The Secret Elite have always preferred to remain anonymous and wield power through carefully selected political agents and puppets. Aware that the possession of real power is far more important than the appearance of power on the political stage, it matters little to them which parties sit in government at Westminster as long as they control them. Reginald McKenna, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Asquith’s government of May 1915 to December 1916, and later chairman of the Midland Bank, admitted, ‘I am afraid the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that the banks can, and do, create money. … And they who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of Governments and hold in the hollow of their hands the destiny of the people.’

Professor Carroll Quigley

As Professor Carroll Quigley revealed, the power of financial capitalism had a far-reaching aim to create a world system of financial control held in private hands ‘able to dominate the political system in each country and the economy of the world as a whole.’ [1] Quigley proved that from 1901 to 1922 the Secret Elite [2] was clustered around Alfred Milner and social connections that originated chiefly at Eton and Oxford University. They came from well-to-do, upper-class, frequently titled families and exercised control through a triple-front penetration of politics, education and journalism. They influenced politics and public policy by placing their men in positions of power. [3] Bankers, together with industrial and financial capitalists, coupled with influential and supportive press-barons held enormous influence in 1915, but these hidden powers were concerned that Asquith’s Cabinet lacked the steel to see the war through to its bitter end.

The Secret Elite’s overpowering drive to crush Germany, in what they knew would have to be a long war, had been carefully orchestrated through their place-men in government. These included Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, Prime Minister Asquith, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill and Lord Chancellor Richard Haldane. They did so without even the pretence of a vote, backed by their allies in finance, industry, academia and the press. [4] The Liberals, re-elected to power in 1910, had formed a minority government propped up by the Irish Home Rulers and held together by a Conservative Party which, in the interests of the elites that they too served, did not try to bring them down. The Secret Elite had bounced the British Empire into a world war, but the political management of that war lay in the hands of rank amateurs. Politics took an altogether different turn in France.

President Poincare of France

From the outset President Poincare of France – who had been brought to power through Secret Elite bribes [5] – called upon the sacred union (Union sacree) of the French people, and this proved to be much more than an emotional crie de coeur. Centre, right and extreme right wing politicians rallied to Prime Minister Viviani’s government and blurred issues of party politics. Anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic newspapers and politicians lauded the contributions from all faiths. A government of national unity was quickly established. On 26 August 1914 Viviani expanded the government’s base by including more left-wing representatives and left the conduct of the war to men deemed competent such as Minister of War Alexandre Millerand and Commander in Chief, Joseph Joffre. [6]

It was an example that Britain did not follow. Nine and a half months later, no decisive military success had been registered, and the public enthusiasm for war which overflowed in August 1914 began to lose impetus. [7] By May 1915, the Germans were entrenched in France and Belgium, and the Dardanelles Campaign was already proving a very costly and unpopular failure. Churchill had rashly promised that the Germans would be on their knees after  nine months of naval blockade, [8] but his wild boasts came to naught. Russian success on the Eastern Front, boldly predicted in early August, proved illusionary. To Lord Milner and his Secret Elite cabal, the management of the war lay in the hands of hapless party politicians. They were contemptuous of the British parliamentary system and held an absolute belief that elected democratic government was no alternative to the ‘rule of the superiors’. [9] They meant, of course, themselves.

Milner knew what was needed; he had managed a successful war in South Africa, a war he deliberately provoked to make it appear that the victims had been the perpetrators. [10] As Lloyd George put it, ‘the war was not being treated either with sufficient seriousness or adequate energy.’ [11] Strong control over all aspects of the conflict was the prerequisite for success, and the only success the Secret Elite were interested in was the total destruction of Germany.

The House of Lords.  The opening of the Houses of Parliament by King George V (1915)

Parliamentary government was not geared to war. Ministers guarded their departments like fiefdoms, refusing to share knowledge or give detailed explanations of their strategies to either House of Parliament. Kitchener spoke in the House of Lords on 34 occasions between 1914-16 [12] making ‘Olympian pronouncements upon military policy’, [13] but he stood their pontificating while refusing to allow his Under- Secretary for War, Harold Tennant, to address the House of Commons. Since Tennant was the Prime Minister’s brother-in-law it might have been more politic for the Secretary for War to use his under-secretary more sympathetically, but Kitchener was a law unto himself.

Parliament did not sit regularly, and averaged only 8 meetings per month in the first nine months. [14] That was bad enough, but the War Council, the select group of senior ministers and their military and naval advisors was not established until the end of November 1914. Although it comprised the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, The Chancellor, Lloyd George and its increasingly influential secretary, Maurice Hankey, an unexpected anomaly had ‘evolved’. The Army was directly represented by the Secretary of State for War and Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, while the Navy, the much revered ‘senior service’, was represented by a politician, Winston Churchill.

In the five and a half weeks between 6 April and 14 May 1915,  the War Council was not convened. It was as if leadership was ‘in a coma’. [15] Consider the events that took place over that timescale;  [16] dangerous reversals on the Eastern Front, the Second Battle of Ypres, Allied landings at Gallipoli, the sinking of the Lusitania and the publication of the highly prejudicial, anti-German propaganda report from Lord Bryce on ‘atrocities’ in Belgium. [17] Yet there was no need for a meeting of the War Council? Who was in charge? At times it appeared that the answer was no-one. Little wonder Milner and his Secret Elite associates ranted at the paucity of leadership.

Lord Alfred Milner [18] stood at the head of a mighty and resourceful network of secret intelligence. From the early months of the war, Milner had become the focus of anti-Asquith opposition. Politicians, academics, industrialists, soldiers, journalists and newspaper editors wrote to him to ensure that he knew about their grievances. The reader should be aware that after the crisis in Ulster in 1914, [19] the men who led the British army did not trust the Prime Minister [20] but held Lord Milner in the highest esteem.

Sir Henry Wilson

They wrote to him secretly and told him the truth about the desperate state of the war as it progressed. General Sir Henry Wilson had crossed to France on 14 August 1914 as a key member of General Sir John French’s GHQ and within a week was complaining about the  ‘cowardly ignorance’ of his superiors in London. Lord Roberts complained to Milner that the army command was disjointed. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, kept him informed about all manner of events that could not be officially reported because of Censorship. Leo Amery, Milner’s most ardent acolyte, wrote to him from France and from Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign, ensuring that he knew more about the failings of the British Army than any member of Asquith’s government, except, perhaps, Kitchener. [21]

From March till the end of May 1915, there was a buzz of intrigue around Westminster. Lloyd George wrote that a fear was growing in the corridors of power  ‘that we could lose the war’ [22] though he above all knew that too much had already been invested by the American Establishment to allow such a disaster. Britain was never at any risk of losing the war. Indeed, a range of cleverly contrived arrangements allowed Germany to survive the so-called ‘blockade’ and enabled her to continue her military-industrial output. Lloyd George knew what the problem really was; a crisis of commitment to war. Some of his colleagues had no stomach for the reality of war. They had to go.

An article in the Daily Chronicle headed ‘Intrigue against the Prime Minister’ brought about a clash of accusations and counter-claims between Lloyd George and his cabinet colleague Reginald McKenna, and there was near consensus that Winston Churchill had become infatuated with Conservative MP and former prime minister, Arthur Balfour. [23] Perhaps he had. Perhaps he had worked out that Balfour would make a good ally, given his high standing inside the Secret Elite, for Balfour, like Milner, was a member of the highly select inner-core of the cabal. [24]

Milner knew that serious pressure had to be put on the Asquith government to shake out those ministers whose commitment to a prolonged war was suspect. But he was not yet prepared to lead the opposition publicly. [25] That was not his style. What was wanted was a government with the courage to break away from the laissez-faire attitude to enable greater control of the entire war effort. The Secret Elite knew that victory in a protracted struggle depended on the most efficient exploitation of the resources and manpower of the country. Despite their disdain for the parliamentary process, the answer lay in taking even greater control of government departments.

