Chapter II - The overripe fruits of reform
I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.
HE new Liberal government found itself in something of a bind shortly after coming to power in 1906. The party’s manifesto, something that was actually seen as important then, was mainly about the repeal of Imperial Preference and a return to free trade, this was something that Campbell-Bannerman and his cabinet were to push to one side as the electoral prospects were not good. They had something of a ‘blank-cheque’ as they had gained a substantial majority not upon policies that they espoused, but upon the unpopularity of the previous Prime Minister. The election had also caused the ‘Liberal Imperialist’ faction  to gain strong traction within the party, as although they had begun by supporting free trade, the growing consensus was that the populace was turning evermore imperialist.
This opportunity, coupled with the additional income that Imperial Preference provided, was greedily seized upon by the party to turn from their classic ‘laissez-faire’ Gladstonian Liberalism toward the more modern and ‘collectivist’ progressive liberalism . Building upon the work started by Chamberlain, the new administration increased the provision of ‘wealthfare’ into the areas of free school meals, sickness and unemployment pay and a system of free medical care for wage earners. The ‘Great Liberal Reforms’ of the early 20th Century also included the relaxation of trade union laws and the introduction of Probation as an alternate to incarceration for young offenders .
The 'Grandfather' of Liberalism, Gladstone would have been turning in his grave
The fruits of Belfour’s procrastination were to mature under the new government, one of the Royal Commissions was to be accepted in almost its entirety, while an additional was quietly forgotten and another introduced only half-heartedly. The first, the Esher report, called for the reorganisation of the British armed forces, with provision for the creation of the British Expeditionary Force, the Territorial Force, the Officer Training Corps and the Special Reserve. The reports impact can hardly be over inflated and its smooth implementation by the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane, should also be praised. On the other hand the Norfolk Commission, which called for mandatory National Service, or conscription, was quickly rejected and pushed to one-side, much to the annoyance of its creator, but no one else. The third report, prepared by Walter Long , had been focused upon the economic threats that had become apparent during the Boer War, which would become critical if another ‘Great Power’, especially a naval one, had become involved.
At the time of its publication, many were shocked by the scope and range of the report and many more thought that Long had clearly gone in excess of the bounds of his stated commission. In hindsight it is often looked upon by scholars as an exemplary report and should be studied by those looking to write such reports. This, however, is something of a red hearing as the report was highly political and while many of its conclusions proved to be correct, it should not be forgotten that Long authored it mainly to support Imperial Preference. In essence it argued the case of what would have happened if another power, to all intents and purposes Germany, but obviously never named, had become involved mid-war. The main thrust was economic and an extension of the argument for Imperial preference, but to his credit, Long did include some other points on Naval strategy that would show there worth in the coming conflict. A summary of the Long Report follows bellow;
• Capital flow controls during war time
• Food and Raw Materials price control through rationing
• Increasing peace-time orders for merchant shipping
• Re-introduction of the Napoleonic ‘convoy system’ during war-time against a naval power
• Creation of shadow munitions factories, in the UK and Dominions, to be activated upon outbreak of war
• Introduction of a ‘war-profiteering’ tax, meaning the 90% taxation of above peacetime profits
Lastly we should also look at one of the most interesting changes that the Liberal period would bring about, the introduction of the ‘Imperial Wireless Chain’. The great irony of this situation is that it was a measure supported upon all sides of the political spectrum, both benches understood the need for an Empire-wide communications network, and so it should be as intriguing as to why it caused so much trouble .
Vicount Haldane, along with Esher, 'Father' of the modern British army
Before we look into the reasons why such an innocuous and, in fact, successful scheme was to almost bring the Liberal party to its knees, we should look at the 1910 general election. Chamberlain had been a more than effective leader during his tenure with the Conservative party and his attacks over the limited implementation of the Long Report hit home with an electorate afraid of the rising Germany threat. This was almost balanced, however, by the popularity of the ‘Great Liberal Reforms’ and there were, in the end, enough to see the Liberal’s return to office for a second term, that would be far longer than anyone could have foreseen. With their return to power there was a shift away from the leadership of Campbell-Bannerman, with his failing health, and further towards the Imperialists within the body. The battle for primacy during the campaign had been between Asquith and Edward Grey, the latter had resided in the Foreign Office for the duration of the Liberal government and he used its prestige from the recently signed Anglo-Russian Entente as well as his well-honed diplomatic skills to engineer a pact with the leader of the ‘Social Liberal’  faction of the party, David Lloyd George, to ensure that he succeeded Campbell-Bannerman, on the understanding that Lloyd George would be next in line for the leadership.
