Posted by: Dr Churchill | September 17, 2017

What would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 48)

Churchill was sent for a forced “Garden Leave” by the British electorate.

Indeed the English People suggested that Winston needed a long period of holidays, for R&R. So they fired him…

That is exactly what happens in Democracies. The Leader serves at the pleasure of the People.

Yet, because Winston’s overwhelming defeat at the General Election of Britain in the early Summer of 1945 — came in a poll that was held only a few weeks after the surrender of Germany — this was regarded as astonishing news, even by the British voters, who had voted against him.

When they were going to the polls, they never believed that their vote would dethrone the “Saviour of the Nation.”

It never entered the calculations of the average Labour voter that his vote will send Mr Churchill into retirement.

And yet this was the collective outcome of all the votes that were tallied after the polling stations closed.

It was a Stunner of the First Class.

As for Winston himself, this was a stunning reverse: First because he was at the very summit of his power, at the apex of his fame, and at the zenith of his popularity. And second, because no other statesman emphasized the superior qualities of the British people more forcibly than he had demonstrated with his vast intelligence and his out of the ballpark Victory pitch.

But Winston must have known in the cockles of his Heart, that his time was up after he finished the job that he was brought forth to accomplish. Proof of that is that when during the war, someone would congratulate him on a special broadcast, or on a parliamentary speech by saying: “You are giving the people the courage they need” he would always reply quickly: “You are mistaken. They already have all the courage they need. I only help them to focus it.”

Yet, to have been rejected by a people towards whom he felt such pride, such honor, and such special possessiveness — must have been a bitter blow, indeed.

A few years back, during the first years of his Premiership Churchill had declared privately that he would not commit the same mistake Lloyd George had made in seeking to retain power once hostilities had ended.

He remembered how, in the difficult months that followed the war, Lloyd George’s prestige had gradually dwindled until in 1922, he was dismissed from the PM’s office never to return again.

However, when Churchill took over the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1940 many people were sceptical about his sticking to his principles and to his resolve. His action was criticized at the time by those who considered that as head of a great coalition government he should remain above Party politics; and even his friends warned him that it might be a mistake to commit himself so far in advance.

But it was not Winston’s nature to play the role of a detached Elder Statesman; and it would have taken a man of far less sanguine disposition to refuse to offer himself to the electorate when all the world was acclaiming him. Leading Conservatives were aware that a new wind of social consciousness was blowing through England, but they believed that Winston Churchill’s fame could keep them in power; and Churchill believed this too.

Although from time to time he had been pressed to make some important and
positive statement about peacetime domestic policy, he was so absorbed by
the problems of the war, that except for one or two occasions, he refused to
put his mind on the internal affairs of the British people. Besides, he was confident that when the time came — the British people, who had followed him so loyally throughout the conflict, would heed what he had to say about the days to come.

This was a severe miscalculation by Winston because the British people had never ever pledged absolute loyalty to a single man, except in times of extreme existential emergency. And this Existential emergency had just been solved due to his own Herculean efforts. And secondly, nowhere in the world is the Party system so highly developed as in England, where the Political guillotine drops with the regularity of the Big Ben striking the hourly bells. This time the
British electorate was not looking for a personality, but for a programme; and the only programme that was forthcoming was that one that was put forward by the
Labour Party with its emphasis on social reform and a long overdue redistribution of the national income. The working classes remembered the hard times they had had between the wars; first the soaring prices and the bad housing, then the long years of unemployment. And they also remembered that except for two short spells the Conservative Party had dominated the parliamentary scene for most of the twenty-one years prior.

Besides, had it not been Winston Churchill who had fought the Tories tooth and nail, throughout the thirties, and who had accused them of allowing the country to drift into war?

Why had he attached himself to the Tories anyway?

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 1.34.00 PM

Churchill himself did not add to his own chances.

If the public needed a reminder that he had always been rejected as a peace-time leader on the grounds of bad judgment and instability, they had it, to use a figure of speech, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Overnight the statesman vanished and in his place appeared an irresponsible politician hurling invective at his opponents and offering few proposals of his own.

