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UK politics

The PM who slept with his son’s wife

David Lloyd George with his dog in 1935. Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty

The Conservatives have gathered to discuss the Prime Minister’s future. Nobody doubts that he’s a character and a winner, but they worry there have been too many lies and scandals. It sounds like today, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd, but actually this was 19 October 1922, when Tory MPs met at the Carlton Club to debate the future of their coalition with Liberal PM David Lloyd George. The parallels with Boris Johnson are almost too easy: a man with “wandering hands and slippery principles”; a proven election-winner “whose own friends couldn’t trust a word he said”. Had he been prime minister during Covid, Lloyd George wouldn’t just have invited you to a party – “he’d have sold you a peerage and made a move on your wife while you were still hanging up your coat”.

People joked he had a child in every town in England. His son once got chatting to a stranger in a pub who admitted Lloyd George was his dad – well into his sixties, Lloyd George is said to have slept with that same son’s young wife. By these standards, “Boris seems a paragon of fidelity”. Lloyd George was also flagrantly corrupt: in six short years he sold a staggering 1,500 knighthoods and 91 peerages. He had a simple price list: knighthoods were £10,000, baronetcies £30,000, and peerages £50,000. “Even to the most port-soaked Tory squire, this seemed pretty indefensible,” and he was eventually forced to resign. When a “charismatic, unprincipled populist loses his sheen”, he has little to fall back on.

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