The given explanation for the introduction of a ‘national’ or ‘unity’ government in May 1915 goes as follows:

Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservatives in 1915.

Pushed over the edge by the resignation of Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord at the Admiralty, the Conservative leader, Andrew Bonar Law met Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, privately, at the Treasury. Following this, he sent a letter from the Conservative Opposition to prime minister Asquith stating:

‘In our opinion things cannot go on as they are, and some change in the constitution of the Government seems to us inevitable if it is to retain a sufficient measure of public confidence to conduct the War to a successful conclusion.’ [1]

He surreptitiously sent a copy of the same letter to Lloyd George. They were clearly in cahoots. [2] Lloyd George and Bonar Law claimed a personal friendship, ‘on terms of greater cordiality than is usual’ according to the Chancellor himself. [3] In fact, Lloyd George was in agreement with the major issues raised by Bonar Law because the proposed coalition government was no threat to his own career. Their meeting and the subsequent events were more stage-managed than genuine.

What is astounding is the speed at which Asquith accepted the offer to form a coalition. Lloyd George played the role of marriage broker and physically took Bonar Law into the Cabinet Room in 10 Downing Street to talk through the conditions under which the Conservatives would join forces with the government. It took only fifteen minutes to bring to an end the last purely Liberal government in British history. Thus the deed was done. Or so we have been told.

But surely the offer was the wrong way round? To have had credence, to merit the sense of a government striving to do its best for the Empire, surely Asquith should have taken the first steps? Be mindful that a prime minister may appear to be in charge, but is always subject to the power-brokers above him/her.

Asquith trying to assert his authority in Parliament

Instead, a gun was put to his political head and he did not hesitate to capitulate. Why? Who had spoken to him? Did Lloyd George threaten to resign too, unless the coalition was formed? Or was it simply the only way for Asquith to save his own political skin? Hours later he told the King that ‘the Government must be reconstructed on a broad and non-party basis’. [4] Two days later the prime minister announced in the House of Commons ‘that steps are in contemplation which involve the reconstruction of the Government on a broader, personal and political basis.’ He clarified three points, inferring that all of this was of his own doing. He and Sir Edward Grey would definitely remain in post. The prosecution of the War would continue ‘with every possible energy and by means of every available resource.’ Finally, ‘any reconstruction that may be made will be for the purposes of the War alone …’ [5]

The first steps in the Secret Elite takeover of every aspect of war government was underway, but it had a slow-burning fuse.

Political niceties had to be followed. The main condition for ‘unity’ placed on the table by Bonar Law was the immediate demise of Winston Churchill. The Conservatives would not countenance his continuation at the Admiralty after Lord Fisher’s walk out; the Ulster Unionists would never forgive nor forget his pre-war threats to their cause and well, had he not abandoned both his class and his party by crossing over to the Liberals? During the period of horse-trading between Asquith and the Conservatives, the only certainty was, as the Times put it, that ‘Churchill will leave the Admiralty…that is virtually a sine qua non of the reconstruction.’ [6] Winston Churchill was insulted at being shunted off to the inconsequential post of Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster, but he accepted the sinecure, in order to remain a member of the War Council. In the fight for the best pickings, the Conservatives had insisted that he be relegated to a minor position, and Asquith was neither willing nor able to save him. Churchill railed at Asquith for being ‘supinely weak’. He did not stay long in post, resigning on 15 November after he had been denied a place in the revised War Committee. [7]

But Asquith failed one of his best friends, Richard Haldane. It was a stain on his character that he dismissed Haldane, the man who created the BEF, whom he sent to the War Office on 4 August to initiate mobilisation, and abandoned in May 1915 ‘after one of the most discreditable smear campaigns in British history.’ [8]

Richard Haldane was a very experienced and successful politician thrown to the wolves by 'spineless' Asquith.

