Posted by: Dr Churchill | September 15, 2017

What would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 38)

When the First World War ended there was only one statesman in England who counted. That was Lloyd George.

The prophecy made by John Morley that “if there is a war, Winston Churchill will beat L.G. hollow” had proved utterly false. Winston was forced to stand in the wings of the political stage while Lloyd George took all the bows. Winston Churchill had no following from any party or any group. The Liberals were suspicious of him, the Labour leaders opposed him, and the Conservatives disliked him.

His only strength lay in his friendship with Lloyd George.

The two men sat together on Armistice night and discussed the great problems that peace would bring. Winston was not a vindictive man, and now that the terrible conflict was over his instinct was to hold out the hand of friendship to Germany. It was essential to the future of Europe, he argued, that Germany should be brought into the democratic family as soon as possible, and he urged Lloyd George to send a dozen food ships to Hamburg. But public opinion was strongly hostile to the idea with the result that nothing was done until Plumer, in command in Germany, threatened to resign if food were not sent, and thereafter got his way.

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A month after the Armistice Lloyd George’s Coalition Government went to the country in what was known as the ‘Coupon Election.’ All candidates supporting the Coalition, mainly Conservatives, received coupons guaranteeing their loyalty. They were opposed by Labour candidates and Asquith’s Liberals, over whom they scored a resounding victory, winning five hundred and twenty-six seats which gave them a clear majority of three hundred and fifty-seven over all other parties. But the election was fought on a swelling tide of public opinion symbolized by the national slogans: “Hang the Kaiser” & “Make the Germans Pay.”

No candidate who tried to withstand the pressure, was elected. Even Winston
was forced to knuckle under, and when the Government returned to Whitehall it found itself committed to a policy of severe war reparations, which many ministers regarded with deep misgivings, and trepidation for the future imbalances it would bring forth.

A few weeks after the election Lloyd George appointed Winston Churchill as his Minister of War, with the Air Ministry amalgamated under him. He wanted a strong man to iron out the demobilization tangle, which Churchill promptly did. Lloyd George recognized his colleague’s brilliant qualities and he was also conscious of his headstrong and impetuous nature.

The Prime Minister LG, undoubtedly believed that while the War Office would absorb Winston’s energies and interests, it also had the advantage of being a safe post, because in peacetime a Service Department was not likely to offer much scope for sensational action. Sir Henry Wilson, the Chief of the Imperial
General Staff, evidently did not share this view, for when he heard of the
appointment he wrote in his diary: ‘Whew!’; and at his first meeting with
his new boss he asked caustically why the Admiralty had not been thrown
in as well. As things turned out the ‘whew was not unreasonable. The world was still in a troubled state, and most troubled of all was Russia, which was torn by civil war, and which still contained British troops.

Russia became Winston’s chief preoccupation; and since Lloyd George
was fully absorbed by the Paris Peace Conference he had something of a
free hand. The gigantic country was in an appalling state of disintegration.
The Czar had been overthrown in 1917, and a few months later the
Bolsheviks had captured the Central Government. In the spring of 1918
they had signed a separate peace with the Kaiser which had allowed
Germany to release a million more men to fight the Allies on the Western
Front. Britain had sent troops to Archangel, the Caucasus and Siberia to
prevent oil supplies and Allied materials from falling into the enemy’s
hands. In the meantime White Russian counter-revolutionary forces many
hundred of miles apart those in the South under the leadership of General
Denikin, and those in the East under Admiral Kolchak had remained
faithful to their commitments and continued the war as best they could.
Now these forces were fighting the Bolsheviks and desperately begging
England for help. Lord Milner, Winston’s predecessor at the War Office,
had more or less promised aid. Was Britain to abandon them? All
Winston’s chivalrous instincts bade him send assistance.

Besides this, looking at the picture objectively, it would not be in Britain’s interests to allow Bolshevik leaders who believed in organized terror and who were preaching worldwide revolution to gain the final power.

