Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe
Alfred Harmsworth, the eldest child of Alfred Harmsworth (1837–1889), a barrister, and his wife, Geraldine Maffett Harmsworth (1838–1925), was born in Chapelizod near Dublin, on 15th July, 1865. (1)
Over the next twenty years his mother gave birth to thirteen children. Harold (April 1868), Cecil (September 1869), Robert (November 1870), Hildebrand (March 1872), Violet (April 1873), Charles (December 1874), St John (May 1876), Maud (December 1877), Christabel (April 1880), Vyvyan (April 1881), Muriel (May 1882) and Harry (October 1885). (2)
His father moved the family to London in 1867. His father's career did not prosper in England. The main reason for this was that he was an alcoholic. His own father, Charles Harmsworth, had also been an alcoholic, dying at fifty-three of cirrhosis of the liver. "Alfred's drinking would become the central problem of his wife's life, and later the lives of his children." (3)
Alfred's brother, Harold Harmsworth, later recalled that the boys suffered a traumatic experience when they were young. A neighbour, who was a City stockbroker, was made bankrupt and this resulted in him killing all the members of his family before committing suicide. It seems this event motivated them to become financially successful. (4)
According to J. Lee Thompson, "Alfred Harmsworth... formed a strong - some would later say fanatical - bond with his mother, who became the anchor of the family, holding it together in a struggle to keep up respectable, middle-class appearances, even as their income fell perilously closer to working-class level. Following her upright example, in later life he did not swear or gamble. A lifelong disgust for drunkenness was undoubtedly a reaction to his father's weakness and addiction." (5)
Alfred began his education at Stamford Grammar School in Lincolnshire. In 1878 went as a day boy to Henley House School, Hampstead, in 1878, where he showed an early interest in journalism by publishing the school magazine. Its most popular feature was entitled "Answers to Correspondence", a question-and-answer column. He was an indifferent scholar but was good at sport and was captain of both the cricket and the football teams."
Alfred Harmsworth: Journalist
By 1880 Alfred Harmsworth was an occasional reporter on the Hampstead and Highgate Express. After leaving school Harmsworth found work with Youth, an illustrated magazine for boys, owned by the Illustrated London News. In 1886 he was employed by Edward Iliffe to edit one of his magazine, Bicycling News. He employed a woman correspondent, Lillias Campbell Davidson, with "an eye to encouraging women to take up biking." (6)
The great publishing success at the time was Tit-Bits, a magazine that was selling 900,000 copies a month. Published by George Newnes, the magazine catered for those people who had been taught to read as a result of the 1870 Education Act and contained "scraps of interesting and entertaining information". Harmsworth described this new audience as being "thousands of boys and girls… who are aching to read. They do not care for the ordinary newspaper. They have no interest in society, but will read anything which is simple and is sufficiently interesting". (7)
Harmsworth, now aged twenty, became a regular contributor to the magazine. He told his friend, Max Pemberton: "George Newnes has got hold of a bigger thing than he imagines. He is only at the very beginning of a development which is going to change the whole face of journalism. I shall try to get in with him. We could start one of those papers for a couple of thousands pounds, and we ought to be able to find the money. At any rate, I am going to make the attempt." (8)
However, raising the necessary money for this new magazine was very difficult. In the meantime, much to his mother's disapproval, Harmsworth married Mary Milner, daughter of Robert Milner of Kidlington, Oxfordshire, a merchant with West India interests. The couple were married on 11th April 1888. His mother predicted they would have "many children and no money". She was wrong on both counts as the marriage was childless. (9)
Eventually, with the help of his brother, Harold Harmsworth, obtained enough money, about £1,000, to publish his magazine, Answers to Correspondents. It has been claimed that "Harold had to convert Alfred's energy and genius into a paying proposition, and everything depended upon his succeeding at this task. This meant he had to exercise the most painstaking and minute control over outgoings, both financial and creative - the two almost inevitably going hand in hand." (10)
The first edition of the magazine, costing one penny, was published on 2nd June, 1888. He told his readers that every question sent in would be answered by post, and the answers of those of general interest would be published in the magazine. Initially, Alfred had to pretend that he had received questions. Even when genuine queries came in, they were rarely suitable.
The formula used by the magazine was an attempt to provide an excuse for printing miscellaneous articles. For example, he invented a question on the diet of Queen Victoria. The magazine claimed: "The Queen's favourite foods are boiled mutton, of which she partakes at least twice a week, venison, salmon, boiled fowl, and silverside of beef." Other articles based on made-up questions included "An Electrical Flying Machine", "Horseflesh as Food" and "Why are no bus conductors bald?"
In an early edition of the magazine he condemned the way in which "shop boys and factory hands, pit boys, and telegraph boys, devour them eagerly and fill their foolish brains with rubbish about highwaymen, pirates, and other objectionable people". However, as these subjects were popular, Harmsworth soon changed his mind about the matter and published articles on gory issues such as "what it felt like to be hanged, or speculated as to how long a severed head might be conscious after beheading". (11)
Harmsworth also ran a large number of competitions such as guessing how many people walked across London Bridge in a day. His most ingenious competitions was to ask readers to vote for "the ten greatest advertisers in Great Britain". This enabled him to print the names of firms he wanted to have as advertisers as well as interviews with some of them. He also published a list of the first twenty-three that the readers voted for during the competition.
Harmsworth's most successful innovation was a puzzle called "Pigs in Clover" that involved getting little rolling balls in a glass box into the right holes in order to spell the word "Answers". It was a terrific success, with Answers Puzzle Clubs being formed all over the country. Two hundred contestants gathered at the London offices to compete for a £50 national prize awarded to the swiftest solution. It was later claimed that over two and a half million of these puzzles were sold worldwide. (12)
Sales of the magazine rose steadily but slowly. He discovered that puzzles were extremely popular and one edition with a special competition pushed up sales to 30,000 a week. At the first annual meeting, in June 1889, reported a circulation of 48,000 and a gross profit for the year of £1,097 3s 1d. It has been argued that "Harold Harmsworth's management skills and cost-cutting genius proved their worth". (13)
In October 1889 Alfred Harmsworth came up with another new contest was announced which promised which promised "A Pound a Week for Life!" The contest offered a pound a week for life to the person who came closest to guessing the amount of gold coinage in the Bank of England. Entries had to be on postcards and include the signatures and addresses of five "witnesses" who were not relatives or living at the same address. In all, 712,218 postcards were received. This brought the attention of millions of possible subscribers.
On the day the gold coinage figure was posted outside the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, police had to be called to control the crowds. The prize was won by C. D. Austin of the Royal Engineers estimated the amount to within £2 of the correct figure. He married his sweetheart immediately, but he died eight years later of tuberculosis. Harmsworth sent his widow a cheque for £50. (14)
Despite the great success of this promotion, circulation only reached 200,000 while Tit-Bits sold over 500,000. He decided to launch a new competition, "£2 a Week for Life". The government immediately intervened and pointed out that the recent Lotteries Act, offering prizes for guesswork was illegal. The magazine eventually reached 300,000 after it starting publishing serial stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Harmsworth decided that he would move into other areas of publishing. On 17th May 1890, he targeted the humour market with a halfpenny journal called Comic Cuts. The slogan he used was "Amusing Without Being Vulgar" and took a higher moral tone that the usual inexpensive comics "which aimed at the lowest tastes and were often, in Alfred's view at least, vulgar and obscene". It was an immediate success and the first edition sold 118,864 copies. Within a few weeks it was selling 300,000 copies and was making more profits than Answers to Correspondents. (15)
Over the next few months he began publishing several magazines aimed at young boys. This included Boys' Home Journal, Pluck, Marvel, and Boy's Friend. Harmsworth was a great supporter of the British Empire, and published Union Jack, a magazine that was full of stories of how British soldiers were heroically defeating its enemies abroad. (16) The Liberal Party supporting The Daily News, who had doubts about getting involved in foreign wars, attacked Harmsworth for "abetting national degeneration". (17)
In November 1891 the brothers began publishing Forget-Me-Not, subtitled "A Pictorial Journal for Ladies". This penny weekly was aimed at the growing female market. It became the most successful of Harmsworth's publication. (18) Other titles followed such as, Home Sweet Home, Home Chat and Sunday Companion. By 1892 the firm's combined weekly sales figure was 1,009,067, the largest of any magazine company in the world. The following year circulation numbers neared 1,500,000. (19)
During the 1892 General Election, Harmsworth arranged for an interview with William Ewart Gladstone appeared in Answers to Correspondents. Gladstone remarked that he considered the "gigantic circulation of Answers an undeniable proof of the growth of a sound public taste for healthy and instructive reading. The journal must have vast influence." Harmsworth later he paid Gladstone £400 for the interview. (20)
The Evening News
In August 1894 Alfred Harmsworth purchased the Evening News for £25,000. Established in 1881 to promote the interests of the Conservative Party, it developed one of the largest circulations in the market. However, the owner, Coleridge Kennard, found it difficult to make a profit from the newspaper and although by 1894 it had a circulation of over 100,000, it had suffered heavy losses. His brother, Harold Harmsworth, warned him about this takeover as the Liberal Party was very popular with the general public.
Harmsworth made it clear that his newspaper would "preach the gospel of loyalty to the Empire and faith in the combined efforts of the peoples united under the British flag". The declaration of principles continued that, in politics, the paper would be "strongly and unfalteringly" on the side of the Conservatives in regards to the Empire but on social issues vowed to "occupy an advanced democratic platform" and would be "progressive in municipal reform". (21)
Harmsworth dramatically changed the newspaper. Although he retained the traditional seven column layout, advertisements were reduced to a single column on the left. Six columns of news were presented in a crisper style. Harmsworth also began to use illustrations to break-up the text. This was an innovation that had first been used in America.
Though he had previously condemned sensational press coverage of crime stories, the newspaper exploited several of the more lurid domestic murder trials of the time. It also used eye-catching headlines such as "Was it Suicide or Apoplexy?", "Another Battersea Scandal", "Bones in Bishopgate", "Hypnotism and Lunacy" and "Killed by a Grindstone". Harmsworth also began to use illustrations to break-up the text. This was an innovation that had first been used in America. Francis Williams, the author of Dangerous Estate: The Anatomy of Newspapers (1957) argues that the newspaper "combined a doctrinaire support for Conservatism with the strong conviction that all the halfpenny paper public really cared for was crime." (22)
Harmsworth agreed to become one of the two Conservative Party candidates for Portsmouth. He campaigned alongside Evelyn Ashley, who was well connected within Britain's aristocracy. A former Liberal Party MP he had now switched to the Conservatives. His two Liberal opponents were John Baker and Walter Clough in the 1895 General Election. To help him with his campaign he purchased the Portsmouth Evening Mail. In addition to verbal attacks, political cartoons ridiculed his political opponents. On 29th June the newspaper depicted the four candidates lined up on a starting line in foot-racing attire. "Harmsworth and Ashley appear tall, youthful and athletic, while their opponents are short, old and portly." (23)
Harmsworth used The Evening News to attack the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule. He was also concerned about the growth of socialism in London. On 1st July, 1895, he published a political map of the city where he printed those seats held by the Conservatives in white and the opposition seats in black. The paper told its readers to "wipe out those black patches in darkest London, so that our metropolis may be the brightest and most pure spot on earth". (24)
In the General Election the Conservative Party won a crushing victory winning 411 seats. However, Portsmouth did not follow the national pattern and he was defeated. He was a poor public speaker and lacked personal magnetism. He later commented: "At my age a defeat does one good. Too much success in life is bad for one." He admitted he did not enjoy the experience and compared campaigning to "swimming in a sea of filth." (25) He added that "my place is in the House of Lords where they don't fight elections". (26)
Over the first few months Harmsworth had difficulty increasing the circulation of The Evening News. However, advertisers loved the newspaper and the profits soared. By the end of the first year the newspaper made a profit of £14,000. The following year he stated that sales had reached 394,447. Harmsworth claimed this as a world record for a newspaper and added that sales would be over 500,000 if they owned more printing presses.
