Spring 1934 (Age 59)

Many of Churchill’s friends and even some of his critics felt that respect for him was growing. Beaverbrook noted that “he has cut the rhetoric and gained dignity.” A major incident was to change this perception.

Word reached Churchill that Lord Derby and Sir Samuel Hoare had pressured the Manchester Chamber of Commerce not to speak against the India White Paper proposals on the cotton industry. The initial evidence presented to the House by Churchill resulted in an investigation by a Committee of Privileges. Although Government leaders dominated the Committee they resented the entire incident. Indeed, Hoare and Baldwin saw it as an attempt by Churchill to bring down the Government. The bitter Hoare even castigated Churchill personally and charged that Winston and his son “fight like cats with each other and chiefly agree on the prodigious amount of champagne that each of them drinks each night.”

The Committee voted unanimously that there had been no breach of privileges by Hoare and Derby. Churchill’s vehement attack on the Report in the House of Commons induced considerable hostility in the Conservative Party and both Clement Attlee of Labour and Churchill’s friend, Archibald Sinclair of the Liberals, welcomed the Report. All parties questioned his motives at the time. Evidence now indicates that while Churchill was correct in his charges, he was politically inept in his handling of the incident.

The battle over India was not to the total exclusion of his concern over Germany, but it was an isolated Churchill, bereft of the confidence of the House, who railed against “the monstrosity of the totalitarian state in Germany.” The German people, he wrote, had reverted to the conditions of the Middle Ages “with all the modern facilities and aggravations.”

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