Gallipoli and the Press : How the British Leadership was Considering Press Coverage in the Leadup to the Gallipolli Campaign
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This paper will examine how the decision making behind the undertaking of the Gallipoli campaign was affected by political concerns. In the United Kingdom, the government was elected, and going into the war the Liberal Party's hold on power was tenuous at best. Parties beyond the major two, the Liberals and Unionists, were on the rise, and Liberals had been losing seats in by-elections (elections as a result of death or resignation) since the last general election in 1910. As a result, once World War I started, the Liberal government was in no position to weather a prolonged period of negative news coverage. This concern about press coverage meant that the Liberal Government of H.H. Asquith would be extremely quick to react to any negative coverage, fearing for their jobs and the stability of their government. As the war failed to come to a quick end, newspapers, the primary source of mass communication, started to turn against the war, in large part because Lord Northcliffe, a powerful press Lord, who owned over 40% of weekday circulation in Britain,. Himself turned against the war. Lord Northcliffe's two most prized papers, The Daily Mail and The Times of London, tended to favor the main opposition party, The Unionists. The Press Lord's papers were extremely critical of the Liberal Government as the war dragged on, so much so that the architect of the Gallipoli Campaign, Winston Churchill, sent a letter to Lord Northcliffe asking for more favorable press coverage. He did so at the request of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, the Prime Minister having had a similar request rebuffed a few months before the war. This paper will demonstrate that the Gallipoli campaign was undertaken in part because the Liberal Government did not think that they could stay in power with a continuation of World War I on the Western Front. As a result of political concerns, the Liberal Government overruled its own generals and admirals to undertake an underfunded and ill-advised campaign of Winston Churchill's design against the Ottoman Empire as a result of political concerns. But to understand why this is the case, it is important to have a solid grasp of the political climate in which the Liberal Government of Britain was operating. The Liberals had been losing seats, and were in a precarious political situation going into the war. This precarious political position made the Liberal Government much more responsive and concerned about the press coverage than they might otherwise have been. When the press coverage turned negative as a result of the poor Allied showing in the early months of the war, H.H. Asquith had to look for a quick end to the war.
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