He sounded the first gun in a radio broadcast telling the country that Socialism would result in a “Gestapo State” taking hold in England. In retrospect it seems that it was a childish blunder, and a huge political mistake, to attack the Labour leaders, like Clement Attlee, Morrison, Bevin, and Cripps, who had won the respect and admiration of the public for their loyal service in his own Winston Churchill’s Wartime Coalition Government. People heard the broadcast at Lord Rothermere’s house and remember the silence when he had finished. “If he continues like that, the election is as good as lost” is what the host said…

But Winston did not change his tactics. Next, he turned his fire on the Chairman of the Labour Party Executive, Professor Laski, insisting that the latter would be the “Boss of any Labour Government that got into power.” Since the Party Chairman is only an annual appointment this was patently nonsense. The Times tried to play down Winston’s attacks but Churchill, buoyantly confident, and with an old-fashioned tendency to regard an election as something of a lark, insisted on reviving his charges at every opportunity.

There is no doubt that the electorate was greatly shaken by his campaign.
People were in a serious mood and wanted facts, not political stunts.
Although the Conservatives put forward a Rve Year Plan under the
guidance of Lord Woolton, it contained few constructive ideas. The result
was that the Conservatives fought the battle equipped with litde more
than Winston Churchill’s photograph while the Socialists went into action with a carefully planned programme. This seemed to confirm the suspicions of the working class that the Prime Minister took little interest in domestic matters. In one speech Winston referred to milk for babies, and the comments of the people in the village where he was staying were: “What’s ‘e know or care about babies’ milk? Guns is his speciality and any time there’s a war we’re glad to let him run it, but when he talks about babies’ milk we know someone’s put him up to it and it’s not him speaking at all.”

Although it was obvious that opinion was hardening against him, even
the pessimists believed he would win, a majority of thirty seats. The result
of the Gallup Poll published in the News-Chronicle showed a landslide
which proved to be accurate within one per cent, but Britain was not
‘poll-conscious’ at the time, and very few people paid any attention to the poll figures.

Two days before polling day, Winston Churchill addressed an enormous gathering
at Walthamstow Stadium on the outskirts of London and was amazed at the amount of opposition and heckling he received. He was interrupted so often he could scarcely get through his speech. When he had finished, his daughter Sarah invited the journalist Virginia Cowles to a private room, to have beer and sandwiches with Winston and his family, before Churchill went on to his next engagement. Knowing her as a war correspondent for the previous eight years — Churchill knew that Virginia had seen a number of countries invaded and overrun by the enemy, and when Churchill saw her he exclaimed: “What a bad omen! For the first time I have my doubts about this election. You only appear when the established regime is crashing to the ground!”

Only him, and no one else had any idea how prophetic his words were to prove…

Still, up until the last moment he was confident of victory, or at least he projected that Churchillian victory swagger. He even arranged a small dinner party in advance to celebrate the results. One of the guests said afterwards that she had never sat through a more depressing meal.
Winston Churchill’s daughters were in tears and the old man himself sat immobile as though, too stunned to speak.

Defeat burned deep into Winston Churchill’s soul. He felt he had been badly treated by an ungrateful population, and when he wrote his first volume on the second World War he allowed himself the bitter comment: “Thus, then, on the night of the tenth of May, at the outset of this mighty battle, I acquired the chief power in the State, which henceforth I wielded in ever-growing measure for five years and three months of world war, at the end of which time, all our enemies having surrendered unconditionally or being about to do so, I was immediately dismissed by the British electorate from all further conduct of their affairs.”

This resentment was unlike Winston, for throughout his long political
life no man had taken greater care to hide his disappointments from public
view. He had always made a point of treating an election as a good healthy
English game with winners and losers shaking hands amiably in the traditional sporting fashion. But in this case the shock and humiliation were too
great and it took him many months to overcome a feeling of deep resentment.

However, as far as Parliament was concerned his manners were distinguished. He refused to allow vindictiveness to creep into his speeches and faced the House with a courage and aplomb which aroused general admiration.

His peculiarly disarming quality of forgive and forget, was expressed when he had bronze plaques made, adorned with the oak and the acorn, which he sent to all those who had served in his war-time Government. Socialists whom he had branded as future “Gestapo leaders” were surprised to receive these souvenirs with their names inscribed bearing the words: “Salute the Great Coalition 1940-1945”

Churchill also managed to retain his sense of humour. When an acquaintance suggested that he should tour England so that the thousands of his own countrymen who had never seen him could have a chance to honor him he growled: “I refuse to be exhibited like a prize bull whose chief attraction is its past prowess.”