Harmsworth developed a reputation for "Jew-baiting". On one occasion he published a joke about a Jewish businessman who arranged to have a fire on his premises so that he could claim insurance money. Unfortunately for Harmsworth, a Jewish tradesman in Shoreditch, bearing the same name as given in the joke, had recently claimed insurance for a fire in his London premises. He promptly issued a writ for libel against the newspaper. Harmsworth was forced to apologize and paid the man £600. (27)
The Daily Mail
Harmsworth decided to start a newspaper based on the style of newspapers published in the USA. By the time the first issue of the Daily Mail appeared for the first time on 4th May, 1896, over 65 dummy runs had taken place, at a cost of £40,000. When published for the first time, the eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included "A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny", "The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper" and "All the News in the Smallest Space". (28)
Harmsworth made use of the latest technology. This included mechanical typesetting on a linotype machine. He also purchased three rotary printing machines. In the first edition Harmsworth explained how he could use these machines to produce the cheapest newspaper on the market: "Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what would otherwise appear a mystery." (29) It was later claimed that these machines could produce 200,000 copies of the newspaper per hour. (30)
The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. Most importantly, all its news stories and articles were short. The first day it sold 397,215 copies, more than had ever been sold by any newspaper in one day before. (31)
One of his journalists, Tom Clarke, claimed that his newspaper was for people who were not as intelligent as they thought they were: "Was one of the secrets of the Daily Mail success its play on the snobbishness of all of us? - all of us except the very rich and the very poor, to whom snobbishness is not important; for the rich have nothing to gain by it, and the poor have nothing to lose." (31a)
Harmsworth gained many of his ideas from America. He had been especially impressed by Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the New York World. He also concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal and sensational material. However, Pulitzer also promised to use the paper to expose corruption: "We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty." (32)
In order to do this Pulitzer pioneered the idea of investigative reporting that eventually became known as muckraking. As Harold Evans, the author of The American Century: People, Power and Politics (1998) has pointed out: "Crooks in City Hall. Opium in children's cough syrup. Rats in the meat packing factory. Cruelty to child workers... Scandal followed scandal in the early 1900s as a new breed of writers investigated the evils of laissez-faire America... The muckrakers were the heart of Progressivism, that shifting coalition of sentiment striving to make the American dream come true in the machine age. Their articles, with facts borne out by subsequent commissions, were read passionately in new national mass-circulation magazines by millions of the fast-growing aspiring white-collar middle class." (33)
Alfred Harmsworth completely rejected this approach to journalism. "Looking back, what it (the Daily Mail) lacked most noticeably was a social conscience... Alfred had no desire to start looking for social evils, and no need. What he had to keep in mind were the tastes of a new public that was becoming better educated and more prosperous, that wanted its rosebushes and tobacco and silk corsets and tasty dishes, that liked to wave a flag for the Queen and see foreigners slip on a banana skin." (34)
Harmsworth made full use of the latest developments in communications. Overseas news-gathering offices opened in New York and Paris were aided by advances in cable transmission speed at the General Post Office, which had reached 600 words per minute by 1896. He also exploited the expanding British railway system to distribute the newspaper to the home market so that people all over Britain could read the newspaper over their breakfasts. It has been claimed that the Daily Mail was the first truly national newspaper. (35)
Alfred Harmsworth made it clear to the leaders of the Conservative Party that the newspaper would provide loyal support. Arthur Balfour, the leader of the party in the House of Commons, sent a private letter to Harmsworth. "Though it is impossible for me, for obvious reasons, to appear among the list of those who publish congratulatory comments in the columns of the Daily Mail perhaps you will allow me privately to express my appreciation of your new undertaking. That, if it succeeds, it will greatly conduce to the wide dissemination of sound political principles, I feel assured; and I cannot doubt, that it will succeed, knowing the skill, the energy, the resource, with which it is conducted. You have taken the lead in the newspaper enterprise, and both you and the Party are to be heartily congratulated." (36)
In July 1896, Harmsworth asked a friend, Lady Bulkley, to write to Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, the new prime minister, suggesting that in return for supporting the Conservative Party, he should be rewarded with a baronetcy. The letter pointed out that as well as owning several pro-conservative newspapers he had recently established "the Daily Mail... at a cost of near £100,000". Salisbury refused but was willing to offer a knighthood instead. Harmsworth rejected the offer and commented that he was willing to wait for a baronetcy. (37)
Alfred Harmsworth was a passionate supporter of the British Empire and he is said to have idolised two men, Joseph Camberlain and Cecil Rhodes. He intended to use his newspaper and the rest of his publications to "strum the Imperial harp". According to Harry J. Greenwall, the author of Northcliffe: Napoleon of Fleet Street (1957) Harmsworth "with the Daily Mail unleashed a tremendous force of potential mass thought-control" as it became the "trumpet... of British Imperialism." (38)
George W. Steevens was one of those who heard Harmsworth speak on the subject of Rhodes: "I met last night perhaps the most remarkable man I have ever seen... It is Harmsworth... He is very young and his speech showed that he rates Rhodes too high. Rhodes is as strong as Bismarck, and youth rates strength too high, but Rhodes was never sharp and has become stupid. Harmsworth himself is superior, in that he is probably both strong and sharp." (39)
On the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria coming to the throne Harmsworth wrote: "We ought to be a proud nation today. Proud of our fathers that founded this Empire, proud of ourselves who have... increased it, proud of our sons, who we can trust to keep what we had... and increase it for their sons in turn and their son's sons. Until we saw it (the great pageant) all passing through our city we never quite realised what Europe meant... It makes life newly worth living... better and more strenuously to feel that one is a part of this enormous, this wonderful machine, the greatest organisation the world ever saw." (40)
Alfred Harmsworth became very concerned about the dangers posed by Germany. He sent his leading journalist, George W. Steevens, to report on the country: "The German army is the most perfectly adapted, perfectly running machine. Never can there have been a more signal triumph of organization over complexity... The German army is the finest thing thing of its kind in the world; it is the finest thing in Germany of any kind... In the German army the men are ready, and the planes, the railway-carriages, the gas for the war-balloons, and the nails for the horseshoes are all ready too... Nothing overlooked, nothing neglected, everything practised, everything welded together, and yet everything alive and fighting... And what should we ever do if 100,000 of this kind of army got loose in England?" (41`)
Harmsworth became convinced that Britain would have to go to war with Germany and urged the government to increase its spending on defence: "This is our hour of preparation, tomorrow may be the day of world conflict... Germany will go slowly and surely; she is not in a hurry: her preparations are quietly and systematically made; it is no part of her object to cause general alarm which might be fatal to her designs." (42)
In an interview Harmsworth gave to a French newspaper he explained his views on Germany: "Yes, we detest the Germans, we detest them cordially and the make themselves detested by all of Europe. I will not permit the least thing that might injure France to appear in my paper, but I should not like for anything to appear in it that might be agreeable to Germany." (43)
The Boer War
The Boers (Dutch settlers in South Africa), under the leadership of Paul Kruger, resented the colonial policy of Joseph Chamberlain and Alfred Milner which they feared would deprive the Transvaal of its independence. After receiving military equipment from Germany, the Boers had a series of successes on the borders of Cape Colony and Natal between October 1899 and January 1900. Although the Boers only had 88,000 soldiers, led by the outstanding soldiers such as Louis Botha, and Jan Smuts, the Boers were able to successfully besiege the British garrisons at Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. On the outbreak of the Boer War, the conservative government announced a national emergency and sent in extra troops. (44)
On 25th July, 1900, a motion on the Boer War, caused a three way split in the Liberal Party. A total of 40 "Liberal Imperialists" that included H. H. Asquith, Edward Grey, Richard Haldane and Archibald Primrose, Lord Rosebery, supported the government's policy in South Africa. Henry Campbell-Bannerman and 34 others abstained, whereas 31 Liberals, led by David Lloyd George, voted against the motion.
Alfred Harmsworth, a strong supporter of the war, saw this as an opportunity to damage the Liberal Party. A series of articles appeared in the Daily Mail that questioned the patriotism of people like Lloyd George. The old-fashioned "Little Englander" position, said the newspaper, by sympathizing with the enemy in the South African crisis, had failed to interpret the sentiment of the nation for "England and Empire". According to Harmsworth, for the Liberal Party to survive, its only hope was to regain the trust of the country by supporting the band of thirty or so Liberal Imperialists, led by Rosebery, Asquith and Grey." (45)
Robert Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury, decided to take advantage of the divided Liberal Party and on 25th September 1900, he dissolved Parliament and called a general election. Lloyd George, admitted in one speech he was in a minority but it was his duty as a member of the House of Commons to give his constituents honest advice. He went on to make an attack on Tory jingoism. "The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than the man who fires upon it." (46)
The Daily Mail supported both the Conservatives and the Liberal Unionists in the election. Harmsworth had developed a close relationship with Winston Churchill, who was attempting to capture Oldham for the imperial cause. Churchill proclaimed the opponents of the government the enemies of Britain and the Empire. He claimed on one poster: "Be it known that every vote given to the radicals means two pats on the back for Kruger and two smacks in the face for our country". (47)
Henry Campbell-Bannerman with a difficult task of holding together the strongly divided Liberal Party and they were badly defeated in the 1900 General Election. The Conservative Party won 402 seats against the 183 achieved by Liberal Party. However, anti-war MPs did better than those who defended the war. David Lloyd George increased the size of his majority in Caernarvon Borough. Other anti-war MPs such as Henry Labouchere and John Burns both increased their majorities.
The Boer War proved to be very popular with the British public. In 1898 the Daily Mail was selling 400,000 copies a day. Harmsworth encouraged people to buy the newspaper for nationalistic reasons making it clear to his readers that his newspaper stood "for the power, the supremacy and the greatness of the British Empire". By 1899 it had reached 600,000 and during the most dramatic moments of the war in 1900 it was almost a million and a half. However, after the war, circulation fell to 700,000. (48)
The Daily Mirror
One of the popular innovations of the Daily Mail was a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. Alfred Harmsworth decided to establish the Daily Mirror, a newspaper "for gentlewomen". Kennedy Jones was put in charge of the project and spent £100,000 in publicity, including a gift scheme of gilt and enamel mirrors. Mary Howarth, was appointed editor, and most of its staff were women. The first issue was published on 1st November, 1903. Harmsworth wrote in his diary that "after the usual pangs of childbirth produced the first copy at 9.50 p.m. It looks a promising child, but time will show whether we are on a winner or not." (49)
The new paper provided twenty tabloid-sized pages at a cost of a penny. Harmsworth declared in the first issue that "the Daily Mirror was new, because it represents in journalism a development that is entirely new and modern in the world; it is unlike any other newspaper because it attempts what no other newspaper has ever attempted. It is no mere bulletin of fashion, but a reflection of women's interests, women's thoughts, women's work. The sane and healthy occupation of domestic life." (50)
On its first day, the circulation of the Daily Mirror was 265,217. This was mainly as a result of a massive publicity campaign. Silly mistakes were made. For example, one regular column, "Our French Letter" had to be changed to Yesterday in Paris". Sales dropped dramatically after the initial launch and within a month circulation was below 25,000 and losses were £3,000 a week. "The paper became the greatest publishing blunder of Alfred's career and lost £100,000 before its fortunes were righted. The original idea - that a large female readership could be lured to a penny paper away from sixpenny productions like the Queen and Ladies' Field - proved absolutely wrong." (51)
Harmsworth was strongly opposed to women's suffrage and women who wanted careers and so he was very keen to produce a newspaper that did not to appeal to the "naughty New Woman who smoked cigarettes and had unthinkable notions about the vote". Harmsworth hoped his new newspaper "would attract bright, home-loving ladies, who in turn would attract advertisers of clothes, jewellery, and furniture." (52)
Matthew Engel, the author of Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (1996) has argued that the "Daily Mirror did not have the same only-just-out-of-reach aspirational appeal that made the Daily Mail such a success in the suburbs." (53) Maurice Edelman was convinced the disaster was not so much a miscalculation of the market as a result of Harmsworth's Oedipal obsession: subconsciously, he was starting a paper that would please his mother." (54)
Harmsworth had a patronising and sententious attitude towards women: "Nine women out of ten would rather read about an evening dress costing a great deal of money - the sort of dress they will never in their lives have a chance of wearing, than about a simple frock such as they could afford. A recipe for a dish requiring a pint of cream, a dozen eggs, and the breasts of three chickens pleases them better than being told how to make Irish stew." (55)
Alfred Harmsworth decided to change his original plan. The editor, Mary Howarth, returned to the Daily Mail and was replaced by Hamilton Fyfe, who had orders to sack the women on the staff. "They tried to soften Fyfe's heart by leaving presents on his desk; he said it was like drowning kittens." These changes did not work. Circulation was 45,000 when Fyfe took over; by the end of the year it had lost a third of this and was only selling 30,000 copies. (56)
It was now decided to change it to a picture newspaper for men as well as women. It has been wrongly claimed that it was the first newspaper that was full of illustration. In fact, the Daily Graphic, a newspaper that made extensive use of wood engravings, had only moderate success since it was established in 1869. However, Harmsworth, intended to use new developments where half-tone blocks could be used to print photographs on newsprint paper. By using high-speed rotary presses he managed to print 24,000 copies per hour. (57)
As Harmsworth later recalled: "Some people say that a woman never really knows what she wants. It is certain she knew what she didn't want. She didn't want the Daily Mirror. I then changed the price to a halfpenny, and filled it full of photographs and pictures to see how that would do." Within a month sales had increased to 143,000 and by the end of the year it had reached 290,000. (58)
Hamilton Fyfe also experimented with using different types of photographs on the front-page. On 2nd April, 1904, the Daily Mirror published a whole page of pictures of Edward VII and his children, Henry, Albert and Mary. This was a great success and Harmsworth now realised the British public had an intense interest in photographs of the Royal Family. (59)
In April 1905, Alfred Harmsworth, established Associated Newspapers Limited with a capital of £1,600,000, the shares of which swiftly sold out. His income for the year was £115,000. Apart from his newspaper business he had other stock worth £300,000. Despite his growing wealth he was still dissatisfied and craved titles and acceptance from the ruling class. He also wanted greater influence and in May, he purchased The Sunday Observer. It had a small circulation of around 3,000 but was read by the upper-classes. It cost only £4,000, but it had been losing between £12,000 and £15,000 a year. (60)
On 23rd June, it was announced that Harmsworth had received a baronetcy. The Daily Telegraph reported that it was unusual for a man "to win so much success in so limited a time". (61) Those newspapers that supported the Liberal Party were less complimentary. The Daily Chronicle stated that "Mr. Harmsworth's is the name of the most general interest in a list that is more remarkable for quantity than quality".(62) The most bitter comment came from The Daily News, "having been conspicuously passed over for several years, Sir Alfred Harmsworth has arrived at his baronetcy... for all he did during the Boer War." (63)
Arthur Balfour resigned as prime minister on 4th December 1905 and was replaced by Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the leader of the Liberal Party. Before he went he asked Edward VII if he would give Alfred Harmsworth a peerage. The Chief Whip, Alexander Acland-Hood, believed that if this did not happen, Harmsworth would change his support to the Liberals: "If he doesn't get it now he will get it when Campbell-Bannerman makes his Peers on taking office - we should then lose all his money and influence - I very much dislike the business, but as we can't stop it in the future why make so handsome a present to the other side!" (64)
Alfred Harmsworth took the title, Lord Northcliffe. Balfour told him that he was "the youngest peer" in British history. It was a very controversial decision and many considered it an act of corruption. A few years earlier Harmsworth had commented that "when I want a peerage I will pay for it" and that is what a lot of people thought had happened. Herbert Stern, a banker, was also accused of buying the title, Lord Michelham. (65)
The Saturday Review published a long article on Balfour's resignation list. Is it true or false that the peerages of Michelham and Northcliffe were sold for so much cash down? And did the cash go into the war-chest of the Conservative party? That these peerages were conferred for a sincere belief in the public merits of the recipients or from any other mercenary considerations is plainly incredible... Beginning the world with nothing he (Northcliffe) has made a very large fortune by the production of certain newspapers. No man makes a pile without the possession of certain qualities, which are obviously rare, but which do not in our opinion necessarily entitle their possessors to a seat in the House of Lords... We say advisedly that he has done more than any man of his generation to pervert and enfeeble the mind of the multitude." (66)
Alfred Gollin has argued that there were other reasons why some people objected to him becoming a member of the House of Lords: "A chief source of the hostility that confronted him lay in the fact that he (Alfred Harmsworth) was so different from the other members of the ruling class of his time. They resented his power, his influence, his ability, and most of all, his refusal to conform to their standards... the established classes were hostile to Lord Northcliffe because he came from a different background, because he had clawed his way to the top, because he was required, as an outsider, to have recourse to different methods when he sought to clutch at authority and grasp for power. The ordinary rulers of Britain were ruthless enough but a man of Northcliffe's type had to be harder, tougher, more openly brutal, or else he would perish". (67)
Henry Campbell-Bannerman called a general election and on 21st December, 1905, he made pledges to support Irish Home Rule, to cut defence spending, to repeal the 1902 Education Act, to oppose food taxes and slavery in South Africa. The Daily Mail reported that the Liberal Party intended to "attack capital, assail private enterprise, undo the Union, reverse the Education Act, cripple the one industry of South Africa, reduce the navy and weaken the army." It went on to say that if the Liberals won power it would bring a halt to the growth of the British Empire. (68)
During the campaign members of the Women Social & Political Union attempted to disrupt political meetings. On 10th January, 1906, The Daily Mail described these women as "suffragettes". It was meant as an insult but Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the organisation, liked the term and defiantly accepted the label. Lord Northcliffe, was totally opposed to women having the vote and ordered his editors to ignore their activities. (69)
Dreadnoughts or Old Age Pensions
In the 1906 General Election the Liberal Party won 397 seats (48.9%) compared to the Conservative Party's 156 seats (43.4%). The Labour Party, led by Keir Hardie did well, increasing their seats from 2 to 29. In the landslide victory Arthur Balfour lost his seat as did most of his cabinet ministers. Margot Asquith wrote: "When the final figures of the Elections were published everyone was stunned, and it certainly looks as if it were the end of the great Tory Party as we have known it." (70)
Balfour considered the growth in the vote for Labour a significant factor in the result."I am quite confident that there are much deeper causes at work than those with which, for the last 20 years, we have been familiar. I regard the enormous increase in the Labour vote (an increase which cannot be measured merely by the number returned of Labour members so-called) as a reflection in this country - faint I hope - of what is going on the Continent; and, if so, 1906 will be remarkable for something much more important than the fall of a Government which has been ten years in office." (71)
One of the innovations introduced by the Daily Mail was the publication of serials. Personally supervised by Northcliffe, the average length was 100,000 words. The opening episode was 5,000 words and had to have a dramatic impact on the readers. This was followed by episodes of 1,500 to 2,000 words every day. On 19th March 1906, the newspaper published the first installment of The Invasion of 1910, in which the novelist William Le Queux, detailed a German invasion of Britain.