The major event at the beginning of the re-elected Liberal administration was undoubtedly Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’. Which lead with the below preamble;
Originally Posted by David Lloyd-George
This was a major event in the history of the United Kingdom, it enshrined within statute the young, but already popular and growing, ‘wealthfare’ system that had first been introduced by Chamberlain. The budget that was announced on the 29th April, 1911 , had come straight from the pages of the Liberal manifesto, but the issue of funding the ambitious programme was the most controversial matter, one that had split Grey’s cabinet. In essence the generosity of the new system engendered the raising of new revenues, the source of which was the primary question. Lloyd George and his ‘Social’ clique reasoned that the important part of the budget was to re-allocate wealth from the rich, primarily landowners, to the poorer members of society. This lead to the proposing of funding via the introduction of a land tax inspired by the American, Henry George, which would be very unpopular with the majority of the House of Lords . The ‘Imperial’ faction wanted to press ahead with funding coming from increased tariffs and, therefore, Imperial Preference. The debate was long and gruelling, but in the end the Imperial faction won out as the Prime Minister, supposedly neutral, came down upon his factions own side and so the budget that was raised was once again against the will of its Chancellor .
The disgraced Lloyd George, pictured here ironically with the radio technology that finished him
The fallout from the discussions, at any other time, may well have caused a split in the Liberal party with its Imperial and Social factions competing for supremacy. That this was not the case here was due to firstly the diplomatic skills of its leader, Grey, and secondly, and surely more importantly, it was when Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail broke the most sensational piece of scandal since that which had shattered the Belfour family over the Nobel Affair. The piece entitled ‘Marconi Scandal: People’s Chancellor Implicated’ was an incendiary one, it claimed to have, and subsequently printed, evidence that within hours of the cabinet’s decision to award the ‘Imperial Wireless Chain’ contract to Marconi the Chancellor, had purchased a substantial amount of shares within the company’s American subsidiary . The knives were drawn and behind the scenes, at the Reform Club , Lloyd George was ruthlessly cut down along with a large part of his support in the ‘social’ faction. The ‘Night of the Long Knives’ , as newspaper wags coined, was executed perfectly and with the leadership of the faction guillotined the body quickly drifted towards the ‘Imperial’ faction or out the door and would stand in the next election for the Labour party.
 A real faction headed by Haldane, Asquith and Grey. They formed a pact to get rid of Campbell-Bannerman, but didn’t pull it off
 This actually happened IOTL, it is just funded now by Imperial Preference and not taxes, social liberal sounds a little ‘modern’ for my ears, but I’m not sure of a better term. Also collectivism does not equal communist
 All of this is taken from OTL apart from the fact that pensions are now just extended, while IOTL they were introduced here… how needs Labour & the Socialists eh?
 Not sure if Walter Long is the right author (seems a little young/inexperienced) but I found a Hansard* passage by him backing Imperial Preference at a later date. If anyone’s got a better candidate please speak up. (*btw Hansard is the name of the printed transcripts of parliamentary debates in the Westminster system of government. It is named after Thomas Curson Hansard, an early printer and publisher of these transcripts.)
 The project is brought forward due to more funds and ‘random butterflies’… not too important, it will have only a negligible effect on the war, so small it won’t be covered.
 Not a ‘real’ faction but there were (a majority IOTL) who supported Lloyd George, there are less ITL so they have factionalised
 Delayed until after the election as Campbell-Bannerman stays in power a little longer and Asquith is Chancellor for longer
 This is what actually happened here, the bill was vetoed in the Lords and a constitutional crisis ensued, eventually taking away the Lord’s veto…
 …Not here though, I had not thought of this but one of the ‘unintended’ butterflies of getting a better ‘financial’ WWI for the UK is Imperial Preference thus there is still a Lords veto?... weird
 Well the Marconi scandal did happen, and if the truth did come out about Lloyd George then he would have been disgraced… as I don’t like the man and was looking to get rid of him (didn’t want him as war leader) you can imagine how happy I was when I read about this
 Just in case you didn’t know the Reform Club was a private members club where the Whig (later Liberal) party held its meetings
 The original term ‘Night of the Long Knives’ is the name Geoffrey of Monmouth gave to the (possibly apocryphal) treacherous killing of native British chieftains by Anglo-Saxon mercenaries on Salisbury Plain in the 5th century… the fact that the author uses it here may be because such an event does not happen in Germany?... maybe…