Many of Winston Churchill’s friends urged Winston to leave Parliament and devote himself to writing a history of the war.

The Labour Government had already accomplished a measurably huge majority and was bound to run its full course; and it was always possible that it would be reelected for another five years after that. Considering the heavy responsibility that Churchill had carried, and in view of his unique position as the greatest living statesman in the world, they felt it was undignified for him to occupy himself in day to day altercations in the House; he should reserve himself for the big occasions “the Test Matches” as one of them put it, not village cricket. But Winston insisted that he liked village cricket, and as for leaving Parliament, that was unthinkable. “I am a child of the House of Commons” he announced solemnly. His friends then argued that even if he remained in Parliament, he at least should give up the Leadership of the Opposition. It was an exacting job, and undignified for one who could command world attention whenever he chose.

But Winston had no intention of retiring from this position cither. He
knew that the leadership of the Conservative Party was the only course
that might take him bade to No. 10 Downing Street again, and the truth
was that a few months after his defeat he resolved to become Prime Minister again.

He had had enough experience of the back benches to know that real political power only lies in high office. Although he realized that another election probably would not come before he was seventy-five he still felt full of vigour; more important still, the conviction that he could manage things much better than anyone else, which he had carried with him all his life, still burned strongly within him. “It would be easy for me to retire gracefully in an odour of civic freedoms” he told a Conservative Party Conference on the 5th of October, 1945, “and the plan crossed my mind frequently some months ago. I feel now, however, that the situation is so serious and what may have to come so grave, that I am resolved to go forward carrying the flag so long as I have the necessary strength and energy and so long as I have your confidence.”

So to those friends who urged his resignation from the Party leadership, he replied firmly: “My horse may not be a very good one, but at least it’s
better than being in the infantry.”

As Leader of the Opposition it was Winston Churchill’s duty to oppose, and he plunged into the attack against the Labour Government, with obvious relish.

On 28th of November, 1945, he told a large Conservative Party audience that the verdict of the country at the polls was: “a hideous lapse and error in domestic affairs. I hope you will believe that it is with no personal bias, soreness or conceit that I declare that the vote of the nation at the General Election was one of the greatest disasters that has smitten us in our long and chequered history.” These were strong words, and annoying words too, for the electorate does not like being told it is a fool. However, Winston went on to develop the two main themes which were to be his battle-cries for the next five years; first, that the Labour Government by its misguided and spiteful economic policies would lead the country to industrial ruin, and second, because of their doctrinaire and unpatriotic theories they would carry the country towards totalitarianism.”

Neither of these prophecies was fulfilled; in fact, the direct opposite proved true.

Although the Labour Government took over a nation which had exhausted her wealth and resources in a gigantic war effort and was literally facing bankruptcy, five years later, almost to the month, it was in a position to announce that Britain was the first country in Europe able to stand on her own feet and pay her own way. And far from flirting with totalitarianism, under the leadership of Ernest Bevin, the Labour Government not only established itself as a formidable foe of Communism, but was playing a leading role in spreading the democratic faith throughout the world. “Ours is a philosophy in its own right” explained Prime
Minister Atdee in a broadcast in January 1948 saying: “Our task is to work out a system of a new and challenging kind which combines individual freedom with a planned economy; democracy with social justice. The task which faces not only ourselves but all the Western democracies required a Government inspired by a new conception of society with a dynamic policy in accord with the needs of a new situation. It could not be accomplished by any of the old Parties, nor by a totalitarian Party, whether Fascist or Communist.”

The Labour majority of 1945 undoubtedly will take its place alongside the Liberal sweep of 1906, as one of the great reforming Parliaments of British history. But the programme that it carried through, like that of its forerunner, has been so largely accepted by the country as a whole that even from the short perspective of today it is difficult to see what all the fuss was about. A large amount of social legislation was passed which now has the support of most Conservatives, and a number of basic industries were nationalized, almost all of which were in need of vast sums of capital equipment, and which today only a few of the most rabid Tories would like to see back in private hands.

Why, then, the reader may ask, was Winston Churchill’s opposition so violent?

Did he really believe in the disaster he predicted, or was it merely part of
his fight to regain power?

There is litde doubt that in the first years of the Parliament Winston viewed the future with dire apprehension. But it should not be forgotten that home affairs opened up a field of thought for him which had been closed for nearly a generation.