This was all part of Lord Northcliffe's campaign to build up Britain's defences against Germany. He was a great supporter of the need to build up the British Navy to protect the country from a German invasion. Britain's first dreadnought was built at Portsmouth Dockyard between October 1905 and December 1906. It was the most heavily-armed ship in history. She had ten 12-inch guns (305 mm), whereas the previous record was four 12-inch guns. The gun turrets were situated higher than user and so facilitated more accurate long-distance fire. In addition to her 12-inch guns, the ship also had twenty-four 3-inch guns (76 mm) and five torpedo tubes below water. In the waterline section of her hull, the ship was armoured by plates 28 cm thick. It was the first major warship driven solely by steam turbines. It was also faster than any other warship and could reach speeds of 21 knots. A total of 526 feet long (160.1 metres) it had a crew of over 800 men. It cost over £2 million, twice as much as the cost of a conventional battleship.
Germany built its first dreadnought in 1907 and plans were made for building more. The British government believed it was necessary to have twice the number of these warships than any other navy. David Lloyd George had a meeting with the German Ambassador, Count Paul Metternich, and told him that Britain was willing to spend £100 million to frustrate Germany's plans to achieve naval supremacy. That night he made a speech where he spoke out on the arms race: "My principle is, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, less money for the production of suffering, more money for the reduction of suffering." (72)
Lord Northcliffe, used his newspapers to urge an increase in defence spending and a reduction in the amount of money being spent on social insurance schemes. In one letter to Lloyd George he suggested that the Liberal government was Pro-German. Lloyd George replied: "The only real pro-German whom I know of on the Liberal side of politics is Rosebery, and I sometimes wonder whether he is even a Liberal at all! Haldane, of course, from education and intellectual bent, is in sympathy with German ideas, but there is really nothing else on which to base a suspicion that we are inclined to a pro-German policy at the expense of the entente with France." (73)
Northcliffe's propaganda campaign was helped by the purchase of The Times newspaper on 16th March 1908 for £320,000, following a complex financial and political campaign in which he outmanoeuvred his rival, C. Arthur Pearson. He always claimed that he allowed the paper its full independence but he made sure that the senior staff agreed with him on the current political issues, especially, military spending. (74)
Northcliffe attempted to assure his readers that "there will be no change whatever in the political or editorial direction of the paper, which will be conducted by the same staff on the independent lines pursued uninterruptedly for so many years". (75) However, he told F. Harcourt Kitchen, one of the senior managers, that he would "leave the Editor unrestricted control, unless he should -which is quite incredible - fail to warn the British people of the coming German peril". (76)
It has been argued that "Northcliffe realized a long-held publishing desire when he acquired control of The Times. Though its circulation had dwindled, the paper remained the most prestigious British journal and was still viewed by foreign powers as a voice of official government opinion. By adding The Times to his newspaper regiments, Northcliffe gained control of a key organ of the British Establishment - much to the fury of his Liberal critics." (77)
The Daily Mail and the Welfare State
David Lloyd George was the leading radical in the Liberal government. in one speech had warned that if the government did not pass progressive, at the next election, the working-class would vote for the Labour Party: "If at the end of our term of office it were found that the present Parliament had done nothing to cope seriously with the social condition of the people, to remove the national degradation of slums and widespread poverty and destitution in a land glittering with wealth, if they do not provide an honourable sustenance for deserving old age, if they tamely allow the House of Lords to extract all virtue out of their bills, so that when the Liberal statute book is produced it is simply a bundle of sapless legislative faggots fit only for the fire - then a new cry will arise for a land with a new party, and many of us will join in that cry." (78)
Lloyd George had been a long opponent of the Poor Law in Britain. He was determined to take action that in his words would "lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor". He believed the best way of doing this was to guarantee an income to people who were to old to work. Based on the ideas of Tom Paine that first appeared in his book Rights of Man, Lloyd George's proposed the introduction of old age pensions.
In a speech on 15th June 1908, he pointed out: "You have never had a scheme of this kind tried in a great country like ours, with its thronging millions, with its rooted complexities... This is, therefore, a great experiment... We do not say that it deals with all the problem of unmerited destitution in this country. We do not even contend that it deals with the worst part of that problem. It might be held that many an old man dependent on the charity of the parish was better off than many a young man, broken down in health, or who cannot find a market for his labour." (79)
To pay for these pensions Lloyd George had to raise government revenues by an additional £16 million a year. In 1909 Lloyd George announced what became known as the People's Budget. This included increases in taxation. Whereas people on lower incomes were to pay 9d. in the pound, those on annual incomes of over £3,000 had to pay 1s. 2d. in the pound. Lloyd George also introduced a new super-tax of 6d. in the pound for those earning £5,000 a year. Other measures included an increase in death duties on the estates of the rich and heavy taxes on profits gained from the ownership and sale of property. Other innovations in Lloyd George's budget included labour exchanges and a children's allowance on income tax. (80)
Lord Northcliffe disliked the idea of paying higher taxes in order to help provide old age pensions and used all of his newspapers to criticize the measures in the budget. The Daily News launched an attack on the wealthy men opposed to the budget: "It is they who own the newspapers, and when we remember that The Times, The Daily Mail, and The Observer, not to mention a host of minor organs in London and the provinces, are all controlled by one man, it is easy to realise how vast a political power capital exerts by this means alone." (81)
One of David Lloyd George's main supporters was Winston Churchill, who spoke at a large number of public meetings on this issue. Robert Lloyd George, the author of David & Winston: How a Friendship Changed History (2005) has suggested that their main motive was to prevent socialism in Britain: "Churchill and Lloyd George intuitively saw the real danger of socialism in the global situation of that time, when economic classes were so divided. In other European countries, revolution would indeed sweep away monarchs and landlords within the next ten years. But thanks to the reforming programme of the pre-war Liberal government, Britain evolved peacefully towards a more egalitarian society. It is arguable that the peaceful revolution of the People's Budget prevented a much more bloody revolution." (82)
The Conservatives, who had a large majority in the House of Lords, objected to this attempt to redistribute wealth, and made it clear that they intended to block these proposals. Lloyd George reacted by touring the country making speeches in working-class areas on behalf of the budget and portraying the nobility as men who were using their privileged position to stop the poor from receiving their old age pensions. The historian, George Dangerfield, has argued that Lloyd George had created a budget that would destroy the House of Lords if they tried to block the legislation: "It was like a kid, which sportsmen tie up to a tree in order to persuade a tiger to its death." (83)
On 30th November, 1909, the Peers rejected the Finance Bill by 350 votes to 75. H. H. Asquith had no option but to call a general election. In January 1910, the Liberals lost votes and was forced to rely on the support of the 42 Labour Party MPs to govern. John Grigg, the author of The People's Champion (1978) argues that the reason why the "people failed to give a sweeping, massive endorsement to the People's Budget" was that the electorate in 1910 was "by no means representative of the whole British nation". He points out that "only 58 per cent of adult males had the vote, and it is a fair assumption that the remaining 42 per cent would, if enfranchised, have voted in very large numbers for Liberal or Labour candidates. In what was still a disproportionately middle-class electorate the fear of Socialism was strong, and many voters were susceptible to the argument that the Budget was a first installment of Socialism." (84)
The historian, Duncan Tanner, believes that Lord Northcliffe played an important role in the election. Although the the Liberal Party had the support of two popular national newspapers, the Daily News and the Daily Chronicle, they found it difficult to compete with the influence of Northcliffe's Daily Mail. Tanner has pointed out: "They were enthusiastically progressive. They sensationally exposed poverty, making 'political' comparisons between the 'immoral' and 'extreme' wealth of Tory plutocrats and the landlords on the one hand, and the acute and total distress of the poor on the other. Yet between them they had less than three-quarters of a million readers in 1910 (less than the Tory Daily Mail alone)." (85)
David Lloyd George became convinced that Britain needed a health insurance scheme similar to one introduced in Germany in the 1880s. Lloyd George presented his national insurance proposal to the Cabinet at the beginning of April, 1911. "Insurance was to be made compulsory for all regularly employed workers over the age of sixteen and with incomes below the level - £160 a year - of liability for income tax; also for all manual labourers, whatever their income. The rates of contribution would be 4d. a week from a man, and 3d. a week from a woman; 3d. a week from his or her employer; and 2d. a week from the State." (86)
The National Insurance Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 4th May, 1911. Lloyd George argued: "It is no use shirking the fact that a proportion of workmen with good wages spend them in other ways, and therefore have nothing to spare with which to pay premiums to friendly societies. It has come to my notice, in many of these cases, that the women of the family make most heroic efforts to keep up the premiums to the friendly societies, and the officers of friendly societies, whom I have seen, have amazed me by telling the proportion of premiums of this kind paid by women out of the very wretched allowance given them to keep the household together."
Lloyd George went on to explain: "When a workman falls ill, if he has no provision made for him, he hangs on as long as he can and until he gets very much worse. Then he goes to another doctor (i.e. not to the Poor Law doctor) and runs up a bill, and when he gets well he does his very best to pay that and the other bills. He very often fails to do so. I have met many doctors who have told me that they have hundreds of pounds of bad debts of this kind which they could not think of pressing for payment of, and what really is done now is that hundreds of thousands - I am not sure that I am not right in saying millions - of men, women and children get the services of such doctors. The heads of families get those services at the expense of the food of their children, or at the expense of good-natured doctors."
Lloyd George stated this measure was just the start to government involvement in protecting people from social evils: "I do not pretend that this is a complete remedy. Before you get a complete remedy for these social evils you will have to cut in deeper. But I think it is partly a remedy. I think it does more. It lays bare a good many of those social evils, and forces the State, as a State, to pay attention to them. It does more than that... till the advent of a complete remedy, this scheme does alleviate an immense mass of human suffering, and I am going to appeal, not merely to those who support the Government in this House, but to the House as a whole, to the men of all parties, to assist us." (87)
The Observer welcomed the legislation as "by far the largest and best project of social reform ever yet proposed by a nation. It is magnificent in temper and design". (88) The British Medical Journal described the proposed bill as "one of the greatest attempts at social legislation which the present generation has known" and it seemed that it was "destined to have a profound influence on social welfare." (89)
Lloyd George's reforms were strongly criticised and some Conservatives accused him of being a socialist. There was no doubt that he had been heavily influenced by Fabian Society pamphlets on social reform that had been written by Beatrice Webb, Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw. However, some Fabians "feared that the Trade Unions might now be turned into Insurance Societies, and that their leaders would be further distracted from their industrial work." (90)
Lloyd George pointed out that the labour movement in Germany had initially opposed national insurance: "In Germany, the trade union movement was a poor, miserable, wretched thing some years ago. Insurance has done more to teach the working class the virtue of organisation than any single thing. You cannot get a socialist leader in Germany today to do anything to get rid of that Bill... Many socialist leaders in Germany will say that they would rather have our Bill than their own." (91)
Lord Northcliffe, launched a propaganda campaign against the bill on the grounds that the scheme would be too expensive for small employers. The climax of the campaign was a rally in the Albert Hall on 29th November, 1911. As Lord Northcliffe, controlled 40 per cent of the morning newspaper circulation in Britain, 45 per cent of the evening and 15 per cent of the Sunday circulation, his views on the subject was very important.
