Lord Beaverbrook

Lord Beaverbrook by David Adams Richards

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Authors: David Adams Richards
Tags: Biography
it was reported that Lloyd George decided to let it go. He had enough fights on his hands without taking on Aitken, and he knew he needed the paper’s support—or at least its indifference to his political aims. Max knew, in his petulant way, that he had ruffled the feathers of the bird he wanted to bring down. But it would take more than one shot.
    MAX AITKEN RESIGNED from office as minister of information in October 1918, due to ill health. Everyone thought he was faking, but he was very ill and, through to the end of the war in November, was in serious jeopardy of losing his life to an abscessed tooth. His resignation, though, also meant that he could turn his full attention to the flaws of a government of which he, up until that time, had been a member.
    “Beaverbrook now seemed not merely independent of the Government, but hostile to it, and it was hard to believe that he had once been the intimate friends of Cabinet Ministers,” A.J.P. Taylor writes about this period. But men in both parties—those “intimate friends” had dealt him a terrible blow, had kept him on the outside, ridiculed his Empire Free Trade platform and his paper, andfor almost ten years had besmirched his name and his faroff Canada. Now they blamed him for having the audacity to fight back.
    Max used his paper as a weapon. In fact, why publish a paper that disagreed with your own opinions? No newspaper baron in his right mind would do so. Simply put, he felt an intrusive wartime coalition government was one thing—but a government should not be interfering with an average citizenry after the war, nor should it send more British and Canadian troops in to fight alongside the White Russians in their war against the Bolsheviks. (They were sent.) It was bad for business and bad for everything else, and his was not the only newspaper that wrote this. His was simply the loudest.
    There is an aside here: Max and Russia. Max was secretly fascinated with Bolshevism, and even at times applauded it. Perhaps he was not as enthusiastic as Bernard Shaw or other artists (who did not seem to realize that, if they lived in Soviet Russia, they would be the first to disappear), but it seems he did look upon it as a legitimate ideology. He was always hesitant to oppose it. There is, however, the great quip he made in Glasgow, while stumping for Free Trade a few years later. When a Communist shouted him down, saying, “Beaver, have you been toRussia? There is no unemployment in Russia,” Max said, “Yes, I have, and you are right—there is no unemployment in Russia.” He paused, and then added, “I’ve been to the Glasgow jail, and there is no unemployment there either.”
    I think this was part of his general perversity—to argue any side that rankled those he was arguing with at the time.
    Unfortunately for Max, in 1922, just when it seemed that Bonar Law, who had now led the Conservative Party since 1912, might be able to break free of the coalition and lead the Conservative Party to victory, poor health made Law step aside. That left in the running those whom Max distrusted.
    Austin Chamberlain, Max’s enemy from the party leadership race of 1912, became leader of the Conservative Party within the House of Commons in 1922, and Chamberlain was inclined, as Peter Howard said, to support the coalition. And of course he hated Max Aitken for keeping him from the leadership. But as Max upped his editorial displeasure with the coalition, Chamberlain, in order to embarrass the press baron, suggested that the government was unsuitable to Beaverbrook only because he had businesses and oil interests in the East of which England disapproved. Max had no Eastern oil interests. This was a lie, and one that seriously discredited Max Aitken’s motives.
    The slander angered Max enough so that, as Peter Howard states, he went to visit Bonar Law. Citing the disrespect he had for Chamberlain, “a yes man” for Lloyd George, he convinced Bonar Law to come out of

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