It really had to happen

Posted by Helen Wednesday, April 05, 2006

On April 5, 1955 Sir Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister because of failing health. Alternatively, one might say, he was finally persuaded by his despairing colleagues that the state of his health could no longer be hidden from the relatively inquisitive media (can anyone imagine the media not commenting on such facts now?) and the public.

The BBC’s historical archive has an article and a video of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arriving on the previous evening at Number Ten for a dinner, hosted by the Prime Minister and Lady Churchill.

It is so difficult to summarize or even be fair about Churchill’s career. Perhaps, we should have an issue of the Conservative History Journal dedicated to it. At the very least, a meeting might be a good idea. But, sadly, the great man’s second ministry was a mistake, not just because of his age and health but because of his socialistic, Whig paternalistic views of domestic politics.

Many of the problems the country faced in the subsequent decades may have been created during and immediately after the war but they were intensified under Churchill's peacetime premiership.

1 Responses to It really had to happen

  1. John Barnes Says:
  2. I think you are less than fair to Churchill's second government (should it not be labelled his third?)Signing up to GATT, virtually ending controls, apart alas from exchange control, some measures of denationalisation, all would suggest a degree of economic liberalism that wasn't on offer once Macmillan was firmly in the saddle. And Churchill himself until his stroke was far from ineffective, if not the driving force of the wartime years. Talking with those who served, both politicians and civil servants, in the early '50s reveals a clear consensus that he was non compos in his last six months, but much more dispute about the earlier months in 1954. Might be an excellent issue to do, not on Churchill himself, but on that government. Maggie at times saw it as a precursor, at others part of butskellism. Which view was correct? As you can sense my view is that we have postwar history wrong. We underestimate the socialism of the Attlee Governments, therefore we underrate the importance of the 1951-55 government in rolling back socialism and tend to underplay the part Macmillan played after 1959 in revisiting the corporatist strain in Tory politics.

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