Affairs of state

How concerned should the British (or for that matter the French) public be with the private morality of senior politicians? I was interested in George Kerevan’s review of the role of the mistress in political history (Perspective, 17 January).

He could have said a lot more about David Lloyd George’s near 45-year relationship with Frances Stevenson.

This was the man who pioneered some radical and lasting welfare changes through the House of Commons, faced down the power of the House of Lords, and was prime minister for the latter part of the First World War.

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Although he relied on Miss Stevenson for emotional and political succour, there is some historical evidence to suggest that he was a serial philanderer.

In this year when we are acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the start of that war, should we really care about his private morals?

Is it not enough that his political skills helped the UK on to an important victory?

A strong argument exists to support the view that if these senior figures are prepared to cheat on their wives, they will think nothing about cheating on the broad public.

But this is simplistic and ignores the nature of political leadership.

By 1916, parliament and the military had turned against Asquith’s cerebral approach to winning the war.

Perhaps it needed the rhetoric and the resolution of someone like Lloyd George to ensure victory.

That victory was eventually achieved at an enormous price. In the end, though, his private failings pale into insignificance against the important objective of ending a brutal and debilitating conflict.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court