Lloyd George (Left) and Herbert Asquith

While those above him in the corridors and smoke-filled clubs for the privileged pushed for key changes in government, Lloyd George was the only Cabinet member convinced of this necessity. [26] Four years before, in 1910, he had shown himself willing to work in coalition with the Conservatives [27] and, in conjunction with Arthur Balfour, had openly accepted the value of compulsory military service. These were words close to Lord Milner’s heart. He and the former Commander in Chief, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, had argued for many years in favour of  conscription as a much more effective way of providing a professional army. Once more, the word ‘coalition’ was being secretly whispered in the select private clubs frequented by the real power-brokers. Some even called it a  ‘National Government’.

Historians have repeatedly analysed the events of May 1915 and concluded that the political crisis ‘arose with extra-ordinary suddenness’ as if to suggest that by some strange mixture of expediency and good fortune, Asquith’s government was transformed overnight into an all-party alliance. The great historical guru of the 1960s, A J P Taylor, claimed that the emergence of a ‘National Government’ was  ‘one of the few political episodes of the First World War on which solid evidence is lacking’, [28] but these are words which should raise alarm. If evidence is lacking, it is because it has been destroyed. Experience shows that to be fact. Lloyd George’s verdict was that ‘political crises never come out of the blue’, and he knew precisely what was going on. [29] Asquith’s government was teetering towards collapse because the old-fashioned Liberals did not have the necessary ‘backbone’ to see a prolonged war through to its end. Circumstances abroad provided the cover to manipulate the change.

A convergence of military, naval and political embarrassment had to find public redress. Milner knew that the government had to be firmed up, be resolved to see through unpopular crises, and take greater direction from his Secret Elite agents. The days wasted on propping up the sham of democracy were numbered. Yet ridding the government of it’s deadwood faced the Secret Elite with a difficult quandary. Changes had to be managed carefully. The public had to believe that this was what they wanted. Should public opinion turn against the war and muted cries in favour of peace gain support, Germany would not be crushed. Victory was meaningless unless it broke German industrial and economic power. This wasn’t about winning a battle but destroying an enemy.

But who to blame? Churchill? Yes, he was despised by the Conservatives in parliament, and the newspapers had begun to question his judgement. Kitchener? No, his national status placed him above criticism, and the army had to be supported at all costs. Asquith? Not so easy. To sack him would have thrown political unity into chaos. Above all, the genuine unwitting liberals who had accepted their role in government, but who had no great enthusiasm for war, had to be wiped out. Democracy would be dismantled and what better way to dupe the public than by calling it national unity?

[1] Carroll Quigley, Tragedy & Hope, pp. 324-5.
[2] See blogs 3-5, published 15-17 June 2014.
[3] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 6-15.
[4] Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor, Hidden History, The Secret Origins Of The First World War, pp. 320-347.
[5] Ibid., p. 203.
[6] Kevin Passmore, The Right in France from the Third Republic to Vichy, p. 180.
[7] Alfred Gollin, Freedom or Control in the First World War,  (The Great Crisis of May 1915)  Historical Reflections, Vol. 2, no. 2, Winter 1975, pp. 135-155.
[8] The Times, 10 November 1914.
[9] Docherty and Macgregor, Hidden History,  pp. 55-6.
[10] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War p. 115.
[11] Lloyd George, War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, p. 133.
[13] A M Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 249.
[15] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 134.
[17] See blogs published 3 and 10 September 2014.
[18] Alfred Milner’s power base is best explained in Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 84-88.
[19] Docherty and Macgregor, Hidden History,  pp. 301-319.
[20] Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, p. 251.
[21] Letters from these correspondents are included in what remains of the much-culled Milner papers at the Bodleian Library (special section) at Oxford.
[22] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 133.
[23] Michael and Eleanor Brock, HH Asquith, Letters to Venetia Stanley, p. 495.
[24] Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp. 311-2.
[25] Gollin, Proconsul in Politics, pp. 251-2 .
[26] A J P Taylor, Lloyd George, Rise and Fall, p. 23.
[27] John  Grigg, Lloyd George, The People’s Champion, pp. 362-8.
[28] A J P Taylor, English History, 1914-1945, p. 31.
[29] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 133.