“The Eighty Club was a political London gentlemen’s club named after the year it was founded, 1880 (Much like the later 1900 Club). It was strictly aligned to the Liberal Party, with members having to pledge support to join. Somewhat dwarfed by similar mass-membership clubs like the National Liberal Club, it could only claim 400 members in 1890, and 600 by 1900.
“The Club finally closed in 1978, although the name was then adopted as the title of the Association of Liberal Democrat Lawyers’ annual lecture series.”
Lord Curzon, with whom we have met previously, meanwhile gave a speech on the “lessons” of the Balkan War before a Unionist Party. The Unionists were a right wing split from the old 19th century Liberals, initially over the question of Irish Home Rule, where they championed U.K. “union” over a more “federated” form for that state. This political attitude they extended to Imperial matters more generally, and the Unionists constituted likely the most militant imperialist faction of the British ruling class, one to which Churchill was also an adherent. Curzon was pushing again for a permanent conscript army, noting that “Bulgaria with a population less than that of London was able to place in the field a highly drilled, fully equipped and well-armed force of nearly 400,000 men. How did Bulgaria do it?” How, indeed.
Finally, Lloyd George gave a speech before the Scottish Liberal Association in Aberdeen on “the Land Question”, where reportedly
he had to be protected against “suffragist disturbances”, and indeed “the police, in their search of the hall found three women with what at first thought to be a bomb or explosives. Later it was stated that the women were carrying ammunition for toy pistols which would make a loud noise but were harmless. One of the women resisted arrest and struggled so violently that her clothes were torn from her back”, or so the reporter wrote.
Britain was currently in the grip of a suffragette “terror”. These, the leading white men seeking to gird their loins for a European war, quailing before angry women with toy cap guns!
But the highlight of Georges’ speech concerns a now relatively obscure subject, but one that had been a critical issue in 19th century Britain, that of “The Land Question” still unresolved at the beginning of the 20th: “The first essential condition to every social reform, every real improvement in the lot of the people, is a thorough and complete change in our land system (Loud cheers). Search out every problem, look into these questions thoroughly, and the more thoroughly you look into them you will find that the land is at the root of most of them. Housing, wages, food, health” – and of course for “the development of a virile, independent, manly, Imperial race” whose slaughter George, as the last Liberal Prime Minister to serve, was to later oversee in the Great War – “you must have a free land system as an essential condition of these. To use a gardening phrase, our social and economic condition is root-bound by the feudal system. It has no room the develop; but its roots are breaking through. Well let’s burst it. There is plenty of land outside for the roots to strike in, to flourish and draw nourishment and bring forth fruit a hundredfold for the people who are hungering for it”.
These eloquently delivered words reflect principally the point of view of the British industrial capitalist class, of which the Liberal Party had been the traditional political vehicle. The social monopoly of much of the land of the British Isles, enjoyed by the traditional caste of big landlords, usually aligned with the Torys, in creating a scarcity of land available for modern housing and transportation for the wage workers employed by these industrial capitalists, naturally drove up housing rents and therefore the wages of those workers, and therefore also cut into the profits of the patrons of the Liberal Party.