(1863-1945) It is a little-known fact that David Lloyd George was actually not born in Wales, but in Chorlton-on-Medlock in Manchester on 17 January 1863, the son of William George, a local headmaster. After his father died in 1865, David and his mother moved to Llanystumdwy, in Gwynedd, North Wales to live with his mother’s brother, who was a shoemaker and Baptist master. David almost certainly acquired his radical political views and his Welsh nationalism from his uncle. He attended the village school, where he was good at Geography and Mathematics, and at 16 he was apprenticed to a solicitor’s office. Although he qualified as a solicitor, Lloyd George never really practised Law, but was elected to parliament as a representative of the Liberal Party in 1890, and was to remain MP for the Caernarfon constituency for the next 55 years. The Liberal Party won a landslide victory at the 1906 general election and Lloyd George was appointed to be President of the Board of Trade. By 1908 he had become Chancellor of the Exchequer and made his mark by proposing the first Old Age Pensions Act. In 1911 he continued with his radical social reforms by introducing the National Insurance Act which was designed to insure workers against sickness and unemployment. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Lloyd George was appointed as Asquith’s Minister of Munitions – by 1916, largely as a result of his success in this Ministry, he was made Minister of War. However, Asquith was a notoriously weak war leader, and he resigned in December 1916, when Lloyd George became Prime Minister. At the end of the Great War, Lloyd George attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and warned against the harsher proposals of the Treaty of Versailles. Meanwhile, at home Britain was facing an economic shock as nearly four millions soldiers returned home to find little or no work. Further, in Ireland, violence and powerful nationalist feelings had forced the partition of the country and setting up of an Irish Free State in 1920. Lloyd George’s post-war coalition began to fall apart and Lloyd George resigned in 1922. He would never serve in government again despite leading the Liberal party from 1926 to 1931. Shortly before his death in 1945 he received the title Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor.
Margaret Beckett MP
(Born 1938) Born Margaret Jackson at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1938 into a comfortable middle class family, she was to become one of the most influential women in British politics at the end of the twentieth century. As leader of the House of Commons under Tony Blair’s Prime Ministership since 1997, she is well known for her plain speaking and indomitable debating style, giving her an equal standing amongst an otherwise male dominated government cabinet. Her father had died when she was only 12 and Margaret began a five year engineering apprenticeship and had gone on to study for a degree in Metallurgy at the University of Manchester. By the time of the 1964 general election, she had begun working for the local party office as a researcher, and worked her way up through the party until she was selected as the Labour Candidate for Lincoln in the 1974 election, significantly reducing the opposition’s majority in that city, before winning the seat later, in October of that year. She is married to Leo Beckett.
Baron Scanlon of Davyhulme – President of the Allied Union of Electrical Workers
Born Hugh Parr Scanlon in Salford on 26th October 1913, he was a leading Trades Unionist on the national scene in the 1950s and 60s, and was made Lord Scanlon of Davyhulme in 1964. His parents had emigrated to Australia in 1911, but his father had died within a year and his widowed mother returned to England with two children and expecting Hugh as a third. Back in Manchester, living with in-laws, she found work at the local Co-op Soap Factory. As Hugh grew, he attended St Mary’s School in Davyhulme, Manchester. He helped finance the family by doing a newspaper delivery round during his lunchtimes and after school in the evening. At 14 he became apprenticed at the Metro Vickers Factory in Trafford Park, was a shop steward by the age of 23, and was elected to the position of President of the AUEW – the Associated Union of Engineering Workers, at the age of 32. Scanlon went on to become a member of the Trades Union Congress national Congress for 10 years where he became known as a tough negotiator, and celebrated for his distinct lack of humour. He eventually resigned in 1959 and was elevated to the House of Lords in 1979, taking the title Baron Scanlon of Davyhulme in the County of Greater Manchester, for his services to industry. Hugh Scanlon died on the 28th of January 2004 at the age of 90.