H. H. Asquith was very concerned about the impact of the The Daily Mail involvement in this issue: "The Daily Mail has been engineering a particularly unscrupulous campaign on behalf of mistresses and maids and one hears from all constituencies of defections from our party of the small class of employers. There can be no doubt that the Insurance Bill is (to say the least) not an electioneering asset." (92)
Frank Owen, the author of Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George and his Life and Times (1954) suggested that it was those who employed servants who were the most hostile to the legislation: "Their tempers were inflamed afresh each morning by Northcliffe's Daily Mail, which alleged that inspectors would invade their drawing-rooms to check if servants' cards were stamped, while it warned the servants that their mistresses would sack them the moment they became liable for sickness benefit." (93)
The National Insurance Bill spent 29 days in committee and grew in length and complexity from 87 to 115 clauses. These amendments were the result of pressure from insurance companies, Friendly Societies, the medical profession and the trade unions, which insisted on becoming "approved" administers of the scheme. The bill was passed by the House of Commons on 6th December and received royal assent on 16th December 1911. (94)
The Daily Mail and The Times, both owned by Lord Northcliffe, continued its campaign against the National Insurance Act and urged its readers who were employers not to pay their national health contributions. David Lloyd George asked: "Were there now to be two classes of citizens in the land - one class which could obey the laws if they liked; the other, which must obey whether they liked it or not? Some people seemed to think that the Law was an institution devised for the protection of their property, their lives, their privileges and their sport it was purely a weapon to keep the working classes in order. This Law was to be enforced. But a Law to ensure people against poverty and misery and the breaking-up of home through sickness or unemployment was to be optional." (95)
Lloyd George attacked the newspaper baron for encouraging people to break the law and compared the issue to the foot-and-mouth plague rampant in the countryside at the time: "Defiance of the law is like the cattle plague. It is very difficult to isolate it and confine it to the farm where it has broken out. Although this defiance of the Insurance Act has broken out first among the Harmsworth herd, it has travelled to the office of The Times. Why? Because they belong to the same cattle farm. The Times, I want you to remember, is just a twopenny-halfpenny edition of The Daily Mail." (96)
One of his journalists, Tom Clarke, pointed out that Lord Northcliffe dictated the political stance of his newspaper: "He (Northcliffe) was sometimes violent in both speech and action (once in his office he took a flying kick at the seat of the pants of a man who had annoyed him; and on another occasion put his foot through a man's hat in his temper). He seldom sought advice, and treated it so roughly if he did not like it, that people hesitated to give it him. When he spoke, everybody else listened, usually without challenge. He suffered from little opposition." (96a)
Lord Northcliffe used his newspapers to oppose women having the vote. He ordered his newspapers to ignore the subject as he believed any publicity only helped their cause. On a visit to Canada and the United States he proudly pointed out that newspapers in those countries had more information on the activities of the National Union of Suffrage Societies and the Women Social & Political Union than the ones controlled by him. (97)
However, he thought it wise not to give his opinions in public as he feared it would lose him readers: "My view of the position of newspaper owners is that they should be read and not seen. The less they appear in person the better for the influence of their newspapers. That is why I never appear on public platforms. As to the woman's suffrage business, I am one of those people who believe the whole thing to be a bubble, blown by a few wealthy women who employ their less prosperous sisters to do the work. I judge public interest in the matter by the correspondence received. We never get any letters apart from those from the stage army of suffragettes." (98)
Lord Northcliffe was also extremely hostile to trade unions. One of his journalists remembered how he behaved during a strike organised by the National Union of Mineworkers: "During this coal strike the orders came thick and fast. Whatever he might do through The Times in the way of influencing public opinion, he could do far more through the Mail, with its millions... He thought mob rule might be coming, so the mob must be divided; the public must be shown how the miners were enjoying themselves at the seaside or dog races while helpless workers in other industries suffered from the creeping paralysis." (98a)
Lord Northcliffe and Germany
Lord Northcliffe had consistently described Germany as Britain's "secret and insidious enemy", and he commissioned Robert Blatchford, to visit Germany and then write a series of articles setting out the dangers. The German's, Blatchford wrote, were making "gigantic preparations" to destroy the British Empire and "to force German dictatorship upon the whole of Europe". He complained that Britain was not prepared for was and argued that the country was facing the possibility of an "Armageddon". (99)
He continued to demand that the government to spend more money on building up the British Navy. In this he gained the support of Reginald McKenna, the First Lord of the Admiralty, David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was totally opposed to this policy. He reminded H. H. Asquith of "the emphatic pledges given by us before and during the general election campaign to reduce the gigantic expenditure on armaments built up by our predecessors... but if Tory extravagance on armaments is seen to be exceeded, Liberals... will hardly think it worth their while to make any effort to keep in office a Liberal ministry... the Admiralty's proposals were a poor compromise between two scares - fear of the German navy abroad and fear of the Radical majority at home... You alone can save us from the prospect of squalid and sterile destruction." (100)
Lord Northcliffe was highly critical of a Liberal government who were more willing to spend more money on the emerging welfare state than on defence spending. In the 1910 General Election he accused the government of "surrendering to socialism" and that it was the patriotic duty of the British people to vote for the Conservative Party as Germany wanted a Liberal victory in the election. (101)
The Daily Mail campaigned for the introduction of military conscription to deal with the threat of Germany. It argued that "in recent years" no other subject "has attracted more attention, has aroused more discussion, or been followed by our readers with closer interest". It also published a pamphlet that dealt with this issue. Within a few weeks it sold over 1,600,000 copies. The Manchester Guardian accused the newspaper of "deliberately raking the fires of hell for votes". (102)
In January 1911, Lord Northcliffe met Geoffrey Dawson, who had worked very closely with Sir Alfred Milner in establishing the Round Table. According to Alexander May, "The aim of the Round Table was deceptively simple: to ensure the permanence of the British empire by reconstructing it as a federation representative of all its self-governing parts. Curtis depicted this as the logical outcome of the movement towards self-government in the dominions, and the only alternative to disruption and independence." Northcliffe agreed with Dawson's views on the British Empire and appointed him as a full-time staff member of The Times. He was invited to Northcliffe's Tudor mansion near Guildford. The two men, who were "strong Imperialists" got on very well. Northcliffe told a friend that Dawson would one day be "a future editor of The Times." (103)
David Lloyd George was constantly in conflict with Reginald McKenna, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and suggested to H. H. Asquith that his friend, Winston Churchill, should become First Lord of the Admiralty. Asquith took this advice and Churchill was appointed to the post on 24th October, 1911. McKenna, with the greatest reluctance, replaced him at the Home Office. This move backfired on Lloyd George as the Admiralty cured Churchill's passion for "economy". The "new ruler of the King's navy demanded an expenditure on new battleships which made McKenna's claims seem modest". (104)
The Admiralty reported to the British government that by 1912 Germany would have 17 dreadnoughts, three-fourths the number planned by Britain for that date. At a cabinet meeting David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill both expressed doubts about the veracity of the Admiralty intelligence. Churchill even accused Admiral John Fisher, who had provided this information, of applying pressure on naval attachés in Europe to provide any sort of data he needed. (105)
Admiral Fisher refused to be beaten and contacted King Edward VII about his fears. He in turn discussed the issue with H. H. Asquith. Lloyd George wrote to Churchill explaining how Asquith had now given approval to Fisher's proposals: "I feared all along this would happen. Fisher is a very clever person and when he found his programme in danger he wired Davidson (assistant private secretary to the King) for something more panicky - and of course he got it." (106)
Lord Northcliffe felt that George Earle Buckle, the editor of The Times, had not been vigorous enough in the campaign against Germany and on 31st July, 1912, he forced his resignation. He was replaced by Geoffrey Dawson. Northcliffe told Dawson: "Our task is great and worthy. If we get the barnacle-covered whale off the rocks & safely into deep water while we are comparatively young we may be able to keep it there until we discover others who can carry on the work." (107) According to Stephen E. Koss, the author of The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain (1984) Dawson seems to have "routinely acquiesced in Northcliffe's views and prejudices". (108)
The layout of the newspaper paper was redesigned and to make it more competitive, "the price was cut by half to one penny a copy". This was very successful and circulation rose dramatically from 47,000 in August 1912, when Dawson became editor. The first one-penny edition of the newspaper sold 281,000, but eventually settled down to an average 145,000 by the spring of 1914. (109)
Lord Northcliffe's newspapers continued to attack the Liberal government over its policies of progressive taxation, its apparently willingness to grant Irish Home Rule and the low-level of its defence spending. Northcliffe asked for a meeting with the prime minister. Asquith wrote to his confidante Venetia Stanley about the request: "He (Northcliffe) is anxious that I should see him. I hate and distrust the fellow and all his works... so I merely said that if he chose to ask me directly to see him, and he had anything really new to communicate, I would not refuse. I know of few men in this world who are responsible for more mischief, and deserve a longer punishment in the next." (110)
On 28th July, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Northcliffe admitted that war seemed inevitable but blamed the Liberal government for not spending enough money on the armed forces. C. P. Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, disagreed. "Not only are we neutral now, but we could, and ought to remain neutral throughout the whole course of the war... We wish Serbia no ill; we are anxious for the peace of Europe. But Englishmen are not the guardians of Serbia well being, or even of the peace of Europe. Their first duty is to England and to the peace of England... We care as little for Belgrade as Belgrade does for Manchester." (111)
The Daily Mail disagreed and reported: "The Austrian onslaught... will, it is to be feared, draw Russia into the field... in turn this will be followed by German action. Germany's entrance will compel France... When France is in peril, and fighting for her very existence, Great Britain cannot stand by and see her friend stricken down... We must stand by our friends, if for no other and heroic reason, because without their aid we cannot be safe. The failure to organise and arm the British nation so as to meet the new conditions of Europe has left us dependent on Foreign allies. We have forfeited our old independent position, and as the direct consequence we may be drawn into a quarrel with which we have no immediate concern. But at least we can be true to our duty today if we have neglected it in the past." (112)
At a Cabinet meeting on Friday, 31st July, more than half the Cabinet, including David Lloyd George, Charles Trevelyan, John Burns, John Morley, John Simon and Charles Hobhouse, were bitterly opposed to Britain entering the war. Only two ministers, Sir Edward Grey and Winston Churchill, argued in favour and H. H. Asquith appeared to support them. At this point, Churchill suggested that it might be possible to continue if some senior members of the Conservative Party could be persuaded to form a Coalition government.
On 3rd August, 1914, Germany declared war on France. That evening an estimated 30,000 people took to the streets. They gathered around Buckingham Palace and eventually King George V and the rest of the royal family appeared on the balcony. The crowd began singing "God Save the King" and then large numbers left to smash the windows of the German Embassy. Frank Owen points out that the previous day the crowds had been calling for a peaceful settlement of the crisis, now they were "clamouring for war". (113)
The following day the Germans marched into Belgium. According to the historian, A. J. P. Taylor: "At 10.30 p.m. on 4th August 1914 the king held a privy council at Buckingham Palace, which was attended only by one minister and two court officials. The council sanctioned the proclamation of a state of war with Germany from 11 p.m. That was all. The cabinet played no part once it had resolved to defend the neutrality of Belgium. It did not consider the ultimatum to Germany, which Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary, sent after consulting only the prime minister, Asquith, and perhaps not even him." (114)
Charles Trevelyan, John Burns, and John Morley, all resigned from the government. However, David Lloyd George continued to serve in the cabinet. Frances Stevenson, Lloyd George's private secretary, later claimed: "My own opinion is that Lloyd George's mind was really made up from the first, that he knew that we would have to go in and the invasion of Belgium was, to be cynical, a heaven-sent opportunity for supporting a declaration of war." (115)
The Daily Mail reported: "Europe might have been spared all this turmoil and anguish if Great Britain had only been armed and organised for war as the needs of our age demand. The precaution has not been taken, but in this solemn hour we shall utter no reproaches on that account. Our duty is to go forward into the valley of the shadow of death with courage and faith - with courage to suffer, with faith in God and our country." (116)
Early Stages of the War
On the outbreak of the First World War the editor of The Star newspaper claimed that: "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war." Once the war had started Northcliffe used his newspaper empire to promote anti-German hysteria. It was The Daily Mail that first used the term "Huns" to describe the Germans and "thus at a stroke was created the image of a terrifying, ape-like savage that threatened to rape and plunder all of Europe, and beyond." (117)
As Philip Knightley, the author of The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker (1982) has pointed out: "The war was made to appear one of defence against a menacing aggressor. The Kaiser was painted as a beast in human form... The Germans were portrayed as only slightly better than the hordes of Genghis Khan, rapers of nuns, mutilators of children, and destroyers of civilisation." (118) In one report the newspaper referred to Kaiser Wilhelm II as a "lunatic," a "barbarian," a "madman," a "monster," a "modern judas," and a "criminal monarch". (119)
The main concern of Lord Northcliffe was a German invasion and was opposed to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) being sent to France. On 5th August, 1914, he warned Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, against any plan to dispatch the BEF. He told the editor of The Daily Mail: "I will not support the sending out of this country of a single British soldier. What about invasion? What about our own country? Put that in the leader. Do you hear? Not a single soldier will go with my consent. Say so in the paper tomorrow." (120)
However, Churchill ignored Northcliffe and it was decided that the 120,000 soldiers in the BEF should be sent to Maubeuge in France. "They (the Army Council) agreed that the fourteen Territorial divisions could protect the country from invasion. The BEF was free to go abroad. Where to? There could be no question of helping the Belgians, through this was why Great Britain had gone to war. The BEF had no choice: it must go to Maubeuge on the French left." (121)
Over the last few months Lord Northcliffe's newspapers campaigned for Lord Kitchener to become Secretary of State for War. It claimed that this post might go to Richard Haldane, a man who Northcliffe believed was pro-German, who had been responsible for delaying war preparations. (122) However, Asquith eventually took Northcliffe's advice and gave Kitchener the post. According to George Arthur, Kitchener's biographer, became Secretary of War because of "the persistence of Lord Northcliffe". (123)
Lord Northcliffe believed that the intertwined national economies of 1914 could not stand more than a few months of conflict. Military experts agreed and predicted that the war would involve battles of movement, fought by professional armies which would be home by Christmas. Northcliffe expected the "British Navy would win the war for Britain by defeating the enemy fleet and blockading Germany". (124)
Kitchener disagreed with Northcliffe on this issue: A.J.P. Taylor has pointed out: "He (Lord Kitchener) startled his colleagues at the first cabinet meeting which he attended by announcing that the war would last three years, not three months, and that Great Britain would have to put an army of millions into the field. Regarding the Territorial Army with undeserved contempt, he proposed to raise a New Army of seventy divisions and, when Asquith ruled out compulsion as politically impossible, agreed to do so by voluntary recruiting." (125)
On 7th August, 1914, the House of Commons was told that Britain needed an army of 500,000 men. The same day Lord Kitchener issued his first appeal for 100,000 volunteers. He got an immediate response with 175,000 men volunteering in a single week. With the help of a war poster that featured Kitchener and the words: "Join Your Country's Army", 750,000 had enlisted by the end of September.