During the ten years before the war he had been wholly absorbed by foreign relations; and during the five years of his Premiership he had been so occupied with military matters that he had delegated the country’s domestic problems to his Labour colleagues. Aside from this, his long political life had not been distinguished for his judgment or understanding of internal issues. Probably the least satisfactory period of his career was the five years between 1924 and 1929 in which he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The cold science of economics had never held the slightest attraction for him. He had a few simple, fundamental views on finance, which had been instilled in him as a youth, and from which he had never deviated. “I was brought up to believe that taxation was a bad thing” he told the House of Commons on 27th of October, 1949, “but the good thing is the increase of the consuming power of the people.”

“It was a good thing I was brought up to believe that trade should be regulated mainly by the laws of supply and demand and that, apart from basic necessaries in great emergencies, the price mechanism should adjust and correct undue spending at home, as it does, apart from gifts and subsidies, control spending abroad … I still hold to these general principles.”

What Winston failed to understand in those grim days after the war was
that Britain was actually facing starvation. It would have been impossible
for any Government, whether Conservative or Socialist, to let the laws of
supply and demand work freely. The country was desperately in need of foodstuffs, fruits, animal protein, consumer goods, durable white goods, cars, tractors, textiles, china, kitchen utensils, office machines, and in fact everything one could mention. Yet unless Britain starved her home markets, she could not export enough goods to feed herself, for she had to buy the raw materials with which to continue manufacturing, and many of these raw materials were in short supply, across the world. This meant that the strictest control on industry was absolutely necessary in order to ensure that the key industries received necessary materials.

Winston did not care to understand these matters and he considers them as theories, but not as practicalities. Maybe because they were contrary to all
the things that he had been taught, and maybe because he refused to open his eyes to the fact that the situation itself, was quite unlike any other that the country had faced at any earlier time.

So this is what he told a Conservative Party meeting in November 1945: “Whoever thought of starving the home trade as a peacetime measure of stimulating exports? Sir Stafford Cripps is under the profound delusion that he can build
up an immense, profitable export trade while keeping everything at the minimum, here at home. Look what he is doing to the motor car industry. He is a great advocate of “Strength through Misery.””

Winston decided that all the controls and restrictions imposed by the
Socialists were merely part of a spiteful ideology. The Government’s
decision to continue high taxation on the largest incomes, in order to be
able to ask the wage earners not to press for larger wages, was construed
by him as pure malice; and the principle of maintaining a rationing system
while goods were in short supply was interpreted as bureaucracy gone
mad. “The Socialist belief” he told a Conservative Rally at Blenheim
Palace on 4 August, 1947 “is that nothing matters so long as miseries are
equally shared, and certainly they have acted in accordance with their

In October of the same year he told the House of Commons: “The reason why we are not able to earn our living and make our way in the world as a vast, complex, civilized country is because we are not allowed to do so. The whole enterprise, initiative, contrivance, and genius, of the British nation is being increasingly paralysed by the restrictions which are imposed upon it in the name of a mistaken political philosophy and a largely obsolete mode of thought. I am sure that this policy of equalizing misery and organizing scarcity, instead of allowing diligence, self-interest and ingenuity, to produce abundance, has only to be prolonged to kill this British Island stone dead.”

During the next five years Churchill painted a horrific picture of what
was happening in Britain. He claimed that the Labour Government was a
disaster almost as great as the second World War; he declared that the
country was “hag-ridden by Socialist doctrines” that it was “torn by feud
and faction, and strangled by incompetence and folly.” He accused the
Labour leaders of “squalid Party motives” of “cheap and bitter abuse” of
‘crazy theories and personal incompetence” and of a “dismal and evil reign.”

These polemics were characteristic of Churchill when he was fighting a
battle. He always saw an issue as a stirring and vital challenge. Fierce
partisanship was the very essence of his nature, and this time, with a glittering prize awaiting the victor, he threw himself into the fray with increased ardor. A large section of Conservative support, however, was embarrassed by his invective, and felt that perhaps he was conjuring up a savage
dragon in order to continue in the role of Britain’s saviour. Even in the
Conservative Parliamentary Party there began to be discontent. Winston
was so unpredictable, they complained. He only made sporadic appearances in the House, and instead of trying to organize the Opposition as a
team, he often made speeches without even consulting his shadow Cabinet.
The Conservatives had not won a single by-election; it was obvious, said
their backbenchers, that they must produce a policy, yet Winston refused
stubbornly to commit himself to any programme. It was rumoured that
he had never even bothered to read the Tory Industrial Charter which
R. A. Butler had produced so painstakingly.