At this time, Germany lay prostrate. So, what, or better who, would prevent Russia from overrunning the whole of Europe was anybody’s guess. Indeed was there even someone out there to stop the Red menace from destroying Europe?

This was the practical argument.

But as far as Winston was concerned, the emotional argument was even stronger. He was disgusted by the Bolshevik atrocities. He understood wars between soldiers and nations, but he could not forgive civil wars. He vehemently hated and was revolted physically by civil wars, and especially by those bloody conflicts that were pitting brother against brother, war between families, between neighbors, and between social classes — where thousands of civilians were murdered in the name of humanity.

To Winston Churchill, the Russian spectacle was sordid and evil, and this is how he described it in his writings: “For all its horrors, a glittering light plays over the scenes and actors of the French Revolution. The careers and personalities of Robespierre, of Danton, even of Marat, gleam luridly across a century. But the dull squalid figures of the Russian Bolsheviks are not redeemed in interest even by the magnitude of their crimes. All form and emphasis is lost in the vast process of Asiatic liquefaction. Even the slaughter of millions and the misery of scores of millions will not attract future generations to their uncouth lineaments and outlandish names.”

It was characteristic of Winston Churchill that when he took up a cause he fought for it wholeheartedly. All his vigour was concentrated on a campaign
against the Bolsheviks. In the House of Commons and on the public plat-
form he attacked the Reds in a flow of rich and merciless invective. On the 11th of April 1919, speaking at a luncheon at the Aldwych Club in London, he declared: “Of all the tyrannies in history, the Bolshevist tyranny is the worst, the most destructive, the most degrading. It is sheer humbug to pretend that it is not far worse than German militarism. The miseries of the Russian people under the Bolshevists far surpass anything they suffered even under the Czar. The atrocities of Lenin and Trotsky are incomparably
more hideous, on a larger scale and more numerous than any for which the
Kaiser is responsible. The Germans at any rate have stuck to their allies.
They misled them, they exploited them, but they did not desert or betray them. It may have been honour among thieves, but it is better than dishonor among murderers.”

The next month Winston alluded to ‘the foul baboonery of Bolshevism and came out openly in favour of sending arms and supplies to their adversaries. But there was no action he could take without the approval of the Supreme Council, a body which sat in Paris and represented the five leading Allied powers.
He went to France in February and talked to President Wilson who told him affably that he did not pretend to know the solution to the Russian problem. There were the gravest objections to every course, and yet some course must be taken sooner or later.

For three months the Allies vacillated. Winston pleaded his cause without ceasing. He argued with members of the British Cabinet, with foreign representatives, with anyone who would listen.

He sent a flow of memoranda to every influential quarter. Finally, in May, the Supreme Council came to a decision. It sent a note to Admiral Kolchak informing him that the object of Allied policy was: “To restore peace within Russia by enabling the Russian people to resume control of their own affairs through the agent of a freely elected Constituent Assembly. If Kolchak would agree to this, and certain other conditions, the Allies would assist him with munitions, supplies and food, to establish a Government of all Russia; at the same time the Allies made it clear that the time was approaching when they must withdraw their own troops to avoid interference in the internal affairs of Russia.”

This note was obviously designed to have the best of two worlds. It was
ambiguous and vague, yet Winston Churchill seized on it eagerly. At last he had the authority to act. For the next eight months he poured ammunition and material worth many millions of pounds into Russia. He also made plans for the evacuation of the British forces. In order to cover the withdrawal it was necessary to stage a diversion; and for this he called for a volunteer army of eight thousand men.

