Lloyd George: My Part in His Downfall
The 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs held its 90th anniversary celebration last night. The committee was founded, as any pedant knows, in 1923. I was grateful to Graham Brady, the chairman, for inviting me. Gervais Rentoul, MP for Lowestoft and the founding chairman of the Committee, was my second cousin twice removed (his great-grandfather, the Revd James Rentoul of Ray, Co Donegal, was my great-great-great-grandfather).
It was a pleasure to meet Philip Norton, who has written a history of the Committee (pictured), from which I was dismayed to discover that Gervais, having served as chairman for nine years, was turfed out 1932 when he overreached himself with a plan for deeper spending cuts than those contemplated by the National Government, and indeed than most Conservative MPs were prepared to support.
When some Members proposed that the report should not be circulated or published (copies had already been sent to MPs and the press), Rentoul allowed the motion to be discussed, but when the discussion on it proved critical he ruled it out of order. Some Members wrote to The Times to dissociate themselves from the report, noting that it had not been endorsed by the full Committee. The report’s recommendations had no impact on policy, but its circulation harmed both the 1922 – undermining its credibility in the eyes of MPs – and its Chairman. Rentoul was challenged for the chairmanship and in December he was voted out of office.
A great family triumph. Proposing cuts in the depths of a recession that were too far and too fast even for the majority of Conservative MPs.
The Prime Minister had a better time of it. In his short speech he noted that the 1922 Committee was founded when a Conservative coalition with the Liberals (he called them Liberal Democrats) came to an end and was replaced by a majority Conservative government.
Update: You too can obtain a copy of Lord Norton’s excellent short book for just £7.99 including P&P. Write to info[at]conservativehistory.org.uk (£7.99 incl. P&P).Tagged in: 1922, 1922 Committee, conservative party, me me me
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