According to his biographer, Keith Neilson: "Kitchener brought to his new office both strengths and weaknesses. He had waged two wars in which he had dealt with all aspects of warfare, including both command and logistics. He was used to being in charge of large enterprises, he was not afraid to take responsibility and make decisions, and he enjoyed public confidence. However, he had no experience of modern European war, almost no knowledge of the British army at home, and a limited understanding of the War Office. Perhaps most importantly, he had no experience of working in a cabinet. Nevertheless in the opening stage of the war he, Asquith, and Churchill formed a dominant triumvirate in the cabinet." (126)
On 8th August 1914, the House of Commons passed the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) without debate. The legislation gave the government executive powers to suppress published criticism, imprison without trial and to commandeer economic resources for the war effort. During the war publishing information that was calculated to be indirectly or directly of use to the enemy became an offence and accordingly punishable in a court of law. This included any description of war and any news that was likely to cause any conflict between the public and military authorities.
The British government established the War Office Press Bureau under F. E. Smith. The idea was this organisation would censor news and telegraphic reports from the British Army and then issue it to the press. Lord Northcliffe was furious when he heard the news and complained to Smith about the situation. He replied: "We are bound to make mistakes at the start. Give me the advantage throughout of any advice which your experience suggests... Kitchener cannot understand that he is working in a democratic country. He rather thinks he is in Egypt where the press is represented by a dozen mangy newspaper correspondents whom he can throw in the Nile if they object to the way they are treated." (127)
The Daily Mail complained bitterly about the DORA regulations: "Public enthusiasm for our army is not being chilled by the insufficiency of news concerning the British troops at the front. The newspapers do not wish to publish... anything that might be injurious to the military interests of the nation... while we will agree that a careful censorship is necessary for success, it might seem that the reticence in Great Britain has been carried to an unnecessary extreme." (128)
Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, was determined not to have any journalists reporting the war from the Western Front. He instead appointed Colonel Ernest Swinton, to write reports on the war. These were then vetted by Kitchener before being sent to the newspapers. Lord Northcliffe ignored this attempt at press censorship and sent two of his journalists, Hamilton Fyfe and Arthur Moore to France.
On 30th August, 1914, The Times published a report on the problems faced by the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. "The German advance has been one of almost incredible rapidity... The Germans, fulfilling one of the best of all precepts in war, never gave the retreating army one single moment's rest. The pursuit was immediate, relentless, unresting. Aeroplanes, Zeppelins, armoured motors, were loosed like an arrow from the bow... Regiments were grievously injured, and the broken army fought its way desperately with many stands, forced backwards and ever backwards by the sheer unconquerable mass of numbers... Our losses are very great. I have seen the broken bits of mass regiments... The German commanders in the north advance their men as if they had an inexhaustible supply." (129)
In the House of Commons, William Llewelyn Williams asked H. H. Asquith was aware of the report that British forces had suffered a major defeat in France. The prime minister replied: "It is impossible too highly to commend the patriotic reticence of the Press as a whole from the beginning of the war up to the present moment. The publication to which my honourable friend refers appears to be a very regrettable exception - and I hope it will not recur... The Government feel after the experience of the last two weeks that the public is entitled to information - prompt and authentic information - of what is happening at the front, and which they hope will be more adequate." (130)
Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Northcliffe and complained about the article: "I think you ought to realize the damage that has been done by Sunday's publication in the Times. I do not think you can possibly shelter yourself behind the Press Bureau, although their mistake was obvious. I never saw such panic-stricken stuff written by any war correspondent before; and this served up on the authority of the Times can be made, and has been made, a weapon against us in every doubtful state." (131)
Lord Northcliffe replied: "This is not a time for Englishmen to quarrel... Nor will I discuss the facts and tone of the message, beyond saying that it came from one of the most experienced correspondents in the service of the paper. I understand that not a single member of the staff on duty last Saturday night expected to see it passed by the Press Bureau." He then pointed out that it was not only passed but carefully edited and it seemed that the government actually wanted it to published. (132)
To circumvent the Press Bureau, the Northcliffe newspapers often quoted American journals. For example, on 4th December, 1914, the Daily Mail carried excerpts from the Saturday Evening Post that quoted Lord Kitchener as saying that Britain would need at least three more years to defeat Germany. (133) Sir Stanley Buckmaster at the Press Bureau, asked the government to use DORA to court-martial Lord Northcliffe. This idea was rejected by the government. It was claimed that David Lloyd George was Northcliffe's greatest defender and GR argued that there was "no doubt some sort of understanding between him and Northcliffe." (134)
Some journalists were already in France when war was declared in August 1914. Philip Gibbs, a journalist working for The Daily Chronicle, quickly attached himself to the British Expeditionary Force and began sending in reports from the Western Front. When Lord Kitchener discovered what was happening he ordered the arrest of Gibbs. After being warned that if he was caught again he "would be put up against a wall and shot", Gibbs was sent back to England. (135)
The result of Lord Kitchener's policy was that during the early stages of the war British journalists in France were treated as outlaws. They could be arrested at any time and by any officer, either French or British who discovered them. Kitchener gave orders that any correspondent found would be immediately arrested, expelled and have his passport cancelled. "under these conditions it was difficult for the war correspondents to get reports and messages to their newspapers." (136)
Basil Clarke of The Daily Mail later recalled: "I count it among my achievements that I was never once arrested. The difficulties were numerous. Even to live in the war zone without papers and credentials was hard enough, but to move about and see things, and pick up news and then to get one's written dispatches conveyed home - against all regulations - was a labour greater and more complex than anything I have ever undertaken in journalistic work. I longed sometimes to be arrested and sent home and done with it all." (137)
Lord Northcliffe was determined to make The Daily Mail the official newspaper of the British Army. Every day 10,000 copies of the paper were delivered to the Western Front by military motor cars. He also had the revolutionary idea of using front-line soldiers as news sources. Soon after the outbreak of war he announced a scheme where he would pay for letters sent to their families by serving soldiers. (138)
Northcliffe's newspapers were willing to publish stories about German "atrocities" in Belgium and France. On 17th August 1914 the Daily Mail carried accounts of how German soldiers had murdered five civilians. (139) A few days later Hamilton Fyfe chronicled the "sins against civilization" and the "barbarity" of the Germans. He also wrote a story about how Germans had cut off the hands of Red Cross workers and had used women and children as shields in battle". (140)
This was followed by a fuller account of the atrocities: "The measured, detailed, and we fear unanswerable indictment of Germany's conduct of the war issued yesterday by the Belgian minister is a catalogue of horrors that will indelibly brand the German name in the eyes of all mankind.. This is no ordinary arraignment... concerned not with hearsay evidence, but with incidents that in each case have been carefully investigated... After making every deduction for national bias and the possibility of error, there remains a record of sheer brutality that will neither be forgiven or forgotten." (141)
Robert Graves, who served on the Western Front, raised doubts about the truth of these stories, in his book on the war, Goodbye to All That: "French and Belgian civilians had often tried to win our sympathy by exhibiting mutilations of children - stumps of hands and feet, for instance - representing them as deliberate, fiendish atrocities when, as likely as not, they were merely the result of shell-fire. We did not believe rape to be any more common on the German side of the line than on the Allied side. And since a bully-beef diet, fear of death, and absence of wives made ample provision of women necessary in the occupied areas, no doubt the German army authorities provided brothels in the principal French towns behind the line, as the French did on the Allied side. We did not believe stories of women's forcible enlistment in these establishments. What's wrong with the voluntary system? we asked cynically." (142)
On the outbreak of war Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, was determined not to have any journalists reporting the war from the Western Front. However, at a Cabinet meeting in January, 1915, the government decided to change its policy and allow selected journalists to report the war. Five men were chosen: William Beach Thomas, Philip Gibbs, Henry Perry Robinson, Percival Philips and Herbert Russell. Before their reports could be sent back to England, they had to be submitted to C. E. Montague, the former leader writer of the Manchester Guardian.
During the early stages of the conflict Northcliffe created a great deal of controversy by advocating conscription and criticizing the government for not providing enough ammunition. H. H. Asquith accused Northcliffe and other critics of helping Britain's enemies: "I saw a statement the other day that the operations, not only of our Army but of our Allies, were being crippled, or, at any rate, hampered, by our failure to provide the necessary ammunition. There is not a word of truth in that statement, which is the most mischievous because, if it were believed, it is calculated to dishearten our troops, to discourage our Allies, and to stimulate the hopes and the activities of our enemies." (143)
This speech by the prime minister did not stop the criticism about the shortage of military resources. Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Repington, the chief war correspondent of The Times, was a close friend of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, Sir John French, and was invited to visit the Western Front. Repington now had growing influence over military policy and one politician described him as "the twenty-third member of the Cabinet". During the offensive at Artois, Repington was shown confidential information about the British Army being short of artillery shells. (144)
On 14th May, 1915, the newspaper published the contents of a telegram sent by Repington: "The attacks (on Sunday last in the districts of Fromelles and Richebourg) were well planned and valiantly conducted. The infantry did splendidly, but the conditions were too hard. The want of an unlimited supply of high explosives was a fatal bar to our success at Festubert." (145)
The Daily Mail now launched an attack on Lord Kitchener and under the heading "British Still Struggling: Send More Shells" it argued that the newspaper was in a very difficult position for if it published "the truth about the defects of our military preparations". It claimed that under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) the newspaper could be accused of aiding the enemy; and if it didn't, it was not fulfilling its responsibility to keep the public informed of the situation. (146)
Lord Northcliffe decided to make a direct on Lord Kitchener for not supplying enough high-explosive shells. In an article he published on 21st May, 1915, Northcliffe wrote a blistering attack on the Secretary of State for War: "Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them." (147)
The following day The Daily Mail continued the attack. The paper stated that "our men at the Front have been supplied with the wrong kind of shell and the result has been a heavy and avoidable loss of life". A shortage of shells at the beginning of the conflict was understandable and excusable, but the inability of officials to supply adequate munitions after ten months for Britain's fighting men was "proof of grave negligence". (148)
Lord Kitchener was a national hero and Northcliffe's attack on him upset a great number of readers. Overnight, the circulation of the Daily Mail dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. A placard was hung across the Daily Mail nameplate with the words "The Allies of the Huns". Over 1,500 members of the Stock Exchange had a meeting where they passed a motion against the "venomous attacks of the Harmsworth Press" and afterwards ceremoniously burnt copies of the offending newspaper. (149)
The editor of the newspaper, Thomas Marlowe, informed Lord Northcliffe of the more than one million drop in circulation. He was also given a copy of The Star that defended Kitchener from Northcliffe's attacks. Northcliffe responded by arguing: "I don't know what you men think and I don't care. The Star is wrong, and I am right. And the day will come when you will all know that I am right." (150)
Lord Northcliffe wrote to Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of the The Times: "Nearly every day in some part or other of The Times appears a puff of Kitchener... Lloyd George assures me that this man is the curse of the country. He gave me example after example on Sunday night of the loss of life due to this man's ineptitude. Is it not possible to keep his name out of the paper." (150a)
Although the leader of the government, H.H Asquith, accused Northcliffe and his newspapers of disloyalty, he privately accepted that shell production was a real problem and he appointed David Lloyd George as the new Munitions Minister. "He (Lloyd George) believed he was the man - perhaps the only man - who could win the war." (151) S. J. Taylor has argued: "David Lloyd George was installed as Minister of Munitions, and it was generally believed his appointment was what Northcliffe had intended all along. Certainly, Lloyd George brought to the newly created position the energy, competence and cynicism it required." (152)
In the spring of 1916 Herbert Asquith decided to send Lord Kitchener to Russia in an attempt to rally the country in its fight against Germany. On 5th June 1916, Kitchener was drowned when the HMS Hampshire on which he was traveling to Russia, was struck a mine off the Orkneys. When he heard the news Lord Northcliffe remarked: "The British Empire has just had the greatest stroke of luck in its history.... Providence is on the side of the British Empire after all." (153) Lloyd George also believed that the death of Kitchener was "at the best possible moment for the country". (154)
Over 3,000,000 men volunteered to serve in the British Armed Forces during the first two years of the war. Over 750,000 had enlisted by the end of September, 1914. Thereafter the average ran at 125,000 men a month until the summer of 1915 when numbers joining up began to slow down. Leo Amery, the MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook pointed out: "Every effort was made to whip up the flagging recruiting campaign. Immense sums were spent on covering all the walls and hoardings of the United Kingdom with posters, melodramatic, jocose or frankly commercial... The continuous urgency from above for better recruiting returns... led to an ever-increasing acceptance of men unfit for military work... Throughout 1915 the nominal totals of the Army were swelled by the maintenance of some 200,000 men absolutely useless for any conceivable military purpose." (155)
The British had suffered high casualties at the Marne (12,733), Ypres (75,000), Gallipoli (205,000), Artois (50,000) and Loos (50,000). The British Army found it difficult to replace these men. In May 1915 135,000 men volunteered, but for August the figure was 95,000, and for September 71,000. Asquith appointed a Cabinet Committee to consider the recruitment problem. Testifying before the Committee, Lloyd George commented: "I would say that every man and woman was bound to render the services that the State they could best render. I do not believe you will go through this war without doing it in the end; in fact, I am perfectly certain that you will have to come to it." (156)
The shortage of recruits became so bad that George V was asked to make an appeal: "At this grave moment in the struggle between my people and a highly-organized enemy, who has transgressed the laws of nations and changed the ordinance that binds civilized Europe together, I appeal to you. I rejoice in my Empire's effort, and I feel pride in the voluntary response from my subjects all over the world who have sacrificed home, fortune, and life itself, in order that another may not inherit the free Empire which their ancestors and mine have built. I ask you to make good these sacrifices. The end is not in sight. More men and yet more are wanted to keep my armies in the field, and through them to secure victory and enduring peace.... I ask you, men of all classes, to come forward voluntarily, and take your share in the fight". (157)
Lord Northcliffe now began to advocate conscription (compulsory enrollment). On 16th August, 1915, the Daily Mail published a "Manifesto" in support of national service. (158) The Conservative Party agreed with Lord Northcliffe about conscription but most members of the Liberal Party and the Labour Party were opposed to the idea on moral grounds. Some military leaders objected because they had a "low opinion of reluctant warriors". (159)
Asquith "did not oppose it on principle, though he was certainly not drawn to it temperamentally and had intellectual doubts about its necessity." Lloyd George had originally had doubts about the measure but by 1915 "he was convinced that the voluntary system of recruitment had served its turn and must give way to compulsion". (160) Asquith told Maurice Hankey that he believed that "Lloyd George is out to break the government on conscription if he can." (161)
Lloyd George threatened to resign if Asquith did not introduce conscription. Eventually he gave in and the Military Service Bill was introduced by Asquith on 21st January 1916. John Simon, the Home Secretary, resigned and so did Arthur Henderson, who had represented the Labour Party in the coalition government. Alfred George Gardiner, the editor of the Daily News argued that Lloyd George was engineering the conscription crisis in order to substitute himself for Asquith as leader of the country." (162)
Lord Northcliffe received a large number of threatening letters because of his compulsion campaign. Tom Clarke, who worked for Northcliffe, saw the contents of these letters, commented that one said: "Warning to Lord Northcliffe... If the compulsion Bill is passed you are a dead man. I and another half-dozen young men have made a pledge - that is, to shoot you like a dog. We know where to find you." (163)
In a speech he made in Conwy Lloyd George denied that he was involved in any plot against Asquith: "I have worked with him for ten years. I have served under him for eight years. If we had not worked harmoniously - and we have - let me tell you here at once that it would have been my fault and not his. I have never worked with anyone who could be more considerate... But we have had our differences. Good heavens, of what use would I have been if I had not differed from him? Freedom of speech is essential everywhere, but there is one place where it is vital, and that is in the Council Chamber of the nation. The councillor who professes to agree with everything that falls from the leader betrays him."