The British public stirred with alarm. They had not forgotten Winston’s
excursion to Antwerp and his impetuosity over the Dardanelles. Was he
trying to plunge them into another war? Apart from this fear, there was a
growing dislike of his attitude towards the Soviets. Most people in England believed that Britain should mind her own business and let the
Russians settle their own affairs. As to the pros and cons of Bolshevism
itself, the country was divided into two distinct camps, Left and Right.
The Right shared Winston’s dislike of the Reds, but the Left, which was
composed of Radical liberals and Labour Party followers, cast sympathetic
glances at the new ‘social experiment’ which was taking place. The Labour
Party, backed by the Trade Unions, was particularly sympathetic for they
had recently acquired a new constitution, drafted by Sidney Webb, which
committed them to Socialism. True, ‘British socialism’ was not Marxist,
but ‘Fabian, democratic and Christian.’ Nevertheless, the Labour leaders
believed many of the Bolshevik slogans: that war was engineered by
capitalist societies; that the ownership of the means of production and dis-
tribution would automatically create a new Utopia.

Lloyd George was far from being a Socialist, but his Radical instincts
bade him look upon Russia with a tolerant eye. Alter all, the oppression
and tyranny of the Czarist regime had brought about the revolution. One
could not blame the people for trying to throw off the yoke. He believed
that trade with Russia was economically important, and both he and
President Wilson would have liked to recognize the Soviets and establish
friendly relations with them but they knew they could not carry Parliament and Congress with them.

And although Lloyd George disliked Winston’s passionate denunciations — some years later in his Memories of the Peace Conference wrote acidly: “The most formidable and irresponsible protagonist of an anti-Bolshevik war was Mr Winston Churchill. He had no doubt a genuine dislike for Communism. His ducal blood revolted against the wholesale elimination of Grand Dukes in Russia.”

A storm was gathering around Winston’s head but in the end it never really broke. Although he was hotly attacked by almost every Labour leader in England, as soon as the Allied forces had been withdrawn in the autumn of 1919, it became apparent that the White Russians were doomed to failure. They fought without conviction and hung on for only a few months. In the spring of 1920 they finally collapsed and Soviet authority was complete. Up to the very end Winston Churchill sustained his attack on the Bolsheviks.

In a speech at Sunderland on 3 January, 1921, he said: “Was there ever a more awful spectacle in the whole history of the world than is unfolded by the agony of Russia? This vast country, this mighty branch of the human family, not only produced enough food for itself, but before the war it was one of the great granaries of the world, from which food was exported to every country. It is now reduced to famine of the most terrible kind, not because there is no food there is plenty of food but because the theories of Lenin and Trotsky have fatally, and it may be finally, ruptured the means of intercourse between man and man, between workman and peasant, between town and country; because they have
shattered the systems of scientific communication by rail and river on
which the life of great cities depends; because they have raised class against
class and race against race in fratricidal war; because they have given vast
regions which a little while ago were smiling villages and prosperous
townships back to the wolves and the bears; because they have driven man from the civilization of the twentieth century into ar condition of barbarism worse than the Stone Age, and have left him the most awful and pitiable spectacle in human experience, devoured by vermin, racked by pestilence and deprived of hope.”

“And this is progress, this is liberty, this is Utopia! This is what my
friend in the gallery would call an interesting experiment in Social
Regeneration. What a monstrous absurdity and perversion of the truth it is, to represent the Communist theory as a form of progress, when, at every step and at every stage, it is simply marching back into the Dark Ages.”

Winston not only supported the White Armies to the bitter end, but in the early months of 1920 when Poland attacked Russia, in a ridiculous act of aggression, he was instrumental in seeing that British arms were sent to their aid as well. The Russians drove the invaders out, then invaded Poland themselves, and for a few weeks Winston Churchill had visions of his worst fears being realized with all of Europe being overrun by the Red Communists and their Bolshevik Masters. He sent a memorandum to Lloyd George pleading for the rehabilitation of Germany as the only hope of erecting a barrier against the Russian giant — a line of argument which is again being used today, in the American foreign policy circles, since the reunification of Germany and her re-establishment as a military power.

