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The Marconi Scandal

The Marconi Scandal 1912-13 led many to draw unfavourable conclusions about corruption in British politics. It is believed that Lloyd George’s role in the scandal brought it to press and public attention. The scandal centred mostly around three Liberal ministers; Rufus Isaacs, Alexander Murray and David Lloyd George, who allegedly profited from an impending government tender.

In 1912 a lucrative tender was accepted by the Post Office which instructed the English Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company to develop, build and maintain a series of wireless transmitting and receiving stations across the British Empire.

Godfrey Isaacs; managing director of the English Marconi Company, was also the brother of Attorney General Rufus Isaacs. Under the influence of his brother, Rufus bought shares in the company’s American subsidiary at a favourable price. He allegedly informed the Chancellor of the Exchequer; David Lloyd George and the Liberal Party’s Chief Whip; Alexander Murray of the contract, which led both to purchase their own shares in the American Marconi. Murray also bought shares on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Following gradual outrage from the public, press and parliamentary opposition, Prime Minister Asquith eventually set-up a committee that would assess the allegations of insider dealings. During the investigation Isaacs, Murray and Lloyd George acknowledged their purchasing of shares in the Marconi Company of America. However, they also demanded that neither one had invested in a company which was directly contracted by the government.

On the 30th of June, 1913, the Select Committee submitted reports on the Marconi case. The majority agreed that no minister had manipulated his public duties by misusing information for personal gain. The minority report criticised the ministers’ conduct and the general handling of the issue. Albert Spicer, chairman of the enquiry, signed the majority report.