Lloyd George then went on to suggest that Asquith had reluctantly supported conscription, whereas to him, it was vitally important if Britain was going to win the war. "You must organise effort when a nation is in peril. You cannot run a war as you would run a Sunday school treat, where one man voluntarily brings the buns, another supplies the tea, one brings the kettle, one looks after the boiling, another takes round the tea-cups, some contribute in cash, and a good many lounge about and just make the best of what is going on. You cannot run a war like that." He said he was in favour of compulsory enlistment, in the same way as he was "for compulsory taxes or for compulsory education." (164)
Robert Graves, who was home on leave from the Western Front at the time, was in the audience. "The power of his rhetoric amazed me. The substance of the speech might be commonplace, idle, and false, but I had to fight hard against abandoning myself with the rest of his audience. He sucked power from his listeners and spurted it back at them. Afterwards, my father introduced me to Lloyd George, and when I looked closely at his eyes they seemed like those of a sleep walker." (165)
A. J. P. Taylor has argued that Lord Northcliffe and Lloyd George reflected the mood of the British people in 1916: "Popular feeling wanted some dramatic action. The agitation crystallized around the demand for compulsory military service. This was a political gesture, not a response to practical need. The army had more men than it could equip, and voluntary recruitment would more than fill the gap, at any rate until the end of 1916... Instead of unearthing 650,000 slackers, compulsion produced 748,587 new claims to exemption, most of them valid... In the first six months of conscription the average monthly enlistment was not much above 40,000 - less than half the rate under the voluntary system." (166)
According to the editor of the News Desk at the Daily Mail: "It seemed to us at this time that Northcliffe had attained a position of extraordinary power in the land. Although one never heard him boasting, his bearing suggested that he believed he had saved England from the follies of incompetent government... His campaigns up to date had certainly met with remarkable success. He had scored his first hit by getting Kitchener at the War Office. He had said racing must be stopped, and it was. He had said the shell scandal must be put right by the formation of a Ministry, and the Munitions Ministry was formed under Lloyd George... He had said single men must go first, and it was so. He had demanded a smaller Cabinet to get on with the war, and a special War Council of the Cabinet had been set up... And now he had got compulsion." (167)
In December 1915, General Douglas Haig was appointed commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and General William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. The two men became convinced that the war would be won on the Western Front. Robertson wrote: "If the Germans are to be defeated they must be beaten by a process of slow attrition, by a slow and gradual advance on our part, each step being prepared by a predominant artillery fire and great expenditure of ammunition". (168)
David Lloyd George, the Minister of Munitions, visited Haig's Headquarters at Montreuil on 30th January 1916. The personalities of these two men were different and they failed to form a good relationship. Brigadier-General John Charteris, recalled their first meeting: "Although Haig appreciated Mr Lloyd George's vitality, there was nothing in common between the outlook of the two men, and the seeds of a deep and mutual distrust were already sown." (169)
Haig was intitially very hostile to Lord Northcliffe, and described the way General John French had attempted to gain the support of the newspaper baron as "carrying on with a whore". (170) However, Robertson advised Haig to develop a good relationship with the newspaper barons: "I am sure things would be much better if we got the press on our side... My idea is that we ought to send out, on your invitation, 4 or 5 of the big newspaper Proprietors e.g. Northcliffe, Burnham etc for a few days to some part of our front." (171)
Lord Northcliffe developed a close relationship with General Haig and became convinced that he was the man to win the war. The message in his newspapers was that "the inept politicians were letting down the clever generals". Robertson complained to Northcliffe that Lloyd George was trying to get involved in military strategy. According to Joesph Davies, Lloyd George's personal secretary, Northcliffe said "you can tell him (Lloyd George) from me I hear that he has been interfering with strategy, and that if it goes on I will break him... if further interference took place with Sir William Robertson" he would go the House of Lords "to lay matters before the world, and hammer them daily in my newspapers." As one of Northcliffe's biographers pointed out, by the end of 1915 he was "more of a bully than a critic". (172)
By the spring of 1916, morale in Britain was at an all-time low. "Haig needed a breakthrough to boost the flagging spirits of a country still in principle fully behind the war, patriotic and pressing for military victory." After a meeting with the French Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Joffre, it was decided to mount a joint offensive where the British and French lines joined on the Western Front. (173) According to Basil Liddell Hart, the decision by Joffre to make this sector, considered to be the German's strongest, "seems to have been arrived at solely because the British would be bound tp take part in it." (174)
Lord Northcliffe was told about the plan when he visited General Haig in May 1916. He agreed to give his full support in his newspapers to the offensive. One of his biographers, S. J. Taylor, points out: "Northcliffe... at last capitulated, the Daily Mail descending into the propagandistic prose that came to characterize the reporting of the First World War. It was a style long since adopted by his competitors; stirring phrases, empty words, palpable lies." (175)
General Haig wrote that he was convinced that the offensive would win the war: "I feel that every step in my plan has been taken with the Divine help". (176) The Battle of the Somme began in early hours of the 1st July 1916, when nearly a quarter of a million shells were fired at the German positions in just over an hour, an average of 3,500 a minute. So intense was the barrage that it was heard in London. At 7.28 a.m. ten mines were exploded under the German trenches. Two minutes later, British and French troops attacked along a 25-mile front. The main objective was "to break through the German lines by means of a massive infantry assault, to try to create the conditions in which cavalry could then move forward rapidly to exploit the breakthrough." (177)
On the first day of the battle thirteen British divisions went "over the top" in regular waves. "The attack was a total failure. The barrage did not obliterate the Germans. Their machine guns knocked the British over in rows: 19,000 killed, 57,000 casualties sustained - the greatest loss in a single day ever suffered by a British army and the greatest suffered by any army in the First World War. Haig had talked beforehand of breaking off the offensive if it were not at once successful. Now he set his teeth and kept doggedly on - or rather, the men kept on for him." (178)
Haig was helped in this by newspapers reporting that the offensive was a success. William Beach Thomas, in The Daily Mail, under the headline, "Enemy Outgunned", wrote: "We are laying siege not to a place but to the German Army - that great engine which had at last mounted to its final perfection and utter lust of dominion. In the first battle, we have beaten the Germans by greater dash in the infantry and vastly superior weight in munitions." (179) In a later report he claimed: The very attitudes of the dead, fallen eagerly forwards, have the look of expectant hope. You would say they died with the light of victory in their eyes." (180)
Lord Northcliffe visited Haig again on 9th September, 1916. Haig arranged for General Julian Byng to show him the new armed vehicle, codenamed tank. "Northcliffe tried to enter one of them by the manhole on the top; but as his girth was some inches larger than the hole, he stuck midway and had to be hauled down to the inside by the feet while I sat on his shoulders above. Getting him out again was an even harder matter, though presently he emerged minus some buttons." (181)
Of the 59 tanks in France, only 49 were considered to be in good working order. Of these, 17 broke down on the way to their starting point at Flers. The Mark I (Mother) tank failed to break through German lines at the Somme on 15th September, 1916. However, The Daily Mail reported that this "new type of heavy armoured car" was a great success. (182)
Lord Northcliffe developed a close friendship with David Lloyd George. Both men were concerned that the stalemate on the Western Front would encourage H. H. Asquith to seek a negotiated peace with Germany. Northcliffe arranged for Lloyd George to be interviewed by Roy Howard of the American United Press. Published on 29th September, 1916, the War Secretary declared that the Allies intended to fight to the finish and would not agree to a compromise peace." (183)
General Douglas Haig continued to order further attacks on German positions at the Somme and on the 13th November the British Army captured the fortress at Beaumont Hamel. However, heavy snow forced Haig to abandon his gains. With the winter weather deteriorating Haig now brought an end to the Somme offensive. Since the 1st July, the British has suffered 420,000 casualties. The French lost nearly 200,000 and it is estimated that German casualties were in the region of 500,000. Allied forces gained some land but it reached only 12km at its deepest points. Despite mounting criticism over his seeming disregard of British lives, Haig survived as Commander-in-Chief. One of the main reasons for this was the support he received from Northcliffe's newspapers. (184)
Removal of H. H. Asquith
Lord Northcliffe joined with Lloyd George in attempting to persuade Asquith and several of his cabinet, including Sir Edward Grey, Arthur Balfour, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe and Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, to resign. It was reported that Lloyd George was trying to encourage Asquith to establish a small War Council to run the war and if he did not agree he would resign. (185)
Tom Clarke, the news editor of The Daily Mail, claims that Lord Northcliffe told him to take a message to the editor, Thomas Marlowe, that he was to run an article on the political crisis with the headline, "Asquith a National Danger". According to Clarke, Marlowe "put the brake on the Chief's impetuosity" and instead used the headline "The Limpets: A National Danger". He also told Clarke to print pictures of Lloyd George and Asquith side by side: "Get a smiling picture of Lloyd George and get the worst possible picture of Asquith." Clarke told Northcliffe that this was "rather unkind, to say the least". Northcliffe replied: "Rough methods are needed if we are not to lose the war... it's the only way." (186)
Those newspapers that supported the Liberal Party, became concerned that a leading supporter of the Conservative Party should be urging Asquith to resign. Alfred George Gardiner, the editor of The Daily News, objected to Lord Northcliffe's campaign against Asquith: "If the present Government falls, it will fall because Lord Northcliffe decreed that it should fall, and the Government that takes its place, no matter who compose it, will enter on its task as the tributary of Lord Northcliffe." (187)
Asquith was in great difficulty but he did have Cabinet ministers who did not want Lloyd George as prime minister. Roy Jenkins has argued that he should have had a meeting with "Cecil, Chamberlain, Curzon and Long might have had considerable effect. To begin with, he would no doubt have found them wavering. But he was not without influence over them. In the course of the discussion their doubts about Lloyd George would have come to the surface, and the conclusion might have been that they would have stiffened Asquith, and he would have stiffened them." (188) Lloyd George's biographer, John Grigg, disagrees with Jenkins. His research suggests that Asquith had very little support from Conservative Party members of the coalition government and if he had tried to use them against Lloyd George it would end in failure. (189)
On 4th December, 1916, The Times praised Lloyd George's stand against the present "cumbrous methods of directing the war" and urged Asquith to accept the "alternative scheme" of the small War Council, that he had proposed. Asquith should not be a member of the council and instead his qualities were "fitted better... to preserve the unity of the Nation". (190) Even the Liberal Party supporting Manchester Guardian, referred to the humiliation of Asquith, whose "natural course would be either to resist the demand for a War Council, which would partly supersede him as Premier, or alternatively himself to resign." (191)
Asquith came to the conclusion that Lloyd George had leaked embarrassing details of the conversation he had with Lloyd George, including the threat of resignation if he did not get what he wanted. That night he sent a note to Lloyd George: "Such productions as the leading article in today's Times, showing the infinite possibilities for misunderstanding and misrepresentation of such an arrangement as we discussed yesterday, make me at least doubtful of its feasibility. Unless the impression is at once corrected that I am being relegated to the position of an irresponsible spectator of the War, I cannot go on." (192)
Lloyd George denied the charge of leaking information but admitted that Lord Northcliffe wanted to "smash" his government. However, he went on to argue that Northcliffe also wanted to hurt him and had to put up with his newspaper's "misrepresentations... for months". He added "Northcliffe would like to make this (the formation of a small War Committee) and any other arrangement under your Premiership impossible... I cannot restrain nor I fear influence Northcliffe." (193)
At a Cabinet meeting the following day, Asquith refused to form a new War Council that did not include him. Lloyd George immediately resigned: "It is with great personal regret that I have come to this conclusion.... Nothing would have induced me to part now except an overwhelming sense that the course of action which has been pursued has put the country - and not merely the country, but throughout the world the principles for which you and I have always stood throughout our political lives - is the greatest peril that has ever overtaken them. As I am fully conscious of the importance of preserving national unity, I propose to give your Government complete support in the vigorous prosecution of the war; but unity without action is nothing but futile carnage, and I cannot be responsible for that." (194)
Conservative members of the coalition made it clear that they would no longer be willing to serve under Asquith. At 7 p.m. he drove to Buckingham Palace and tendered his resignation to King George V. Apparently, he told J. H. Thomas, that on "the advice of close friends that it was impossible for Lloyd George to form a Cabinet" and believed that "the King would send for him before the day was out." Thomas replied "I, wanting him to continue, pointed out that this advice was sheer madness." (195)
Asquith, who had been prime minister for over eight years, was replaced by Lloyd George. He brought in a War Cabinet that included only four other members: George Curzon, Alfred Milner, Andrew Bonar Law and Arthur Henderson. There was also the understanding that Arthur Balfour attended when foreign affairs were on the agenda. Lloyd George was therefore the only Liberal Party member in the War Cabinet. Lloyd George wanted Northcliffe to become a member of the War Cabinet, however, Henderson told him that if this happened he would resign and take away the support of the Labour Party from the government.