“Since the Armistice, my policy would have been Peace with the German people, war on the Bolshevik tyranny.” Willingly or unavoidably, you have followed something very near the reverse. Knowing the difficulties, and also your great skill and personal force so much greater than mine I do not judge your policy and action as if I could have done better, or as if anyone could have done better. But we are face to face with the results. They are terrible. We may well be within measurable distance of universal collapse and anarchy throughout Europe and Asia. Russia has gone into ruin. What is left of her is in the power of these deadly snakes.

‘But Germany may perhaps still be saved You ought to tell France

that we will make a defensive alliance with her against Germany if, and
only if, she entirely alters her treatment of Germany and loyally accepts a
British policy of help and friendship toward Germany.’

The British Left vehemently opposed any aid being given to Poland, and the British Right seemed strangely uninterested. Indeed, many people were more concerned with Winston’s activities than with Russia’s. In May 1920 a sensation was caused by the publication of a memorandum which was alleged to have fallen into Soviet hands after the Allied withdrawal from Archangel, and was brought back to London by a Labour Party deputation. The note claimed to be an account of an interview which Colonel Golvin, a White Russian emissary, had with Winston Churchill, during the conversation of which the latter, had promised the White Russians an indefinite postponement of the evacuation of the British forces, and twelve thousand volunteers to form a new garrison. Winston indignantly declared that the document was a complete travesty of the truth but it caused a Parliamentary storm. Labour Members even went so far as to draft a resolution for Mr Winston Churchill’s arrest, on the grounds that he was using British military resources against the Soviet without the consent or knowledge of Parliament.

The Civil War had come to an end; and Poland, in the inspired Battle of the Vistula, had managed to repel the Russian hordes. For the time being the urgency of the Bolshevik menace subsided. In January 1921 Lloyd George transferred Winston Churchill from the War Office to the Colonial Office and Winston Churchill transferred his attention from Europe to the East.

Throughout his life Winston had never received any credit for his lifelong effort at being a peacemaker, yet this might be remedied if we look at his record and especially at his Pacifist work, in the brief eighteen months that he was at the Colonies, where he was largely responsible for bringing about two vitally important and lasting peace settlements: The first was in the Middle East. This part of the world was in a constant state of ferment. Despite the bitter opposition of the Arabs, the Peace Conference had given the mandate of Syria to the French, who then threw out Emir Feisal from Damascus. As a result Palestine and Egypt were smouldering with discontent, and a bloody uprising had just had to be suppressed in Iraq. The British were obliged to keep forty thousand troops stationed in Iraq to preserve order, which was costing the Government 30,000,000 British pounds a year. This was thought to be far too expensive and the Prime Minister asked Winston to see what he could do to restore harmony and save the British taxpayer some money.

Winston set about the matter in his usual independent fashion. First he enlisted on his side that strange and romantic genius, “Lawrence of Arabia.” This fascinating Englishman was the uncrowned king of the Arab world. He had lived and fought with them throughout the war and now lived and worked to secure them a just peace. He identified his interests with them so completely that he appeared in London and Paris in flowing Arab robes. He even refused a high decoration from the King, in order to impress the public with the seriousness of his cause.

Winston called a conference in Cairo, and with Lawrence as his chief adviser and all the experts and authorities of the Middle East at his service, he worked out a plan. A month later he sent the following proposals to the Cabinet. First, that the British must repair the injury done to the Arabs by placing the Emir Feisal on the throne of Iraq as King, and transferring to the hands of his brother, the Emir Abdullah, the Government of Transjordan, or what is today’s Jordan. Second, that the troops must be withdrawn from Iraq, and order must be maintained by the Royal British Air Force rather than by the Army, which would cut down the cost from 30,000,000 pounds, to 5,000,000 pounds, a year. And third, that an adjustment must be made in Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews, which would serve as a foundation for the future state of Israel to be created asap.

It was a brilliant settlement.

Yet as soon as the Cabinet accepted it — tension in the Arab world subsided. When Lawrence wrote his great classic ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ he sent Winston a copy with the following inscription: “Winston Churchill who made a happy ending to this show. And eleven years after we set our hands to making an honest settlement, all our work still stands: the countries have gone forward, our interests having been saved, and nobody killed, either on one side or the other. To have planned for eleven years is the mark of true statesmanship. I ought to have given you two copies of this work.”

