Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Conservatives used to hate Winston Churchill

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There was a time when the Conservatives hated Winston Churchill. When Asquith asked the Tories to join a coalition government in 1915 their leader Andrew Bonar Law had only one condition: the Churchill should be removed from his position as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The Tories were no better disposed to him eight years later, judging by how the Tory Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported the party's disappointing showing in the 1923 general election:

Three Great "Advantages" 

It was by Unionist votes that the Liberals defeated the Parsee Communist, Mr. Saklatvala, in North Battersea. This, the defeat of Mr. Joseph King elsewhere, and the failure Mr. Churchill to gain West Leicester, are three great advantages the country and suffice to offset the return of that doctrinaire Liberal, Mr. Charles Masterman. A very advanced Labour man has snatched a seat from the Liberals Bethnal Green.

There are some interesting characters here. Shapurji Saklatvala had been elected in 1922 with Labour support and was to win Battersea North again without it in 1924 before losing in 1929. My mother, who grew up in Battersea, remembered there being a Communist Party shop there in the 1930s or perhaps during the war.

Joseph King was the defeated Labour candidate in York in 1923 after having sat as a Liberal in North Somerset from 1910 to 1918. He was sympathetic to the Bolshevik government in Moscow and published a book on the danger posed by Hitler as early as 1922.

Churchill and Masterman my readers will know. Churchill had fought Leicester West for the Liberal Party and lost, while Masterman had gained Manchester Rusholme - he was defeated there the following year.

And the "very advanced Labour man" must be Walter Windsor, who sat for Bethnal Green from 1923 to 1929, and from 1935 to 1945.

It is telling that Churchill is listed among such Tory bogeymen and that Masterman was too.


David Raw said...

Just for once, I am forced to agree with the Tory stance on Churchill in May, 1915. Although others cannot avoid blame (especially Kitchener) he was responsible for the most terrible foul up in the Dardanelles, was incapable of accepting his responsibility for it, and had behaved most recklessly at Antwerp in 1914.

Where the Tories were wrong was in demanding the exit of R.B. Haldane... something which Asquith should have resisted.

As for Joseph King, he made some very perceptive speeches on 3 August, 1914 on the eve of WW1. Well worth reading. See Hansard, 9 speeches — WAR IN EUROPE. Commons August 3, 1914.

David Loxton said...

I don’t think that getting Churchill out of the Admiralty was a party political move. It was obvious common sense. Churchill was a terrible First Lord of the Admiralty - twice! He learned nothing from the Dardanelles disaster, insisting on repeating it in Norway on his second stint.