Summer 1925 (Age 50)

“…I am getting my own way in nearly everything.”

Churchill’s Finance Bill was making its way through the House. “…I am driving forward at least ten large questions, and many smaller ones all inter-related and centering on the Budget,” he wrote his wife on June 5th. “So far I am getting my own way in nearly everything. But it is a most laborious business, so many stages having to be gone through, so many people having to be consulted, and so much detail having to be mastered or explored in one way or another.”

In the same letter, Churchill explained one of his techniques for getting support: “I am seeing a great deal of my colleagues now through the week end parties, and also at lunch and dinner in Downing Street….” Doubtless he needed the friendly talk because his words in debate were still sharp and cutting. Responding on 9 June to criticism of the Government’s reintroduction of the wartime McKenna Duties to raise revenues and compensate for his across-the-board income tax cuts, Churchill observed that the Duties had “been voted for again and again during the last ten years, and in the Great War, when the troops of the Dominions were sent to our aid from all parts of the world, when we were fighting for our lives, [and] when the hon. and gallant Gentleman was playing a much more useful part in the defence of the country than he is playing at the present time below the Gangway.”

C. P. Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, recounts that during a dinner party on 30 June with the Polish Ambassador present, Churchill “talked incessantly” and proffered advice, prescient but unwelcome, on Polish relations with Germany, arguing “that Poland should by all means cultivate the friendship of Germany. Else, if Germany were driven back on Russian support, Poland in the end would be crushed between them.”

During July, the crisis in the coal industry came to a head with the owners threatening wage cuts and the miners a strike. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin formed a Special Cabinet Committee headed by Churchill, which proposed a £10 million mine subsidy over nine months to avert the wage cut. Churchill’s old rival, Neville Chamberlain, praised WSC’s debate performance in a private letter to Baldwin: “…I think our Chancellor has done very well, all the better because he hasn’t been what he was expected to be. He hasn’t dominated the Cabinet, though undoubtedly he has influenced it: he hasn’t tied us up to pedantic Free Trade, though he is a bit sticky about Safeguarding of Industries. He hasn’t intrigued for the leadership, but he has been a tower of debating strength….What a brilliant creature he is! But there is somehow a great gulf fixed between him and me which I don’t think I shall ever cross. I like him. I like his humour and his vitality. I like his courage….But not for all the joys of Paradise would I be a member of his staff! Mercurial! a much abused word, but it is the literal description of his temperament.”

In July, Churchill played polo for the House of Commons team against the House of Lords. He would continue to play the game until 1927 (see Finest Hour 72).

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