During the time that Winston was negotiating a settlement in the Middle East he was also a member of the Cabinet Committee dealing with the problem of Ireland. Since the war, relations between the Irish and the Mother Country had deteriorated badly. In the 1918 ‘Coupon Election’ the Irish Nationalists had been swept away and in their place had arisen a far more extremist group, the Sinn Fein Party (Ourselves Alone). The Sinn Feiners wanted to sever all connection with England and establish a republic, and they were prepared to use any methods to realize their aims.
In 1919 they began to burn down houses and murder English officials. The
British Government retaliated by sending a special police force manned by ex-officers from the wartime army, who wore dark caps and khaki uniforms and became known as the ‘Black and Tans.’ They were instructed to take severe reprisals, and as a result, they punished outrage by still further outrage. By the end of the year Ireland was gripped in a reign of terror.

The situation was intensely complicated. The Northern and Protestant part of Ireland was loyal to the British Empire and determined to stay within it, while Southern and Catholic Ireland, which represented a majority of the population, was bent on gaining complete independence. Should the British crush the rebellion by overwhelming force, or should they partition the country and let the South have its freedom? Winston Churchill was in favour of doing both. He told his colleagues on the Cabinet Committee Lloyd George, F. E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead), Austen Chamberlain, Sir Hamar Greenwood and Sir Laming Worthington-Evans that he believed it was essential to prove to the Irish that Britain was not giving way through weakness and fear; then when they had been
soundly beaten he was in favour of granting them Dominion status, which would make them independent and self-governing, yet at the same time would preserve a link with the Empire through loyalty to the Crown.

About this time King George V went to Northern Ireland and delivered a speech which had been carefully prepared by his Ministers. In it was a reference to the South and a plea for reconciliation which met with a startlingly large response from the Irish public itself. This started the ball rolling. The Government invited the Irish leaders to London to negotiate, and the leaders accepted. Thus negotiations started before Britain had proved herself the Master, as Winston Churchill and his colleagues would have liked.

The tense, charged atmosphere and the protracted discussions which finally led to the signing of the Irish Treaty have provided the theme for many books. It would have been possible in 1886 wrote Winston: “to have reached a solution on a basis infinitely less perilous both to Ireland and to Great Britain than that to which we were ultimately drawn.” At that time Mr Gladstone was begging the House of Commons to pass his Home Rule Bill. “Think, I beseech you think well, think wisely, think not for a moment but for the years that are to come, before you reject this Bill.” But the Bill was defeated and Winston’s father was one of Gladstone’s most powerful opponents. Now the son was trying to find a solution to a problem grown fierce and strong on the mistakes of the older generation.

Although Winston did not play a major part in the Treaty negotiations
he did much to smooth the relations between the two sides by friendliness
alone. ‘Our settlement with the Boers,’ he wrote, ‘with my own vivid
experiences in it, was my greatest source of comfort and inspiration in
this Irish business. Indeed it was a help to all. I remember one night Mr
Griffith and Mr Collins [the leading Irish statesmen] came to my house to
meet the Prime Minister. It was at a crisis, and the negotiations seemed to
hang only by a thread. Griffith went upstairs to parley with Mr Lloyd
George alone. Lord Birkenhead and I were left with Michael Collins
meanwhile. He was in his most difficult mood, full of reproaches and
defiances, and it was very easy for everyone to lose his temper.

“You hunted me day and night!” he exclaimed. “You put a price on my head.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You are not the only one.” And I took from
my wall the framed copy of the reward offered for my recapture by the
Boers. “At any rate it was a good price 5,000. Look at me 25, dead
or alive. How would you like that?”

