the plague. But then he unsuccessfully fought the severity of the Versailles peace terms imposed on Germany which were to lead to another war in just 20 years time when Churchill rose as the "war man" the nation required.
It is Churchill, of course, who has won the battle for public esteem. As Lloyd George's status as a hero fades in the public memory there is not even one public statue of him in London-so Churchill's words are constantly quoted and requoted by today's leaders and commentators; his cigar, V for Victory sign and rolling rhetoric never far from view.
He repeatedly asked Lloyd George to join his 1940 War Cabinet; the Welsh wizard was flattered but refused, Then 77 to keep up the required pace. Toye effectively challenges the sentimental view that "David and Winston" were friends.
They admired each other, had much thinking in common and more often than not enjoyed each other's company. But friends? As Lloyd George himself observed. there are no friends at the top.