You might well ask why the Secret Elite were prepared to countenance the loss of two of their agents who had taken Britain into war; in this instance Churchill and Haldane? Basically, they were replaceable. All political agents no matter what their supposed allegiance, were replaceable. They still are. Churchill was a self-publicist who had upset too many important Conservatives. Haldane was an academic, a well read, knowledgeable lawyer who had the complete confidence of King Edward VII. Yet he had been subjected to malicious and ignorant abuse because of his oft-stated admiration and sympathy for Germany. [9] He found himself threatened with assault in the street, and was aware that he was in danger of being shot at. [10] Ridiculous abuse and false accusations were levelled against him by the Daily Express. [11] In an atmosphere of poison, his detractors claimed that he had ordered the release of a ship laden with copper which had been impounded in Gibraltar so that the cargo could be delivered to Germany. [12] A clever lie. Blame Haldane for blockade-bursting and cut him adrift.

What mattered was that both men were unpopular with the public, and the Secret Elite understood that every act which might make the public question the government’s actions threatened their ultimate objective.

This far-from-radical change marked the first step towards a full-blown coup, for that was not yet possible. The government (they called it a National Government) was formed over the next weeks; a government which both re-introduced well known faces and retained some old problems. Asquith’s 22-man coalition had included 12 Liberals, 8 Conservatives, a single Labour MP and Lord Kitchener, retained because of his immense popularity. Despite his support amongst the military chiefs, amongst the liberal imperialists and Conservative grandees, Alfred Milner did not join Asquith’s cabinet. Milner was of course a member of the House of Lords and an outspoken advocate for conscription rather than voluntary recruitment to the army. In truth, keeping unity amongst the coalition government was always going to test Asquith’s skills, and he would have feared Milner’s direct influence over so many in this cabinet. Alfred Milner stood ready, but waited patiently for the turning tide.

Asquith's coalition government 1915. Churchill is 4th from left;Kitchener has his back to the artist. To his immediate left is Bonar Law, with Asquith immediately in front and Lloyd George to Kitchener's right.

The unseen hand of the Elite had redrawn boundaries and ensured that senior posts were allocated to major players from Milner’s associates. [13] The Empire was back. [14] Two former Viceroys of India, Lords Curzon and Lansdowne, were elevated to cabinet posts. Lord Selborne, former High Commissioner in South Africa became President of the Board of Agriculture. Sir John Simon was made Home Secretary, Arthur Balfour replaced Churchill at the Admiralty and Lord Robert Cecil made Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and both Sir Edward Carson (the uncrowned King of Ulster) and F.E. Smith were included as Attorney General and Solicitor General.

What of Andrew Bonar Law, the man who had assisted Lloyd George in demanding a national government? Surely he would be well-rewarded with a senior cabinet post? Not so. Bonar Law, though leader of the Conservatives, had neither the aristocratic pedigree nor Oxford University kudos to be a member of the Inner-circle of the Secret Elite. Indeed, Professor Carroll Quigley omits him entirely from membership of secret cabal; he was not ‘one of them’. Asquith, in his later reflections on there events of December 1915 talked of the deception and lies which were spun by Lloyd George, but held no animosity towards his Conservative rival. [15] The outsider was obliged to accept the relatively minor position of Secretary of State for the Colonies hardly a handsome reward for his political connivance with the man who had everything to gain.

British newspapers hailed the new non-party Cabinet for its inclusive strength, but John Redmond, leader of the Irish Home Rule Party, would not accept Asquith’s offer of a minor post. He had little option given the prominent inclusion of leading figures from the Ulster campaign to oppose Home Rule from 1912-14. The men who had openly threatened a breakaway government in Belfast were back in power at Westminster. How ironic that British justice was placed in the hands of those who had been openly prepared to defy that rule of law [16] by raising and arming an illegal private army in Ulster [17] and conveniently taking Britain to the brink of what looked like civil war.

Lloyd George at dispatch box in his role of Minister of Munitions.