In the end Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith signed the Treaty which
gave Ireland Dominion status. But when they returned to Dublin they
found the Sinn Fein Party split in two. One half backed the Treaty, but
the other half, led by de Valera, declared that Dominion status was not
enough; nothing short of recognizing Ireland as a republic would suffice.
Members of this faction became known as the Anti-Treatyites and worked
fanatically to prevent Griffith and Collins carrying out the agreement made
in London. They provoked acts of violence against Northern Ireland and
soon began murdering the members of their own party who believed in
the Treaty. Only nine months after Collins had put his signature to the
document he was killed in an ambush. Before long Ireland was again in
the grip of civil war.

It was at this point that Winston Churchill became Colonial Secretary
and, as such, Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Irish affairs. His task
was to help Griffith and Collins establish a Provisional Government, and
at the same time to protect the integrity of Northern Ireland which had
voted for a partition. The world seldom thinks of Winston Churchill in the role of a conciliator and yet in this case he worked tirelessly, patiently and
sagaciously to achieve his purpose. He handled innumerable situations
with delicacy and tact, writing repeatedly to the various leaders, both
North and South, smoothing away misunderstandings, emphasizing good
will, minimizing foolish and petty actions, cajoling, praising, encouraging
and suggesting. In the end the Treatyites won; the Provisional Government was established, and tragic Ireland settled down to peace, and finally
to isolation. From that time on she gradually ceased to be an issue or to
play a part in the internal affairs of Great Britain.

Winston Churchill’s role as peace-maker was not long remembered. In the
middle of 1922 trouble arose with Turkey, and events threw Winston Churchill into the more familiar role of a belligerent ‘man of action. The seeds of the Turkish discord had been sown by Lloyd George. At the Peace Treaty the Prime Minister had come under the spell of the Greek statesman, Eleutherios Venizelos, and as a result had sanctioned a Greek occupation of a large part of Anatolia, Turkey’s homeland, which was completely Turkish in population save for a few Greek coastal towns. France and Italy objected to this settlement; so did Britain’s Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon; so did Winston Churchill; nevertheless Lloyd George pushed it through, signing the Treaty of Sevres, which not only confirmed a Greek occupation of Smyrna, but gave Greece most of Turkey’s possessions in Europe as well.

Fighting soon broke out. In 1921 the Greeks in an effort to enforce the Treaty advanced on Ankara, the Turkish capital, but were stopped by the Turks fifty miles away. They remained there for a year; then in the summer of 1922 Mustafa Kemal, the head of the Turkish Government, attacked them, routed their armies, and massacred most of the Greek population of Turkey and especially the Greek populations of Smyrna and that of the ancient coastal Greek cities of Asia minor.

The Western powers were alarmed. Was Kemal planning to recapture Turkey’s European possessions? If so, he would have to cross the Straits which were under international protection, guarded by small contingents of British, French and Italian troop. The French and Italians saw trouble coming and immediately withdrew, leaving only the British at Chanak on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles.

The situation was electric. Would Turkey move? And if she did, would this mean war with Britain?

Half a dozen men in the British Cabinet decided that firm action must be taken to stop Turkey. They were the same men who had sat together on the Committee for Irish affairs Lloyd George, Churchill, Birkenhead, Chamberlain, Balfour and Worthington Evans. “We made common cause” declares Winston Churchill in ‘The Aftermath’: ‘The Government might break up, and we might be relieved of our burden. The nation might not support us; they could find others to advise them. The Press might howl; the Allies might bolt. We intended to force the Turk to a negotiated peace before he set foot in Europe.”

Winston then sat down and drafted a bold and determined communique
calling on the British Dominions and the Balkan States to co-operate with
Great Britain in resisting Turkish aggression, and announcing flatly: “It
is the intention of His Majesty’s Government to reinforce immediately . . .
the troops at the disposal of Sir Charles Harington, the Allied Commander-
in-Chief at Constantinople, and orders have been given to the British
Fleet in the Mediterranean to oppose by every means any infraction of the
neutral zones by the Turks or any attempt by them to cross the European
shores.”

