Praise for CB

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In calling Lloyd George “the first architect of the welfare state”, Allan Massie (Perspective, 5 November) ignores the crucial roles of the under-appreciated Glaswegian Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, prime minister of the great reforming government of 1905-08, described in a recent biography as “Britain’s first and only radical prime minister”, and of H H Asquith who succeeded CB (as he was known) after introducing as chancellor the first reforms often associated with LG (ditto).

As David Steel said, CB “led the way” for Asquith and LG to follow, both of whom, even by the extravagant language of that era, paid glowing tributes on his death.

Also, in one of the great “what-ifs” of history, if CB had not died in office at the peak of his influence, who knows in this centenary year – with his long experience at the Admiralty and War Office going back to 1871; his overseeing of Sir Edward Grey’s Entente with Russia; his fluency in French, Italian and German; his annual two-month vacation in France and Marienbad; and his platform of “peace, retrenchment and reform” – whether he might have dealt with the developing European tensions more successfully than Grey did under Asquith.

Certainly, having granted South Africa self-government after the Boer War tragedy, he was better placed than any to complete Gladstone’s attempts “to pacify Ireland” and implement the Liberal policy of Home Rule for Scotland.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews