Victorian newspaper proprietor,
publisher and entrepreneur
Lloyd the Liberal? Daily Chronicle
The Daily Chronicle does nothing to solve the enigma of Edward Lloyd’s own political beliefs. The editor in his time, Robert Boyle, was not as politically outspoken as those who followed, although it was under his direction that it became the first paper to carry detailed news of industrial disputes. In 1889, its coverage of the London dock strike was extensive and gained new readers.
The value of this as evidence of Lloyd’s political views is equivocal. The freedom to join a union and picket workplaces had only been recognised by law for a few years. It must have been absolutely obvious to Lloyd the newsman that the many people affected by this novelty, or merely curious about it, would want news coverage.
Radicals in the Liberal Party, later led by Lloyd George’s “independent” faction, had yet to embrace social reform fully. Unions and workers had no regular representation until 1900 when the Labour Party was created. The Liberals were therefore the only source of support for the cause of the poor as championed by Lloyd’s Weekly for the previous 35 years. Had it been launched a quarter century later, it is not entirely fanciful to speculate that the Chronicle’s political allegiance might have been to Labour.
In the early 1870s, the Liberal Party was still relatively cohesive. It was home to radicals, Whigs who only suffered reform as long as it was slow and cautious and Gladstone who favoured reform as long as it was no burden on public funds.
In the 1880s, Irish Home Rule threw party allegiance into disarray. While prime minister in 1885, Gladstone had to support the cause because he depended on the votes of the newly enfranchised Catholics for the Irish Parliamentary Party, which now held the balance of power in the Commons.
A schism then opened between Gladstone’s supporters and the Liberal Unionists, led by Joseph Chamberlain. As a radical himself, fellow radicals in the party tended to favour Chamberlain, while other Liberal Unionists voted with the Tories and later joined them in the “Conservative and Unionist Party”. The curious outcome of this realignment was that, despite the desperate need for social reform in Ireland, the radicals opposed Home Rule.
Outside Parliament, Home Rule was unpopular for a variety of reasons – a raising of taxes to support the land reform, solidarity with its opponents in Ulster, murders committed by the former Land League, even the suddenness of Gladstone’s conversion to the cause.
Edward Lloyd’s strict approach to objective reporting would have ensured that the news coverage was neutral. However, he would not have wanted his paper to argue a political cause that contradicted readers’ views.
Tom Catling faced this Home Rule dilemma as editor of Lloyd’s Weekly. A Liberal supporter, he did not wish to be disloyal to Gladstone but he knew that his counterpart at the Daily News, Henry Lucy, had taken a pro-Home Rule stand and lost his job because circulation had slumped. Catling was coy about the conversation but Lloyd made it clear that his job was on the line if readers were lost.
If Edward was willing to consider sacking a long-term trusted employee for upsetting the readers, Frank Lloyd was uninhibited in his readiness to do so. In 1899, the most talented Chronicle editor of all, Henry Massingham, was fired for losing readers by opposing the Boer War.
Massingham, editor from 1895 to 1899 but working at the paper since 1891, took the view that the Chronicle was in the “happy position of a paper which is not hired to any party of the state.”
The Chronicle under his direction is described by Jane Stanford in her book on John O’Connor Power as “independent but, close to the left wing of the Radical party, it enjoyed the confidence of the trade union movement and the working man.”
Lamenting the Chronicle’s sale to politicans in 1918, New Zealand Truth wrote: “It independently advocated Liberal principles, and soon came to be highly respected because of the ability with which its political convictions were set before the people. … It also made itself extremely popular because of its fine advocacy of the cause of the men during the strike of the London dockers” in 1889.
In the summer of 1889, a strike by workers in the London docks was a pivotal moment in trade union history. It was not the first strike by unskilled labour as opposed to the “craft” unions, but it was by far the biggest. The appalling conditions of work led to a great deal of popular sympathy with the dockers. The peaceful processions that they organised won over many in the middle classes.
Another area of politics covered extensively by the Chronicle was the election of the first London County Council in 1889. The Progressives won control and held it until 1904. They were loosely associated with the Liberal Party but had a marked bias towards social reform. Always maintaining a neutral view, its reporting of the Council’s proceedings was more extensive than other daily papers, possibly because of its London roots in Clerkenwell but welcome to political radicals in any event.
To what extent the later accounts of the Chronicle’s independent views were true of the paper in Lloyd’s day calls for further research into the paper’s first 13 years. It is nevertheless safe to say that its most radical years politically were after his death.