Lloyd George was paid his asking price. His disloyalty was bought off with the creation of a Ministry of Munitions in which he was given supreme authority. [18] He knew that the burning issue of the moment was the alleged lack of munitions and heavy artillery. He was aware of the clamour from the Military High Command for better shells; he knew that the exaggerated shortage of weaponry would gather public voice and turn to outrage if not addressed. He believed that this was a job that he alone could do, and that his backers in Britain and in America would support him all the way. He was correct.

Lloyd George received a remarkable letter dated 1 June 1915 from Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States, a Pilgrim [19] and close associate of the J.P. Morgan associates. Roosevelt was an enthusiastic advocate for the spread of the English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon expansion across the world [20] and as such was an agent of the Secret Elite. His letter read;

‘I wish to congratulate you upon the action you have taken in getting a coalition cabinet, and especially your part therein. More than all I wish to congratulate you upon what you have done in connection with this war … the prime business for you to do is to save your country.’ [21]

The former President of America gave the newly appointed Minster of Munitions his full approval for ‘what you have done’. It was an apostolic blessing from the other side of the Atlantic. Lloyd George was congratulated for his action, not Asquith or Bonar Law, because Roosevelt knew that Lloyd George had masterminded this coalition and was the one man who understood what action to take. He was their man. That letter confirmed their approval.

Asquith was sufficiently astute to keep the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer within the Liberal domain, by stating that Lloyd George’s transfer to the new Ministry of Munitions was a temporary arrangement.

maurice hankey

The Secrete Elite’s man at the hub of the war effort, Maurice Hankey, [22] remained exactly where he had always been, at the very heart of the decision-making. In every reorganisation, every shifting of seats or consolidation of power, in every alteration or formation of committee or council that had power and influence, that involved the inner-cabinet, the real decision-makers, Hankey remained quietly in the background as secretary or minute-taker. His was the ever – present hand that recorded the meeting and increasingly advised the members. [23] He, above all, was in the know.

But Asquith remained to the fore and so too did most of the problems. Getting rid of elected officials is always fraught with some danger, and there was a feeling that this national government would lack the competence to pull the nation together. When analysed critically, the deck-chairs had been shuffled but, with the exception of Lloyd George’s new role, little else changed.

Milner knew it would fail. That’s why he was waiting in the wings.

[1] A. Bonar Law to Asquith, 17 May 1915.
[2] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 137.
[3] Ibid., p. 135.
[4] Roy Jenkins, Asquith, pp. 360-1.
[5] Hansard, House of Commons Debate, 19 May 1915 vol 71 cc2392-3.
[6] The Times, 20 May 1915, p. 9.
[7] Virginia Cowles, Winston Churchill, p. 204.
[8] Michael and Eleanor Brock, H.H. Asquith, Letters to Virginia Stanley, p. 598.
[9] The Times Obituary , 20 August 1928, p.17.
[10] Richard Burdon Haldane, An Autobiography, p. 287.
[11] Maurice, Haldane 1856-1915. p. 359.
[12] Ibid. p. 363.
[13] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 141.
[14] The Times, 26 May 1915, pp. 9-10.
[15] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 141.
[16] Brian P. Murphy, Patrick Pearse and the Lost Republican Ideal, p. 45.
[17] Pat Walsh, The Great Fraud of 1914-18, p. 25.
[18] Lloyd George, War Memoirs, p. 142.
[19] Founded in 1902, this exclusive association of politicians and financiers, ambassadors and businessmen in New York and in London, aimed to preserve the bonds of the english-speaking peoples and promote the Anglo-Saxon race values.
[20] Anne Pimlott Baker, The Pilgrims of America, p. 4.
[21] Roosevelt to Lloyd George, 1 June 1915, reproduced in full on p.145 of his War Memoirs.
[22] Quigley, Anglo-American Establishment, p. 313.
[23] Stephen Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, 1877-1918, pp. 179-185.