‘A Period of National Humiliation and Decline’
‘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.’1 So wrote Winston Churchill retrospectively of his appointment as British Prime Minister in 1940, and of his dismissal from that office as a consequence of the defeat of the Conservative Party that he led in the General Election of 1945. ‘This is not necessarily the end’, Churchill said of his defeat at the time,2 and this more immediate judgement proved to be the sounder one in the sense that he was to be Prime Minister once more as soon afterwards as 1951, and Conservative Governments then ruled until 1964. Churchill was not to leave the centre of the British political stage until 1955, and he was not to die until 1965, but in or out of office, alive or dead, Churchill was a Ghost in the Machine of British politics, a reminder of the country’s Finest Hour in 1940, and a symbol of Britain’s continuing aspiration to be a Great Power, which, of course, he articulated better than anybody else.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.