Perhaps things would be better, they whispered, if Winston Churchill resigned, the Opposition leadership post, and Eden took his place. At that point, in 1949, even Picture Post ran an article entitled: “Is Churchill a Liability to the Tories?”

Yet, Lord Beaverbrook’s Sunday Express stoutly replied: “When Winston Churchill is in his scat, the Opposition breathes fire — when he is not, the Tory frontbench has the venom of a bunch of daffodils.”

Although the discontent of the Tory back bench continued, the Members found that it was not easy to remove a leader, and far less easy to remove a leader of Winston Churchill’s leadership stature, personal determination, and formidable powers of diplomatic skill. Although the latter was well aware of the agitation in favour of Eden, he clung firmly to his saddle and remained unperturbed. “When I want to tease Anthony” he remarked slyly to a friend, “I remind him that Gladstone formed his last administration at the age of eighty-four.”

Winston was right to remain unruffled, because when the results of the 1950
General Election, came to be known, Conservative criticism abruptly ceased. The
Tories had cut down Labour’s majority to only six, and this made another
election in the very near future inevitable, and if the swing continued
against the Government, which it was likely to do as long as Britain was
undergoing hardships, Churchill was certain to become Prime Minister again.

Winston also understood that he now had to change his tactics. It was a wise time to do so, for in June of 1950, roughly five months after the election had taken place, his prophecies of industrial disaster had been proved completely false, and Britain was the only country able to forgo the Marshall Aid, two years earlier than what the Brits and the Americans had expected — and she was now able to again start paying her own way.

However, a month later, the war in Korea broke out and before the year was over Attlee had pledged the country to a large defence program, all over again. Rearmament and stockpiling began to send up prices of raw materials all over the world, and England, which had hoped for easier days, found herself confronted with new economic worries. The cost of living was rising, and the terms of trade were moving against her… So these were the issues on which Churchill concentrated, and with good reason, because his program had to be modern and satisfying for the British public.

Yet today, when one looks through the press cuttings between the years 1945-51, one cannot fail to be staggered that even a man of Winston Churchill’s capacity could have poured out such an avalanche of passion, energy, and work. He wrote five volumes of the history of the second World War; he exhibited new paintings at the Royal Academy; he made important speeches in America and half the capitals of Europe; he was the most celebrated figure at all the great functions of the day; he received honorary degrees from the Universities, and civic freedoms from countless cities; he was awarded medals, and he awarded them as well; he signed souvenirs; he addressed rallies upon rallies; and was accorded tumultuous ovations, wherever he went.

At home, he also played the country squire, by acquiring five hundred acres of land near Chartwell house, where he plunged into farming. You see, he loved animals, and was as pleased as a child, with the marmalade kitten his wife gave him, and with the French poodle that was sent to him by a friend. He found dimple delight in his goldfish, and he hung a drawing of his pet cat in an honoured position in his study, and also daily watched after his beautiful black Australian swans with tender solicitude. One day, when a fox killed the mother swan, leaving behind an enraged father, and six three-week-old cygnets he telephoned the superintendent of the Zoo for advice, and a man was sent out to remove the young ones to safety, in order to return them upon maturity. But Winston’s interest in animals did not stop there. In 1949 he took out the chocolate and pink racing colors that both his father and grandfather had used, and bought a colt which soon became famous on the turf and the races, as Colonist II. In 1950 he entered this horse in the Winston Churchill Stakes at Hurst Park in the hope of breaking the run of successes of French owners, who had triumphed every year since the race started in 1946. As a tribute to Churchill the clerk of the course printed on the programme the memorable words starting with:
“Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duties.”

At any rate, his horse the Colonist II, did not win, but he came in second, and Winston was mighty proud and pleased with the result.

Winston Churchill’s work on his history of the second World War was a major operation, that he continued throughout. But he still held to his personal management theory, that it was foolish to indulge in detailed work that others could do for him. His first step, therefore, was to assemble a large and competent staff to check facts, sort material, produce memoranda, collect information, and give advice. He gathered around him naval, military and air experts, scientists, historians and classical scholars, not to mention a competent team of secretaries who worked day and night on eight hour shifts. Winston did all his writing by dictation, sometimes turning out eight or nine thousand words a day.