Ernest Marples MP, Bart
Baron Marples of Wallasey – Minister of Transport
Born Alfred Ernest Marples in 1907 at Henshaw Street in Stretford, this local elementary schoolboy succeeded in becoming Postmaster General and Minister of Transport during his time as a member of the Conservative Government Cabinet. He was eventually to be given the title Baron Marples of Wallasey. His father had been a renowned engineering charge-hand and Manchester Labour campaigner, and his mother had worked in a local hat factory. Ernest attended Victoria Park Council School and won a scholarship to Stretford Grammar School, but by the age of 14 he was already active in the Labour Movement, as well as earning money selling cigarettes and sweets to Manchester football crowds. He also played football for the YMCA team. There followed a succession of jobs – miner, postman, chef, and accountant. Eventually he joined the Territorial Army, and rose to the rank of Captain. During this time his whole perception seems to have changed, as, by 1945 he had become a prospective Conservative candidate and was elected to Parliament, and also set up his own company of Civil Engineers (Marples, Ridgeway & Partners) with his meagre savings and a bank loan. Professionally, as a member of the government, he is best known for having introduced the STD telephone system (Subscriber Trunk Dialling) which eliminated the use of operators on national phone calls, and as Minister of Transport he brought in roadside yellow lines, the first British motorway (the M1), parking meters and seat belts. It was also under Ernest Marples that Dr Beeching was brought in to controversially cut the British railway system down by two-thirds. Marples emigrated to live in Monaco after his retirement from politics and he died in 1978.
Henry Hunt is indelibly associated by local Mancunians with the so-called “Peterloo Massacre“, though he was already well known as a political radical long before the episode at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester on the 16th of August 1819. He was born into a comfortably well-off farming family in 1773 at Upavon in Wiltshire. By the age of 24 on the death of his father, young Henry had inherited several thousand acres of land as well as a substantial country estate in Somerset. Unusually, especially for his time, and rare that such a well born and affluent man should become associated with the radical working-class reform movement. However, he was apparently a controversial figure from the outset, having spent six weeks in prison in 1800 as a result of a civil dispute with a neighbour. While in prison he had met up with the radical lawyer, Henry Clifford, who was instrumental in completing Hunt’s full conversion to political activist and public oratory. Social and economic conditions in England had become a breeding-ground for dissent, anarchy and radicalism, as the country was in the throes of a deep depression – industry was in overproduction and there was massive nation-wide unemployment due to the demobilisation of almost half a million ex-British Army soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars. Street protests and demonstrations were rife and local authorities feared a “copycat” revolution such as that which has taken place in France two decades earlier. In 1816 the Government had already introduced the Coercion Act, designed to deal with public riots and sedition, as well as taking steps to strengthen the Public Order and Riot Acts – such was the instability of the political atmosphere of the time. In 1818 Hunt stood as a parliamentary candidate for Westminster. His manifesto was inevitably radical, calling for secret ballots (then unheard of), universal suffrage and the repeal of the disastrously prohibitive Corn Laws. He was rejected outright by the then wholly middle class electorate. In 1819 he was invited to speak at a planned protest meeting in Manchester at St Peter’s Fields, along with Richard Carlisle. In excess of 80,000 people were expected to attend. Though the meeting was entirely ordered and peaceful, fearful local magistrates ordered the Cheshire Yeomanry to break up the meeting before it could get under way. In the ensuing cavalry charge, eleven people died, hundreds were injured and Hunt and local radical Samuel Bamford, were arrested. One local observer who had been at the Battle of Waterloo, commented that the fields looked like the “Battle of Peterloo” and the event went down in history thereafter at the Peterloo Massacre. Hunt was charged and found guilty of holding an unlawful and seditious assembly and was awarded 30 months in jail for his trouble. On release he continued campaigning and was instrumental in forming the Radical Reform Association with William Cobbett. He was successfully elected as Member of Parliament for Preston in 1831- although his career was brief and he lost his seat in 1833, retiring completely from public life. He died at his home in Hampshire in 1835.