The Daily Chronicle attacked the role that Lord Northcliffe and the other Conservative Party supporting newspaper barons had removed a democratically elected government. It argued that the new government "will have to deal with the Press menace as well as the submarine menace; otherwise Ministries will be subject to tyranny and torture by daily attacks impugning their patriotism and earnestness to win the war." (196)
On 9th December, 1916, The Daily Mail front page, under the headline, "THE PASSING OF THE FAILURES" had a series of photographs showing the outgoing ministers, H. H. Asquith, Edward Grey, Reginald McKenna, Richard Haldane, John Simon and Winston Churchill, with accompanying captions across their chests attacking their records in government. Northcliffe had ordered this feature, and congratulated the newspaper's picture department.
Alfred George Gardiner, the editor of The Daily News, pointed out that David Lloyd George's new government's main advantage was that he had the support of Lord Northcliffe: "It will be subject to a friendly organised and responsible criticism which will aim at sustaining it and not destroying it. The fall of the late Government and most of its failures were due to the absence of such a criticism. It became the target... of a ruthless and uncritical press campaign which appealed directly to the passions of the mob against the authority of Parliament." (197)
Gardiner was right and the Lord Northcliffe press provided Lloyd George with a great deal of support. He was described as a "human dynamo" whose "every erg of energy is focused on the immediate task at hand. He combines the persuasiveness of the Irishman with the concentration of the American and the thoroughness of the Englishman." In another article, written by Northcliffe stated: "I believe that he will be the head of the Government that wins the war; that brings a settlement of the Irish question and maintains that essential factor goodwill between the people of the English speaking nations of the British Empire and the people of the United States". (198)
In March 1917, Lord Northcliffe was appointed chairman of the new Civil Aerial Transport Committee. Two months later Northcliffe agreed to go to the United States of America as head of the British war mission. The New York Sun described "Northcliffe as maker and unmaker of ministries; furious critic of slovenliness and incapacity and certainly regarded at home as the most powerful figure in British public life outside a responsible Ministry... he is a man of extraordinary energy and executive capacity, as well as tact and accurate understanding of the American people." (199)
The New Republic appeared to be less impressed with Lord Northcliffe as he was seen as someone who had been responsible for bringing down the government of H. H. Asquith. It claimed that he had been sent to the United States because "he exercised an enormous influence on British opinion" and the British government "rejoiced at the opportunity of installing him in a public office situated in a foreign country." (200)
Lord Northcliffe got on well with Woodrow Wilson but believed that he had to appeal to his self-interest: "The motive which brought the United States in was not sympathy for any other nation, was not desire for gain, was not an abstract fondness for democratic as opposed to autocratic government: it was self-interest, self-preservation, self-respect. The American People are not fighting to make the world safe for democracy, but to make the world safe for themselves." (201)
Rufus Isaacs, replaced Lord Northcliffe in November, 1917. On his return Lloyd George offered him the Air Ministry. According to The Times he declared he "could do better work" if he maintained his "independence" and was not "gagged by a loyalty that I do not feel towards the whole of your administration". (202) Lloyd George was furious as this upset Lord Cowdray, the current President of the Air Board, who resigned soon afterwards. Lloyd George told George Riddell, that Northcliffe had "no sense of loyalty" and was probably "angling for the Premiership". (203)
Northcliffe was "too powerful a force for a politician in his precarious position to alienate" and so he was elevated a step in the peerage from baron to viscount. J. Lee Thompson, the author of Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922 (2000), has pointed out, Lloyd George did not have "the Liberal, the Labour nor the Conservative members behind him" and so needed to retain the support of Northcliffe and the other press barons. (204)
At the end of November, 1917, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, submitted a letter to The Times calling for a negotiated peace. Northcliffe refused to publish it and it appeared in the Daily Telegraph instead: "We are not going to lose this war, but its prolongation will spell ruin for the civilised world, and an infinite addition to the load of human suffering which already weighs upon it... We do not desire the annihilation of Germany as a great power... We do not seek to impose upon her people any form of government other than that of their own choice... We have no desire to deny Germany her place among the great commercial communities of the world." (205)
Lord Northcliffe was accused of trying to obstruct the peace process. The Times justified its decision by claiming "the letter reflects no responsible phase of British opinion... in all the Allied countries it will be read with universal regret and reprobation." (206) The Daily Mail added that "If Lord Lansdowne raises the white flag he is alone in his surrender". (207)
Lord Northcliffe was extremely hostile to the Russian Revolution. As Roland Chambers pointed out: "For the Allies, Soviet talks with Germany were not only a betrayal of the treaties signed at the beginning of the war, but a breach of faith with ordinary soldiers then fighting on the Western Front. Stretched to the limit of its own resources, the British government pictured the grain which would nourish German cities, the oil which would fuel German military vehicles and the German troops who, released from duty in the east, would transfer to France for a potentially decisive offensive. It was for these reasons that Lord Northcliffe's papers continued to beat the same old drums: a German-Jewish conspiracy that would plunge the world into darkness; priests crucified before their congregations; and particularly offensive to the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Soviet initiative to nationalize women." (208)
Director of Propaganda
Lord Northcliffe became very critical of General William Robertson, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who he blamed for the failures of Passchendaele and Cambrai. The attacks on Robertson became so bad that Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Repington, the chief war correspondent of The Times, resigned over the issue. Repington told John St Loe Strachey, the editor of The Spectator, that "I think they (Lloyd George and Northcliffe) are a curse to the country... I can't think why the Army Council does not take up Northcliffe, Marlow (editor of The Daily Mail) and Lovat Fraser (journalist employed by Northcliffe) and have them shot." (209)
David Lloyd George had intended sacking both Robertson and General Douglas Haig. However, he was incensed at Northcliffe's attack, because he feared it would only rally support for them. The prime minister urged Northcliffe to suspend his campaign and informed Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Bigge, the King's private secretary, that he felt like that he "could have taken him out and shot him" and told Leo Amery that it was now "impossible to sack Robertson". However, after further pressure from Northcliffe he replaced Robertson with General Henry Wilson. (210)
In March, 1918, Northcliffe was approached by Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express and the government's new Minister of Information. Northcliffe now agreed to join the cabinet and take charge of all propaganda directed at enemy countries. Over the next few months Northcliffe organised the dropping of four million leaflets behind enemy lines. Northcliffe insisted that his choice of the term director rather than minister reflected his freedom from David Lloyd George. (211) One of his main critics pointed out: "The democracy, whose bulwark is Parliament, has been unseated, and mobocracy, whose dictator is Lord Northcliffe, is in power." (212)
On 17th October, 1918, The Evening Standard, a member of the War Cabinet, Alfred Milner, the Secretary of State for War, gave his support for offering Germany surrender terms in an attempt to stop a communist revolution breaking out in Germany. (213) Five days later, Lord Northcliffe gave a speech when he denounced this proposal. He claimed that "the way to create Bolshevism was to let the Hun off". Northcliffe was worried about the "real danger of social upheaval... in this country and in other Allied countries, if an unsatisfactory peace is made". (214)
On 28th October, his newspaper, The Evening News, continued the attack on Milner, commenting that "his German origin is not forgotten and the man in the street declares that he is acting as a Prussian. Lord Milner should take care. If this impression were to spread the results might surprise him." (215) Milner wrote to George Curzon complaining that "most public men are in terror of him". (216)
Northcliffe continued to use his newspaper empire to call for Germany's unconditional surrender. In one article he suggested that unless Germany was crushed the country would have to deal with them some time in the future. He even suggested that his newspapers might have to write about "The Great War of 1938". He warned "they will cheat you yet, those Junkers." (217)
Lord Northcliffe wrote to David Lloyd George demanding that he should be involved in the propaganda campaign that should take place before any peace agreement should be signed with Germany: "In view of the urgency of the matter, I request that I be given, with the least possible delay, authority as Chairman of the British War Mission to undertake the Peace Terms propaganda in the closest collaboration with the various departments of state until the final peace settlement has been concluded." (218)
In a debate in the House of Commons, a member of the War Cabinet, George Curzon, decided to defend the government against the attacks of Lord Northcliffe: "I am quite alive to the fact that it is almost high treason to say a word against Lord Northcliffe. I know his power and that he does not hesitate to exercise it to try to drive anybody out of any office or a public position if they incur his royal displeasure. But as at my time of life neither office nor its emoluments, nor anything connected with Governments, or indeed public life, makes the slightest difference... I venture to incur even the possibility of the odium of this great trust owner who monopolises in his own person so great a part of the Press of this country."
Curzon then went on to deal with the treatment of Lord Milner: "Within the last few days there has been an attack made by this noble Lord's, papers upon Lord Milner... who seems to have given an interview to a rival paper... Having read it and having read the criticism of some of Lord Northcliffe's papers upon it, I believed that it has been purposefully and intentionally misrepresented and misunderstood... It seems to me to be nothing but indecent that the gentleman engaged in foreign propaganda on behalf of His Majesty's Government should make part of his propaganda an attack on the Secretary of State for War in the Government under which he purports to serve."
Curzon also dealt with Lord Northcliffe's motivation in attacking his colleagues in the government: "I think it is really time to put an end to this kind of thing. The Government may imagine that they gain power and support, but I do not believe it for a moment. I believe that all the best elements in the country resent this kind of thing... At this present moment, when Lord Milner is in France... dealing, with matters of vital importance to this country... come these attacks, from an official of the Government... to drive him out of his office. For what? In order that Lord Northcliffe may get it or get into the War Cabinet, so that he may be present at the Peace Conference... The whole thing is a disgrace to public life in England and a disgrace to journalism." (219)
Versailles Peace Treaty
The day after Armistice Day Northcliffe resigned from the government. Lloyd George's decision to join the Conservatives in removing H. H. Asquith in 1916 had split the Liberal Party. In an effort to unite the party Lloyd George, offered Asquith the post of lord chancellor but he refused. Labour Party ministers in the coalition government, except for George Barnes, also resigned, planning to put forward a clear socialist programme in the post-war government. (220)
David Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law produced a joint coalition programme that stated its mission that would reconstruct Britain into a "fit country for heroes" Hamilton Fyfe urged Lord Northcliffe, to support the Labour Party in the election as it would help "to restrain the forces which threaten to drive Labour into adopting revolutionary methods". After a meeting with Arthur Henderson, Northcliffe decided to donate free space in the Daily Mail to the Labour Party. This was very helpful as it had no newspaper of its own. (221)
In his early election speeches Lloyd George had pledged that Germany should be forced to pay "up to the limit of her capacity". He also called for Kaiser Wilhelm II to go on trial (with the hope he should be found guilty and hanged) and for Germany to pay "the whole cost of the war". This did not go far enough for Lord Northcliffe who the expulsion of enemy aliens and restrictions on German immigration and refused to advocate people to vote for the coalition government. (222)
However, Lloyd George did not need the support of Northcliffe's newspapers and he won an overwhelming victory. In return for agreeing to support the future coalition government, 159 Liberals were allowed to stand for election without opposition from the Conservatives. In the 1918 General Election, Lloyd George's Coalition group won 459 seats and had a large majority over the Labour Party (57) and members of the Liberal Party (36) who had supported Asquith.
Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of The Times, attended the Versailles Peace Conference. He commented: "All the world is here. It's like a gigantic cinema-show of eminent persons". However, on his return he was involved in a dispute with Northcliffe over the newspaper's coverage of the coalition government, which he considered "too sympathetic". He wrote to Dawson: "If you do not like my attitude, I beg you to do either one or two things - endeavour to see eye to eye with me, or relinquish your position. (223) Dawson resigned in February 1919, because he found Northcliffe's "irresponsible Hun-baiting" intolerable. (224)
Lord Northcliffe, had argued in The Daily Mail that David Lloyd George had been too soft on the Germans and was putting "the cost of the war on the backs of the British people". Northcliffe claimed that Lloyd George had given in to the pressure of German financial agents. "It is a deplorable thing that after all our sufferings and the sacrifices of all the gallant boys that have gone that in the end we should be beaten by financiers." (225)
John Maynard Keynes published The Economic Consequences of the Peace on 12th December 1919. The main theme of the book was about how the war had damaged the delicate economic mechanism by which the European peoples had lived before 1914, and how the Treaty of Versailles, far from repairing this damage, had completed the destruction. It praised the economic growth in the 19th century. "In Europe, the interference of frontiers and tariffs was reduced to a minimum... Over this great area there was an almost absolute security of property and person." (226)
Keynes pointed out that Germany could only pay reparations only by means of an export surplus, which would give it the foreign exchange to pay its annual tribute. However, in the five years before the war Germany's adverse balance of trade averaged £74m a year. By increasing its exports and reducing its imports Germany might in time be able to generate an annual export surplus of £50m, equivalent to £100m at post-war prices. Spread over thirty years this would come to a capital sum of £1,700m, invested at 6 per cent a year. Adding to this £100m-£200m available from transfers of gold, property, etc., he concluded that "£2,000m is a safe maximum figure of Germany's capacity to pay". (227)
Keynes outlined his alternative economic peace treaty: German damages limited to £2,000m; cancellation of inter-Allied debts; creation of a European free trade area and an international loan to stabilise the exchanges. If these remedies were not adopted: "Nothing can then delay for long that final civil war between the forces of reaction and the despairing convulsions of revolution, before which the horrors of the late German war will fade into nothing, and which will destroy, whoever is victor, the civilisation and the progress of our generation." (228)
Northcliffe was furious with this conclusion and instructed Henry Wickham Steed, the editor of The Times, to criticise Keynes's book. He argued that Keynes's ideas was a misplaced revolt of economics against politics: "If the war taught us one lesson above all others it was that the calculations of economists, bankers, and financial statesmen who preached the impossibility of war because it would not pay were perilous nonsense... Germany went to war because she made it pat in 1870-71, and believed she could make it pay again." (229)
After the war Northcliffe retained his interest in new technology. He began a campaign to promote wireless communication by arranging for the Daily Mail to sponsor the world's first wireless concert. In an editorial Northcliffe argued: "Once before the Daily Mail stirred the national imagination to realise the vital importance of flying. It has now taken the lead in private wireless experiments with the object of cultivating national receptivity for the new science and of bringing minds in train for achievements to come." (230)
In 1921 Lord Northcliffe came into conflict with the National Union of Journalists. He told union leaders, that if any action took place "the directors, immediately, and with the deepest regret, well aware of the suffering that it will entail upon you and your families, will issue legal notices to terminate all contracts throughout the building and will stop the publication of our four newspapers. This is not a threat. I never threaten. It is a fact." A settlement satisfactory to both sides was reached three months later without a work stoppage. (231)
Northcliffe's health deteriorated rapidly in 1921. Hannen Swaffer reported that: "His vitality had gone, his face was puffy. His chin was sunk, and his mouth had lost its firmness. He lost his temper during a speech, because someone dropped a plate or something. He was a different man. The fires that burned within him had burned too fiercely all those years. People who heard him knew it was the end." George Riddell, speculated that Northcliffe was "seriously ill". (232)
Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, was suffering from streptococcus, an infection of the bloodstream, that damages the valves of the heart and causes kidney malfunction. Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, died in August, 1922. In order to avoid death duties, in his will he left three months' salary to each of his six thousand employees, a sum of £533,000. (233)
(1) Alfred Harmsworth, letter to Max Pemberton (1884)
The Board Schools are turning out hundreds of thousands of boys and girls annually who are anxious to read. They do not care for the ordinary newspaper. They have no interest in society, but they will read anything which is simple and is sufficiently interesting. The man who has produced this Tit-Bits has got hold of a bigger thing than he imagines. He is only at the very beginning of a development which is going to change the whole face of journalism. I shall try to get in with him. We could start one of these papers for a couple of thousand pounds, and we ought to be able to find the money. At any rate, I am going to make the attempt.
(2) The Daily Mail (4th May, 1896)
Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what otherwise appear a mystery.
(3) Alfred Harmsworth, diary entry (1st November, 1903)
Came down to the Mirror office and found Kennedy Jones in full swing, and after the usual pangs of childbirth produced the first copy at 9.50 p.m. It looks a promising child, but time will tell if we are on a winner or not.
(4) Philip Gibbs was one of the journalist who went to work for the Daily Mail in 1902.
The New Journalism had arrived, and the Daily Mail under Alfred Harmsworth for whom I worked was its founder and pioneer. There were violent critics of this new type of journalism. They thought it vulgar, trashy, and lacking altogether in the dignity of the old-time Press. But Alfred Harmsworth knew what he was doing, and did it with genius. He knew that a public had grown up which took an intelligent interest in things not previously considered part of newspaper chronicles. Food; fashions; the drama of life in low places as well as high; sport of all kinds; the human story wherever it might be found; the adventure of science as it affected everyday life. Harmsworth knew that women's interests had been left out mainly from the old fashioned newspapers, and he knew that here was an enormous field for increasing circulation.
(5) Alfred Harmsworth, article, Daily Mirror (27th February, 1904)
Owing to much good luck and many loyal co-workers, the Daily Mirror is, up to the present, the only journalistic failure with which I have been associated.
Disaster may often be changed to triumph by alteration in tactics. The faculty of knowing when you are beaten is much more valuable than the faculty of thinking you are not beaten when you are. I had for many years a theory that a daily newspaper for women was in urgent request, and I started one. The belief cost me £100,000. I found out that I was beaten. Women don't want a daily paper of their own.
It was another instance of the failures made by a mere man in diagnosing women's needs. Some people say that a woman never really knows what she wants. It is certain she knew what she didn't want. She didn't want the Daily Mirror. I then changed the price to a halfpenny, and filled it full of photographs and pictures to see how that would do. It did.
(6) In November 1903, Alfred Harmsworth invited Hamilton Fyfe, editor of the Advertiser, to meet him at Carmelite House.
I was shown into a small room where an extremely pretty girl sat typing letters. Then I saw that in the doorway stood a youngish man, rather heavily built, with fair hair that swept in a wave over his forehead, massive features, penetrating blue eyes. just now his eyes were smiling. "Come in," he said, his tone was friendly.
For a few minutes we talked about the Advertiser. He seemed to know that I had little money to spend, that my relations with the Board was strained. After this he looked hard at me. "How would you like to come on to one of my papers?" he asked.
Suppressing an impulse to take his hands, lift him out of his chair, and whirl him in a wild dance round the room, I said quietly: "That depends on what arrangement we could make." He pressed a bell. A small boy in uniform appeared. "Ask Mr. Kennedy Jones to come down for a moment," Harmsworth said. We went on talking, and I succumbed at once to the fascination he was to exercise over me for nearly twenty years.
Kennedy Jones came in. A totally different type of man, no charm of manner or expression - until he smiled. Coarsely moulded features, stiff black hair, rather a lazy way of moving, but a man who directly he spoke radiated acute intelligence. He shook hands in an uninterested sort of way, and sprawled on the Chesterfield lounge.
Harmsworth frowned. "I want somebody to take over the Daily Mirror," he said, and showed that he had to make an effort to say it. His failure, the first bad one he had known, hurt him. "It won't do as a paper for women," Harmsworth went on. "It's taught me two things - that women can't write and don't want to read. But we've got to do something with it. I should like to see what you can do."
(7) Lord Northcliffe, letter to Winston Churchill (11th May, 1908)
A man with a heavier-than-air machine has flown. It does not matter how far he has flown. He has shown what can be done. In a year's time, mark my words, that fellow will be flying over here from France. Britain is no longer an island. Nothing so important had happened for a very long time. We must get hold of this thing, and make it our own. I will think out what is best to be done.
(7) The Saturday Review (16th December, 1905)
Beginning the world with nothing he has made a very large fortune by the production of certain newspapers. No man makes a pile without the possession of certain qualities, which are obviously rare, but which do not in our opinion necessarily entitle their possessors to a seat in the House of Lords... We say advisedly that he has done more than any man of his generation to pervert and enfeeble the mind of the multitude... Nor has he even done this mischief for the sake of a political party, for he has been true to no party, and has made himself at different times the mouthpiece of Lord Rosebery, Mr. Chamberlain, and Mr. Balfour... We fail to discover in his record any performance of those higher duties to the State or those wider services to humanIiy, which alone entitle a citizen to become a peer...
The "fountain of honour" has become a "spring of dishonour"... Is it true or false that the peerages of Michelham and Northcliffe were sold for so much cash down? And did the cash go into the war-chest of the Conservative party? That these peerages were conferred for a sincere belief in the public merits of the recipients or from any other mercenary considerations is plainly incredible.
(7) Alfred Gollin, Proconsul in Politics (1964)
A chief source of the hostility that confronted him lay in the fact that he (Alfred Harmsworth) was so different from the other members of the ruling class of his time. They resented his power, his influence, his ability, and most of all, his refusal to conform to their standards... the established classes were hostile to Lord Northcliffe because he came from a different background, because he had clawed his way to the top, because he was required, as an outsider, to have recourse to different methods when he sought to clutch at authority and grasp for power. The ordinary rulers of Britain were ruthless enough but a man of Northcliffe's type had to be harder, tougher, more openly brutal, or else he would perish. He had no traditional base to stand upon. The essence of his success lay in the fact that he had always avoided the ordinary course, he had beaten his way to a prominent position by novel means, and was not prepared to abandon them.
(8) The Daily Mail (21st May, 1915)
Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them.
(9) Lord Northcliffe, The Daily Mail (23rd August, 1915)
The daily losses in the war, on ordinary days, where there is no attempt to advance, are about 2,000, according to official casualty lists. We are growing callous about the size of the daily lists of killed, wounded and missing. Very few people read even the headings of them, comparatively few grasp the fact that after vast losses we are just where we were six months ago on our little line in the Franco-Belgian Frontier. Thousands of homes are mourning today for men who have been needlessly sacrificed.
(10) Lord Northcliffe, The Daily Mail (3rd September, 1915)
The most decisive success at the Dardanelles would settle nothing in Flanders and would hardly affect the German resolve. To win this war, the German line must itself be broken and the German masses hurled back. Upon that task we must concentrate all our strength and not dissipate it in half a dozen different directions.
(11) In 1917, Lord Northcliffe wrote to Hamilton Fyfe, who was reporting the war on the Eastern Front for the Daily Mail,
Every article that is received from you is submitted to me; but the censor "kills" an immense amount of matter. The articles from you are "killed" I put before important members of the Cabinet, either verbally or in your writing, so that nothing is wasted.
(12) David Lloyd George, The Truth About the Peace Treaties (1938)
Lord Northcliffe wielded great power as the proprietor of the most widely-read daily paper and also as the owner of the most influential journal in the kingdom. He was inclined to exercise and to demonstrate that power. When he did so most politicians bowed their heads. He was one of the most outstanding figures in his generation. He was far and away the most redoubtable figure of all the Press barons of my time. He created the popular daily, and the more other journals scoffed at it and the populace derided it at every political gathering of all parties, the more popular it became. He owed no allegiance to any party, so that every genuine party man deplored his paper.
(13) George Curzon, speech in the House of Commons (7th November, 1918)
I am quite alive to the fact that it is almost high treason to say a word against Lord Northcliffe. I know his power and that he does not hesitate to exercise it to try to drive anybody out of any office or a public position if they incur his royal displeasure. But as at my time of life neither office nor its emoluments, nor anything connected with Governments, or indeed public life, makes the slightest difference... I venture to incur even the possibility of the odium of this great trust owner who monopolises in his own person so great a part of the Press of this country...
Within the last few days there has been an attack made by this noble Lord's, papers upon Lord Milner... who seems to have given an interview to a rival paper... Having read it and having read the criticism of some of Lord Northcliffe's papers upon it, I believed that it has been purposefully and intentionally misrepresented and misunderstood... It seems to me to be nothing but indecent that the gentleman engaged in foreign propaganda on behalf of His Majesty's Government should make part of his propaganda an attack on the Secretary of State for War in the Government under which he purports to serve...
I think it is really time to put an end to this kind of thing. The Government may imagine that they gain power and support, but I do not believe it for a moment. I believe that all the best elements in the country resent this kind of thing ... At this present moment, when Lord Milner is in France... dealing, with matters of vital importance to this country... come these attacks, from an official of the Government... to drive him out of his office. For what? In order that Lord Northcliffe may get it or get into the War Cabinet, so that he may be present at the Peace Conference... The whole thing is a disgrace to public life in England and a disgrace to journalism.
(14) Lord Northcliffe, The Daily Mail (16th June, 1920)
Once before the Daily Mail stirred the national imagination to realise the vital importance of flying. It has now taken the lead in private wireless experiments with the object of cultivating national receptivity for the new science and of bringing minds in train for achievements to come.
The appeal of wireless to human interest is that it seems magical and yet is real. In attempting the control of electrical energy we begin to get on terms with the world-force on which the future of mankind - for construction or destruction - will depend. The objective of such (wireless) experiments as the Daily Mail has initiated and intends to continue is to enable this country to take the lead. The only safe place is in front.
(15) Hannen Swaffer was shocked when he saw how quickly Lord Northcliffe deteriorated in 1921.
His vitality had gone, his face was puffy. His chin was sunk, and his mouth had lost its firmness. He lost his temper during a speech, because someone dropped a plate or something. He was a different man. The fires that burned within him had burned too fiercely all those years. People who heard him knew it was the end.
(16) The anonymous author of the History of the Times: 1912-1948 described the work of Alfred Harmsworth.
The creator of Answers (1888), Comic Cuts (1890), Sunday Companion (1894), Home Chat (1895), the Daily Mail (1896), and the Daily Mirror (1903), the restorer of the Evening News, and the saviour of The Times, was unquestionably the greatest popular journalist of his time. To begin with, his technical capacities ranged widely. He had performed all the work of the editorial, advertising or layout man, and knew the uses and costs of copy, type, ink, paper and binding. Northcliffe was not an illiterate proprietor. He began as a writer, always liked writing, and was writing within six weeks of his death. Alfred Harmsworth was a journalist at the age of sixteen, a proprietor at twenty-two, a baronet at thirty-eight, a baron at forty, and a viscount at fifty.
(17) C. P. Scott, letter to Henry Nevinson (7th September, 1927)
Will you kindly write us a signed review of this book about Northcliffe. He would be important if only because his rise is the rise of the vast popular press. The tragedy of his life seems to me to lie in the fact that though he knew how to create the instruments not only of profit but of power he had not the least idea what to do with his power when he got it.
(18) Kingsley Martin, The New Statesman (January, 1932)
Every newspaper lives by appealing to a particular public. It can only go ahead of its times if it carries its public with it. Success in journalism depends on understanding the public. But success is of two kinds. Northcliffe had a genius for understanding his public and he used it for making money, not for winning permanent influence. He became a millionaire because he was his own most appreciative reader; he instinctively appealed in the most profitable way to the millions of men and women whose tastes and prejudices were the same as his own. He lived by flattering. He did not educate or change his public in any essential; he merely induced it to buy newspapers.