As the work progressed he began to receive offers for the serial rights from
editors all over the world. “I am not writing a book” Winston commented to a friend: “I am developing a property.” Eventually Life magazine bought the serial rights to the book, for a sum that was said to be near two million dollars.

When all six volumes of the book were published, the literary critics, his fellow Officers, Generals, Politicians, Soldiers, and Historians, all universally hailed it as one of the classics of all time. It stands in a category of its own, for no other great statesman has ever had the ability to write as a great historian; and no great historian has ever been provided with more dramatic material. “When before, through all the centuries of this island’s history, has such a theme matched such a pen?” commented the Spectator.

For recreation, while he was writing his book, Churchill turned back to his old love, painting. During the war he had been forced to abandon this pastime, but now he re-embraced it with enthusiasm, and according to the art critics, painted better pictures than he had ever done before. In 1947, for the first time, he exhibited pictures at the Royal Academy; and when, a few years later, he was asked to contribute a painting to a society of amateur artists he announced that he was “a professional.”

An amusing account of Winston, as an artist, was given by Sir John Rothenstein, an eminent critic and Director of the Tate Gallery. In February 1949 Churchill invited Rothenstein to lunch at Chartwell and told him that he would be grateful for any criticisms of his paintings he would care to make. “Speak, I pray, with absolute frankness” he said, as he led his guest into lunch. “As soon as we sat down” wrote Rothenstein, “he began to talk about Sickert. “He came to stay here” said Winston Churchill, “and in a fortnight he imparted to me all his considered wisdom about painting.”
“He had a room specially darkened to work in, but I wasn’t an apt pupil, for I rejoice in the highest lights and the brightest colors.” “Winston Churchill spoke with appreciation of Sickert’s knowledge of music-halls, and he sang a nineteenth-century ballad Sickert had taught him not just a line or two, but to the end.””

“I think,” he went on, “the person who taught me most about painting was William Nicholson. I noticed you looking, I thought with admiration, at those drawings he made of my beloved cat.”

“Back in the studio” continued Rothenstein, “fortified by a bottle of
champagne, I found his invitation to give my opinion of his work without
reserve much less alarming. Winston Churchill was so exhilarating and so
genial a companion that, before I had been with him a few hours, the
notion of speaking with absolute frankness seemed as natural as it had
earlier seemed temerarious.”

“My first detailed criticism of one of his paintings had an unexpected,
indeed a startling, result. I offered the opinion, with regard to a landscape
a wood on the margin of a lake that the shore was too shallow, too
lightly modelled and too pale in tone to support the weight of the heavy
trees with their dense, dark foliage, so that, instead of growing up out of
the earth, they weighted it down. “Oh,” Winston Churchill said, “but I can
put that right at once; it would take less than a quarter of an hour,” and
he began to look out the brushes and colours. “But surely this painting,”
I said, “must be among your earliest.” “I did it about twenty years ago.”
“Well then,” I objected, “surely it is impossible for you to recapture the
mood in which you painted it or indeed your whole outlook of those
days.” “You are really persuaded of that?” he grumbled, abandoning with
evident reluctance the notion of repainting.”

Sir John Rothenstein’s verdict on Winston Churchill’s work was that “he is
able to paint pictures of real merit which bear a direct and intimate relation to his outlook on life. In these pictures there comes bubbling irrepressibly up his sheer enjoyment of the simple beauties of nature.”
The highest peaks of his achievement, in Rothenstein’s opinion, are “The
Goldfish Pool at Chartwell (1948), The Loup River, Alpes Maritimes (1947), Chartwell under Snow (1947), and Cannes Harbour, Evening (1923).” These and twenty other paintings have been exhibited at the Royal Academy, as described in the book, “Winston Churchill: The Artist” by Sir John Rothenstein.

Although Winston Churchill’s work as a Party leader paved the way for his
return to No. 10 Downing Street, it was the least important and least distinguished of his activities during his six years in opposition. From a
political point of view, his most valuable contribution came in the old,
familiar fidd of foreign affairs. On home subjects he was the party
politician, but on world problems he never failed to fulfil his part as the
great world statesman.