The uncompromising tone of this statement startled the British public.
It also startled the Turk who changed his mind and ordered his troops
away from Chanak. Two weeks later Mustapha Kemal signed an armistice.
And a year later the grievance was removed by the Treaty of Lausanne
which gave Turkey the Straits and Constantinople.

But even though the incident ended peacefully, the public was still unnerved. Anger quickly took the place of fear, and Conservatives and
Socialists alike denounced diplomacy “based on wild and reckless gambles.
Bonar Law declared that Britain could not police the world alone, and the
Labour Party attacked Winston with the familiar charge that he was trying
to ‘dragoon the Empire into war.”

Since that time his action has been appraised more favorably. “To Mr Lloyd George and above all to Winston Churchill” wrote Harold Nicolson in a biography of Curzon: ‘is due our gratitude for having at this juncture defied not the whole world merely, but the full hysterical force of British public opinion.”

Nevertheless, the two men paid a high price. The Chanak incident brought down the Government.

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Lloyd George’s Coalition Government was three-quarters Tory and one-quarter Liberal. The Tories decided that the wave of public enthusiasm which had given the Government its renewed lease of life at the end of the war had vanished. The inevitable disillusion which awaited any post-war government had at last set in, and the time had come for the Conservatives to march ahead under their own banner.

Besides, the Tories had plenty of quarrels with the Government. When
the war ended Lloyd George had become so deeply involved in the Paris
Peace Conference that he had practically withdrawn from the House of
Commons, leaving Bonar Law to run it for him. Thus he fell into the
habit of ignoring Parliament, surrounding himself with personal advisers,
dealing with any matter that caught his fancy and deliberately by-passing
Secretaries of State whenever it suited him. The Tories were highly
critical of this state of affairs and declared that ‘Cabinet responsibility’ had
become a joke.

They were also critical of his handling of the Irish question. They felt it
was nothing short of lunacy first to initiate a policy of severe reprisals then
to turn around and give the Irish everything they wanted short of a
republic. Finally, they were indignant over the Chanak communique.
They not only disliked its bluntness but were shocked by the fact that the
Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, was not even consulted, and that it had
been issued to the press before the Dominions had received it. Bonar Law
wrote a letter to The Times on this subject which was almost a vote of
censure.

A few of the leading Conservative Ministers who held office under
Lloyd George remained steadfastly loyal. Among these Lord Birkenhead
and Austen Chamberlain were the most conspicuous. They did their best
to dissuade their Tory colleagues from breaking up the Government but
their arguments were unavailing. Largely through the organization of Mr
Leo Amery, who was then Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the
Admiralty, a meeting was held at the Carlton Club on 17 October, 1922,
which later became known as the “Revolt of the Under-secretaries. Bonar
Law, who had resigned the Conservative Party leadership a year earlier on
grounds of ill-health, made a strong and telling speech, believed to have
been inspired by Lord Beaverbrook, which completely carried the
assembly widi him. Then Stanley Baldwin, a figure almost unknown to
the public but recently appointed President of the Board of Trade by
Lloyd George, introduced a resolution to end the Coalition. Baldwin told
the meeting that L.G. was a dynamic force but that a dynamic force is a
very terrible thing.” His resolution was passed by 187 votes to 87.

When Lloyd George heard of the vote he at once resigned and Bonar
Law consented to form a Government. The new Prime Minister asked for
the dissolution of Parliament and went to the country. The Conservatives
scored a sweeping victory. Lloyd George never held office again.

Winston Churchill fought the election at Dundee, the great Radical
working-class stronghold which had welcomed him joyously in 1908
when he had been the formidable antagonist of Tory privilege. “I stand as
a Liberal and a Free Trader, but I make it quite clear that I am not going
to desert Lloyd George” he announced in his election address.

But Dundee was not at all convinced that Winston really was a Liberal.
Ever since he had become First Lord of the Admiralty he had shown
practically no interest in domestic matters but concentrated exclusively on
military and foreign affairs. During the previous eleven years he had been
repeatedly the strongest advocate of Coalition government. On three
occasions before the war-time Coalition came into being he had urged that
Conservatives and Liberals merge their differences; and in the four years
since the close of the war he had- floated publicly the idea of a Center Party composed of moderates from both sides.

Why was Winston so eager to end the traditional warfare between the two great parties? The Times ran a series of articles entitled “Front Bench Figures” and on the 15th of November, 1920, summed up Winston Churchill’s position as follows: “Some men hang themselves on their politics, others hang their politics on themselves, and these need to be stout pegs, well screwed into the scheme of things, as indeed Winston Churchill is. He manages it very well. His first party will still have no good said of him, his second believes him to be hankering after his first love, and lately he has been advertising for a new Center Party which is to combine the charms of the other two. But even if this third match came off and then turned out ill, Winston Churchill would not be greatly embarrassed, for wherever he is there is his party.”

The truth was that Winston disliked wearing a party tag of any description. He could not see that there was any longer a deep, dividing line between Liberals and Conservatives. How much more gratifying from his own personal point of view it would be to heal the old wounds between himself and the Party which was his by birth and inheritance. How much more sensible to receive a mandate from the people to govern, and then to govern to the best of one’s ability, untrammelled by stupid Party slogans. However, British politics do not operate in such a free and easy way. The Center Party came to nothing and Winston was forced to proclaim his colours. The Conservatives would not accept him and besides, he was not prepared to desert his leader. So he stood as a Lloyd George Liberal.

Was there any trace of the Radical left in Winston? In the years since the war had ended there had been much hardship in Britain. In 1922 there were a million and a half unemployed. Housing conditions were appalling and “Homes fit for heroes” remained only an election slogan. During these four years of economic booms, slumps, and busts — Winston had taken practically no interest in the conditions of the great mass of the wage earners. He had no new ideas to offer. His thinking was on conservative lines. The Times commented on this orthodox streak, in the article: “One could imagine a radical” of Winston Churchill’s great intellectual power carrying out reforms at the Admiralty that would have made the early Naval history of the war a very different thing, for the Navy was ready for war in everything but that which mattered most, the habit of independent and unconventional thought, and this he might have supplied. At the War Office at the end of the war the same opportunity seemed to offer and again there was the same disappointment.”

“There is tremendous efficiency and business ability, and feats of organization are accomplished, but of the man himself with his sheer intellectual power, and his fertility of ideas, there is no sign. It may be after all that the fabric of his thinking is conventional, and only its colours and expressions are original; or it may be that his mind does not gear readily to other minds, and that he must either think and act independently for himself, or when that is impossible to defy the conventions.”

Winston fought the election tinder the most adverse conditions that could
be imagined. Three days before the contest opened he was stricken with
appendicitis and rushed off to the hospital for an operation. He was unable
to appear in Dundee until two days before the poll, and even then was in
pain and mounted the platform only with the aid of a walking stick.

All over Britain it was apparent that there was a rising tide of opinion in
favour of Conservatism. But it was not so in Dundee. Dundee’s Radical
heart was beating more strongly than ever.

If Winston wished to retain his seat he had to convince the electors that he still retained his reforming zeal and was not leaning towards the Right. He had prepared his speech with great care. He told the audience how important it was to steer a middle course between the extremes of die-hard Toryism on the one hand and Socialism on the other.

He said that: “I do not think, that the country is in a fit condition to be torn and harried by savage domestic warfare. What we require now is not a period of turmoil but a period of stability and recuperation. Let us stand together and tread a middle way.”

But in his election address, issued the week before, he had been careful
to establish himself as a progressive.

He talked about housing, about larger unemployment benefits, and about an improvement in the public services.

He attacked the Tories as the retrograde party saying: “Mr Bonar Law has described his policy as one of negation. Such a message of negation will strike despair in the heart of every earnest social worker and of every striver after social justice.”

To be continued:


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