Winter 1949-1950 (Age 75)

“One More Heave Before The Year Is Out”

After spending Christmas at Chartwell, Churchill traveled to Madeira with his wife and daughter, Diana, intending to spend several weeks in the sun, painting and working on the fourth volume of his memoirs of World War II. Clement Attlee had different ideas. With Churchill safely out of the country, Attlee announced early in January that a General Election would be held on February 23rd. Churchill promptly flew back to London on January 12th and took command of the Conservatives’ campaign. Churchill not only served as the Conservatives’ chief spokesman but their chief copy editor as well. Revising the Tory election manifesto, Churchill blue pencilled “it is our intention to initiate consultations with the Unions” and substituted “we shall consult with the Unions.”

The Gallup polls showed the Conservatives with a narrow three percentage-point lead, when Churchill gave his first speech of the campaign, a radio broadcast on January 21. He attacked the economic conditions engendered by five years of Socialist rule, accusing the Socialists of pursuing a policy of “equalizing misery and organizing scarcity” and contrasting that with his view of a society based on “the establishment and maintenance of a basic standard of life and labour below which a man or a woman, however old or weak, shall not be allowed to fall. . . . Above the basic standard there will be free opportunity to rise. Everyone will be allowed to make the best of himself, without jealously or spite, by all the means that honour and the long respected laws of our country allow.”

In a speech on January 28th at the Woodford County School for Girls, Churchill appealed to consumers in his attack on the Socialist plans to nationalize industries: “Prosperous and well-managed industries, like cement and sugar and chemicals, are to be nationalized so that the consumer will have to pay more for their products, as he does for coal and electricity and transport, and so that a new horde of officials can be set up over them with new vistas of patronage opening out to Socialist politicians. Having made a failure of everything they have so far touched, our Socialist planners now feel it necessary to get hold of a few at present prospering industries so as to improve the general picture and the general results. There appears to be no plan or principle in the selection of these industries, except caprice and appetite. It does not matter how well they are now managed, how well they are serving the public, how much they sustain our export trade, how good are the relations between management and labour.”

Churchill even cited his old Liberal colleague, Lloyd George, in support of his attacks on the Socialists. Speaking in Wales on February 8th, he quoted from a speech Lloyd George gave about 25 years earlier: “You cannot trust the battle of freedom to Socialism. Socialism has no interest in liberty. Socialism is the very negation of liberty. Socialism means the community in bonds. If you establish a Socialist community it means the most comprehensive universal and pervasive tyranny that this country has ever seen.”

In this election Churchill’s efforts came to naught as the Labour Party returned with a narrow majority of only six seats. But Labour had lost 78 seats while the Conservatives had gained 85 seats, thereby laying a foundation for another election in the near future, one Churchill privately predicted would come within the year. “One more heave before the year is out,” he wrote to a friend. But the heave was not to come until October, 1951.

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