Oxford and Asquith, Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st earl of
In the next six years Asquith's government put through an advanced program of social welfare legislation, including old-age pensions (1908) and unemployment insurance (1911). It also embarked on a program of naval expansion to match Germany's. To finance both programs, Asquith's chancellor of the exchequer, David Lloyd George, introduced (1909) a radical budget that was rejected by the House of Lords. This caused a constitutional crisis. After two general elections (Jan. and Dec., 1910), Asquith secured passage of the Parliament Act of 1911, which stripped the House of Lords of its veto power (see Parliament). In 1912, Asquith renewed Liberal efforts to establish Irish Home Rule, a course that provoked a violent reaction from Protestants in Ulster, who were firmly supported by the Conservative party. Ireland appeared to be on the verge of civil war but the outbreak (1914) of World War I forestalled it.
Having brought Great Britain into the war, Asquith proved a less than successful wartime leader. In 1915 he formed a coalition government with the Conservatives, but conflicts within the cabinet, continued reverses in the field, and a virulent campaign waged against him by the newspapers of Lord Northcliffe made his position increasingly difficult. At the end of 1916 a complicated intrigue on the part of Lloyd George and the Conservative leaders resulted in Asquith's resignation. He remained leader of the declining Liberal party until 1926, having been raised to the peerage in 1925.
Asquith's second wife,
See his Occasional Addresses, 1893–1916 (1918, repr. 1969), Speeches (1927); biographies of him by J. A. Spender and C. Asquith (2 vol., 1932), R. Jenkins (1964, repr. 1986), and N. Levine (1991).
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