As far as foreign policy was concerned there was no break or defection
in the course Churchill had pursued for the last forty years. He still believed it vitally necessary to build up a strong balance of power against any nation which threatened to dominate the European continent; but now no balance could be decisive without commitments from the United States. Winston’s foreign policy was dear-cut and simple; first, the fraternal association with America which he had preached to Roosevelt without success; and second, a Western Europe united against aggression to which America and Britain would pledge their mutual aid. This was exactly the same policy that Churchill had advocated against the German
threat in the thirties, but in those days most of the countries of Europe
preferred to act independently, and the United States insisted on remain-
ing aloof.

In view of the consistency of Winston Churchill’s thought, it seems surprising that his speech, delivered in Fulton, Missouri, on 5 March, 1946, should have caused such a sensation. But the war had ended only eight months previously and many Americans still clung to Roosevelt’s belief that there was a special affinity between the Russian and American people; and that goodwill and cooperation were bound to blossom with mutual trust. Churchill made it clear to his audience that he considered this a sentimental daydream and pointed harshly to the facts:
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe The Communist Parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-
eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control Police government is prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy.”

This speech was of historic importance. It marked the end of Roosevelt’s policy of blind trust towards the Soviet Union, and marked the beginning of Winston Churchill’s policy of peace through strength, based on the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples.”

I will venture to be precise, he told his listeners: “Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relationship between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instruction, and to the interchange of officers and cadets at technical colleges.”

Today, this close association is no longer a dream but the chief factor in maintaining the peace in Europe. The Anglo-American Transantlantic relationship is the cornerstone of NATO and even of the ASEAN alliance.

Winston Churchill’s second goal, a united Europe, was far less clearly defined in his mind than his relationship with America. What part was Britain to play? Was she to encourage continental Europe to form a federal bloc, but to stand aloof herself retaining a position as the third point of the triangle between United Europe and the United States? Or was she to consider herself not only part of Europe, but the leader and organizer of Europe, and, as such, to head a powerful union which could talk to the United States on equal terms with equal power behind it?

At first it is clear that Winston favoured this second course. The vision
of Europe as a single entity had been the dream of conquerors for centuries past; now with a leader of Winston’s stature its realization seemed
to move into the realms of possibility by goodwill and mutual desire
alone. There was such an upsurge of feeling for the idea that Churchill
had no difficulty in forming an all-party European Movement to promote
the aim of ultimate unification. In a speech at the Albert Hall in London on
14 May, 1947, he started the ball rolling but he was careful not to commit
himself to any definite action: “It is not for us at this stage to attempt to
define or prescribe the structure of constitutions. We ourselves are con-
tent, in the first instance, to present the idea of United Europe, in which
our country will play a decisive part, as a moral, cultural and spiritual
conception to which we can all rally without being disturbed by divergences about structure. It is for the responsible statesmen, who have the
conduct of affairs in their hands and the power of executive action, to
shape and fashion the structure. It is for us to lay the foundation, to create
the atmosphere and give the driving impulsion.”

The European Movement began to gather followers all over the Continent and almost exactly a year later, in May 1948, a momentous “Congress of Europe” representing a dozen nations assembled at The Hague. Churchill made a stirring speech calling on the Governments of Western Europe to authorize a European Assembly which would enable its voice “to make itself continuously heard and we trust with every growing acceptance through all the free countries of the Continent. And this time he went further toward the federal idea. “The Movement for European Unity must be a positive force, deriving its strength from our sense of common spiritual values. It is impossible to separate economics and
defence from the general political structure. Mutual aid in the economic
field and joint military defence must inevitably be accompanied step by
step with a parallel policy of closer political unity. It is said with truth that this involves some sacrifice or merger of national sovereignty.”

As a result of the Hague Conference, twelve Governments including the
Labour Government of Britain, authorized the setting up of the “Council of
Europe.” The first meeting of the historic assembly took place in Strasbourg in the summer of 1949. Those who travelled to attend this meeting, arrived to find the whole city festooned in an atmosphere of celebration.
The green and white flags of United Europe fluttered from all the buildings,
the restaurants were garlanded and festooned, and cameramen and reporters from all over the world arrived to record the proceedings. Winston Churchill was given a luxurious villa and provided with one of the best cooks in France. United Europe would be born with all the refinements that civilization could

But Winston Churchill’s speech, which was regarded as the highlight of the
conference, came as a startling douche of cold water. Once so warm and
enthusiastic about United Europe, he shocked and chilled the assembly by
his sudden indifference. He made it clear that he was not in favour of an
overall authority and talked in terms that were so vague as to be almost
meaningless. “I am not myself committed to a federal or any other particular solution at this stage. We must thoroughly explore all the various
possibilities, and a committee, working coolly and without haste, should,
in a few months, be able to show the practical steps which would be most
helpful to us. … To take a homely and familiar test, we may just as well
see what the girl looks like before we marry her.”

What happened to Churchill in the twelve months since the Hague Conference? Why had he changed his mind about the part Britain should play?

The most obvious answer was the fact that in Britain itself there was
practically no support for the federal idea. Although Winston had collected a handful of English intellectuals and politicians, most of the enthusiasm for United Europe came from the Continent and not from England.
Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party were dead-set and seriously
against any commitment which might impair British sovereignty. And
since politics is the art of what is possible, and a General Election was only
a few months away, it is clear that Winston felt compelled to heed public

Apart from this however, Churchill himself was cooling off on the idea of a supreme European political authority. The more he studied the implications of a
United Europe with Britain as a member state, the less he liked it. After all, Britain was the most heavily developed industrial power in Europe carrying a standard of living far higher than her other European neighbors. Eventual federation of European States, must mean a common currency and a common financial budget. Yet it was well known in England that Continentals, and especially French, Spanish, and the Italians, did not like to pay their taxes, and some of their civil services were notoriously corrupt. Therefore, could this mean that the British public would find itself financing its Continental neighbors? And because of the lower standard of living on the Continent; would foreign goods swamp the British markets and cause British unemployment to rise? And would it be wise to allow foreign legislatures, some of them riddled with Communism, Socialism, and Corruption, to control British coal and steel; on which the very survival of the nation depended?

The more Churchill examined the economic consequences of Union — the less he liked it; and the more he studied British reactions the less he was convinced that his proud and insular countrymen would ever give their sanction to such a course. One needs only to recall the national reaction in 1940, when the Continent was overrun and England stood alone, to realize how difficult such a step would have been. In those days English people received the news of the fall of France and the safe return of the British Army with open relief after the Dunkirk evacuations. “Now we’re together again” they sighed, “Now everything will be all right.”

Churchill’s Dunkirk deliverance speech is a telling example of that sentiment… One must hear that of one’s own sake and deliverance.
So here it goes:

Yet at that day, the Federalists on the Continent were bitterly disappointed by Churchill’s change of heart, because during the war he had offered to the French leadership the possibility of a common citizenship with England, and had even talked the same language to the United States. And indeed, a great vision glowed in his mind which still burned brightly in the first years of the post-war era. He talked of a “transformation of the Western world” and referred to a “Federal Constitution for Europe” saying: “I hope this maybe eventually achieved.”

Now he had come round to the view of Mr Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, that the only possibility as far as Great Britain was concerned, was “inter-governmental co-operation.” But this was a crushing blow to the Continental Unionists, because it meant the end of any hope of a Parliament of all Europe. As Mr Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, announced in November of 1949, “Without Britain there can be no Europe.” He might also have added: “Without Churchill there can be no European Union” for it is clear that no other man save Winston Churchill, could have aroused the enthusiasm, or would have commanded the worldwide following that would have made the transformation of the mosaic of European states to a United States of Europe; possible.

Without Winston Churchill’s support the grand design of a “United Europe” faltered, and almost perished. But in its stead came the beginnings of a smaller yet more solid federation, between the first six of the Continental countries, and a closer understanding between all the nations of Western Europe emerged; in all matters economic, military, and ideological.

This was indeed far more, than anyone had ever hoped for before…

And as Winston might have said: “From a small acorn a great oak will be born.”

Another person might be able to say, that the whole dream has been fulfilled.

But even in today’s world — project Europe is far from complete, because the German desire for Central Teutonic Control has driven all others to despair and towards the Exit…

BREXIT was never as well understood, as when we contemplate Winston’s stinger about our German brothers and sisters: “The Huns are like their dobermans. They will either be at your feet, or at your throat. There is nothing in between.”

And that appears to be the prophetic element of his apprehensions about a United States of Europe.

Sadly there is no position in between… with the Germans.

But we need to keep on searching, for that dynamic equilibrium of balance, with equity, amongst all the nations of Continental Europe, even if it is a remote and unachievable ideal.

We must persist because this continued involvement in the search for a European Union, is what will keep the hope for Peace amongst the continentals; fully alive.


To be continued:

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: