CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL: “A blessing in disguise”

This entry is part of 4 in the series Clementine Churchill: The Power Behind the Throne

“Winston,” Clementine spoke with an urgency that compelled her husband to listen. “I beg you not to make that odious and invidious reference.”

I’m often asked by mystified audiences why Churchill, having led us to an impossible victory, was ousted so unceremoniously in the 1945 general election. Although there are three schools of thought the truth is simple: he didn’t listen to Clementine.

“No Socialist Government…could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance.”

Once the war in Europe was over, the Labour Party led by Clement Attlee, forced Churchill to dissolve the Coalition Government and seek re-election. Clementine hoped that with peace, Churchill would opt for a quieter life and leave office the hero who saved us all. “I am not yet ready to be put on a pedestal,” Churchill told my grandfather Duncan Sandys. Churchill firmly believed that he still had much to offer his recovering country and confidently went to the polls, dismissing all the warnings Clementine had given.

From the moment Churchill made the reference he felt support slipping through his fingers. Many who had been fighting on the various fronts were Socialists, and they had watched over the passing years as their friends and family were mercilessly attacked by the evil that Churchill espoused them to be like. ‘Papa broadcasts tonight,’ Clementine wrote to my great-aunt Mary just before he was due to make the third of his four scheduled election broadcasts. ‘He is very low, poor Darling. He thinks he has lost his “tough” and he grieves about it.’ The Socialists used his Gestapo comment to paint the picture of a two-faced Churchill, one was the great wartime leader ‘who led the nation to victory’, but the other was callous and cruel, depicting an old, tired and out-of-touch party leader who could ‘not be trusted in peacetime.’

Election night arrived and although opinion polls had indicated a slight swing to the left, none had predicted the landslide defeat that threw Churchill from office. The night before the result was declared Churchill tossed and turned in bed. ‘Just before dawn,’ he wrote, ‘I woke suddenly with a sharp stab of almost physical pain. A hitherto subconscious conviction that we were beaten broke forth and dominated my mind.’ As the morning dawned, Churchill’s nightmare was confirmed. ‘Every minute brought news of the defeat of friends, relations and colleagues.’

In the face of sad reality, Churchill still maintained his sense of irony and humor. Clementine placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “It may be a blessing in disguise.” Churchill merely looked up at her and fighting tears back he replied: “Well, at the moment it’s certainly very well disguised.”

As quickly as possible Clementine packed so they could seamlessly leave Number 10 and allow the Attlee’s to move in. The new Prime Minister was gracious to his old adversary and allowed Churchill the chance to spend one last weekend at the Prime Minister’s country residence: Chequers. On their last evening the Churchills held a party, but even that failed to soften the bitterness and humiliation of the blow.

Without the authority to lead the effort and conclude the Second World War, Clementine feared that Churchill would simply crumble. Polling Day had left them homeless, and thankfully my grandparents were in a position to offer Clementine and Winston their Westminster flat until they secured another home. Churchill had seen a property in Hyde Park Gate, and it was there that they eventually settled, and there he finally passed away in 1965.

Far from defeated, Churchill dismissed the result of the election and refocused his efforts. Churning out his memoires of the Second World War occupied his time along with painting, opposition leadership, and family life. In 1946 at Westminster College, Fulton, the Bulldog rose again and warned the free-world of the second greatest threat to peace: Communism. In the presence of President Truman Churchill spoke out in words that made most uncomfortable, but once again, as he had warned of the threat of the Nazis, Churchill was proved right, but the world was just not ready to accept it.

*This series represents extracts from the speech – CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL: The Power Behind the Throne – For more information, please visit: ClemmieChurchill.com – or email Jonathan at: sandys@churchillinternational.com


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ARE YOU KEEPING SCORE?

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Lead Like Churchill

“It is a fine game to play the game of politics,
and it is well worth a good hand before really plunging.”
Winston S. Churchill

Jonathan with Business Coach & Author Keith Cunningham

On Monday I had the pleasure of going to the Business Excellence Forum and Awards. We heard from some great business leaders such as Keys To The Vault expert Keith Cunningham, BNI founder Dr. Ivan Misner, and Travis Bell, The Bucket List Guy.

Keith, like Warren Buffett, maintains that each business needs a scoreboard, and the scoreboard gives you vital optics so you can plot your path to success. Buffett believed that if you can’t read the scoreboard, you can’t tell the winners from the losers. Sound advice for us all, but reflecting on Churchill in his time, imagine how much more important that scoreboard would have been.

If you have ever visited Churchill’s underground bunker: The Cabinet War Rooms, you would agree that potentially one of the most understated rooms is the Map Room. Peering through the glass, one is immediately struck by the cramped space in this tiny room that was of such great significance. The bank of corded telephones in the centre channel of the desk, where up to five operators would sit incessantly taking and making calls, brings the technology advancements of today into perspective. Imagine how busy they would have been, especially during the Blitz! For me, it is incredible to think that Churchill masterminded the victory in 1945 with one computer (courtesy of Alan Turing), basic communications, and maps.

Inside the Map Room

This world map represented the scoreboard Churchill frequently checked to strategically plan his next move. Keith told us that the key to using the business scoreboard is knowing how to interpret it. A scoreboard gives you numbers, but those numbers then need to be converted into actions, and they determine whether you are on the right track, or need to make a course adjustment.

There were many battles during the Second World War, and at times we were badly losing in the field. In those moments, Churchill would view his scoreboard, convert the numbers to determine how his strategy should adjust.

In business today we all need that scoreboard. As leaders we need to know how to measure and how to convert those numbers into strategy. Our scoreboard will show us the reality of how our product is being welcomed in the market place, and how are team is performing. ‘When you learn the tools that work, you get the results that are possible.’ – Keith Cunningham.


“ARE YOU KEEPING SCORE?” is part of the Lead Like Churchill Series

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“This is your victory!”

“This is your victory!”

Churchill waves to the crowd from Ministry of Health building

Churchill waves to the crowd from Ministry of Health building

Standing atop the Ministry of Health building, Great-Grandpapa’s voice echoed out to the thousands of men, woman and children gathered in the streets below. Amongst the crowd were the two Princesses, Margaret and Elizabeth, (now Her Majesty the Queen). Great cheers went-up, forcing Churchill to pause for a moment so his words could be heard. “It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land,” he said, and again the crowd cheered loudly.

Germany signs unconditional surrender

Germany signs unconditional surrender

Hitler, having committed suicide on April 30, left a devastated Germany whose new leaders, even in the face of obvious defeat, attempted to struggle on without regard for the futility of their evil cause, or the further cost of human life. Finally, on May 7th at Reims, General Jodl, on behalf of the Supreme Commander of the German Armed Forces, and as the representative of the new Reich President, Grand Admiral Dönitz, signed the document of Germany’s unconditional surrender. To allow time for the messages to be received by all commanders on the battlefields, a cut-off point of midnight was allowed, but after that time, any German soldier resisting would be shot.

The Second World War was finally at an end and Europe could breathe again. Peace had been restored, and it was hoped that peace would last many more years than the twenty-one years between the two world wars. Sadly, in 1946, Stalin raised an iron curtain in Europe, marking the beginning of the Cold War. Although this was more a continued threat than a war, it was, as Churchill put it, “A shadow…upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory.”

Churchill’s Coalition Government Front row left to right: Ernest Bevin, Lord Beaverbrook, Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Sir John Anderson, Mr A Greenwood, Sir Kingsley Wood.  Back row left to right: Sir Edward Bridges, SIr Charles Portal, Sir A Sinclair, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Dudley Pound, Mr Alexander, Lord Cranborne, Herbert Morrison, Lord Moyne, Captain Margesson, Brendan Bracken, Sir John Dill, Major General Sir Hastings Ismay and Sir Alexander Cadogan

Churchill’s Coalition Government
Front row left to right: Ernest Bevin, Lord Beaverbrook, Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Sir John Anderson, Mr A Greenwood, Sir Kingsley Wood.
Back row left to right: Sir Edward Bridges, SIr Charles Portal, Sir A Sinclair, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Dudley Pound, Mr Alexander, Lord Cranborne, Herbert Morrison, Lord Moyne, Captain Margesson, Brendan Bracken, Sir John Dill, Major General Sir Hastings Ismay and Sir Alexander Cadogan

At the conclusion of the Second World War, Churchill disbanded the Coalition Government he had formed on his appointment as Prime Minister on May 10, 1940. It was time for the people to vote for the leader they wanted to take them forward in this peace, and everyone expected Great-Grandpapa to win without a fight. However, Churchill’s integrity forbade him from taking the people’s will for granted. “In our parliamentary system,” he told the Norwegian Parliament in 1948, “we can be assured that the will of the people will always find open and free expression. With us,” he continued, “the government is the servant of the people and not its master.”

Churchill at Chartwell

Churchill at Chartwell

The General Election was called and Churchill campaigned as hard as he had before. Always welcomed with cheers and standing ovations from expectant crowds, it boosted the confident belief in a Conservative Party victory. Much to the shock of the country, and indeed Churchill himself, in July 1945, Clement Atlee, leader of the Labour Party, was elected as Prime Minister of Great Britain. “It may be a blessing in disguise,” my great-grandmother Clementine told her depressed husband. Great-Grandpapa looked up and with a sad and dejected expression, shock his head and mumbled, “Well, at the moment it’s certainly very well disguised.”

In many of the questions and answers sessions at the end of my speeches on Great-Grandpapa’s life, times and leadership, I am asked to offer a reason behind Churchill’s 1945 election defeat. Historians have highlighted three possible explanations, and over the years I have formed my own opinion.

Churchill and Russia

Berlin Wall being erected

Berlin Wall being erected

It was well known that Great-Grandpapa was hurt by Roosevelt’s dominance and what he saw as a betrayal of friendship at Yalta, when it was agreed that at the conclusion of the Second World War, assuming a general Allied victory, a third of Europe would be ceded to Russia as a reward for their service. Churchill’s view was that we had not fought five long and arduous years of war to free Europe from one dictator, merely to give a third of it to another. “If now the Soviet Government tries, by separate action, to build up a pro-Communist Germany in their areas,” Churchill warned in his 1946 Fulton speech, “this will cause new serious difficulties in the British and American zones, and will give the defeated Germans the power of putting themselves up to auction between the Soviets and the Western Democracies.”

Part of the Berlin Wall

Part of the Berlin Wall

Churchill was very anxious that Germany progress as it was later allowed to do but only after the Berlin Wall fell and the reunification of Germany began in 1990. He stated, “…this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.” Many believe that Great-Grandpapa, so determined in his prediction of what later become known as the Cold War, would have happily started a new war against Russia, and there were indeed many who shared his view of the rising threat.

The people’s revenge

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin

The second school of thought and one that I believe carries less weight than others, was that it was a back-lash response aimed at the Conservative Party from the British people for leaving Britain so unprepared when war was declared in 1939. Although this certainly was factually correct, Churchill, now a national hero, seen as the mastermind of the Allied victory, had not been part of the 1930s governments.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain

Therefore, if this were to be correct the people would have blamed Churchill equally for the situation. Great-Grandpapa’s own assessment in his first book on the Second World War, The Gathering Storm, diminishes this argument greatly: ‘Eleven years in the political wilderness had freed me from ordinary party antagonisms…My warnings,’ he wrote, ‘had been so numerous, so detailed, and were now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me.’ The British people had heard his lone voice calling out during that time, but it was the governments of Stanley Baldwin and later Neville Chamberlain that had allowed Hitler to rise unchallenged, ‘I could not be reproached,’ Great-Grandpapa wrote, ‘either for making the war or with want of preparation for it.’

Socialist “Gestapo”

Winston & Clementine Churchill

Winston & Clementine Churchill

It has been said many times that behind every successful man there is a wise and patient woman, and although I do not entirely agree, as many single men have made it alone, I do subscribe to the view that many men, including myself, would not have been successful without the full support and dedication of their wives. This was no less true of Churchill. Many times Great-Grandmamma saved Great-Grandpapa from himself, and each time it made Churchill a better man. However, on one occasion Great-Grandpapa refused to listen, and I believe the result cost him the 1945 election.

While preparing his notes for a national election radio broadcast set for release on June 4, 1945, Churchill unwisely stated that the Socialist Party’s ideals of a government that conducts “the entire life and industry of the country,” would not be able to “afford to allow [the people] free, sharp, or violently worded expressions of public discontent.” Although his intention was to warn the people of some of the traits of socialism, his comment was clearly likening the Socialist Party to the Nazis. “Socialism is, in its essence, an attack not only upon British enterprise, but upon the right of the ordinary man or woman to breathe freely without having a harsh, clumsy, tyrannical hand clapped across their mouths and nostrils.” When Great-Grandmamma heard him read the draft, she was shocked. Clementine Churchill advised her husband not to make this remark, but Churchill refused to heed her. Not satisfied with the innuendo alone, Churchill drove the nail in deeper saying that they, the Socialists, “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. And this would nip opinion in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies of civil servants, no longer servants and no longer civil.”

Churchill Election Campaigning

Churchill Election Campaigning

Churchill’s comment on this occasion was out-of-line. Although he loathed socialism, to compare the British Socialists to the Nazis on any level, or intimate that they might be driven to a similar Hitlerian holocaust if their ‘humanely directed’ attempts to stop free speech failed, was going too far.

I am certainly not a Socialist myself, more a Conservative-Libertarian, and although I see certain truths behind what Great-Grandpapa was trying to convey, unless the Socialists began a true holocaust, or formally ended free-speech, they could not, in my opinion, be likened even closely to the Nazis.

The result of the 1945 election was formally announced in late-July. In the two months following VE-Day, Churchill’s approval rating had plummeted way below the 78% he had maintained since that May. The Socialist Party won a landslide victory and the world stood shocked at the result.

Had Great-Grandpapa listened to the wise advice of my great-grandmother, the result may well have been different. However, having served the country, holding it together through the darkest and most desperate times we have yet witnessed, the blessing of rest may well have given him the opportunity to fight again and return as Prime Minister in 1951. Churchill, by this time, was in his seventies. He had been a Member of Parliament for forty-five years, tirelessly campaigning for the rights of the people and the interests of our nation. It was during this break that he began one of his greatest works, the history of The Second World War, which for many years stood alone as the authority on the British-side of European and World War.

Churchill painting at Chartwell

Churchill painting at Chartwell

Churchill returned to his beloved country-home Chartwell, and again picked-up his brush to paint. Throughout the War, with the exception of one occasion, his brush had remained untouched. He threw his energies into reconnecting with his family and friends, writing speeches and researching for books. In 1946, at the invitation of President Truman, Churchill visited Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri. “From Stettin in the Baltic,” he said, “to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent.” It is ironic that as also over Hitler and the rising threat of the Nazis, the world yet again ignored his warnings, and Churchill was again proved right.

Churchill with Montgomery’s troops

Churchill with Montgomery’s troops

VE-Day marked the end of the most significant war of our time. It was, as Churchill put it, an ‘Unnecessary War,’ which could have been prevented had the allies practiced ‘Magnanimity’ in victory, at the end of the First World War. In The Gathering Storm, Churchill lamented ‘How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.’ Throughout his leadership during the Second World War, Churchill was determined that this situation would not occur again. In many of his speeches, Churchill was deliberately careful to separate the German people from the Nazis, saying, “…the German people, industrious, faithful, valiant, but alas! lacking in the proper spirit of civic independence, liberated from their present nightmare, would take their honoured place in the vanguard of human society.” In doing this he gave Germany the opportunity to rise again as a peaceful nation, and take its rightful place amongst the European and world powers. His ‘resolution’ in the pursuit of victory, ‘defiance’ in the face of defeat, and ‘magnanimity’ once victory had been realized, gave leave for ‘good will’ to be realized in peace.

For over seventy years we have enjoyed the fruits of the hard work, determination and self-sacrifice of the men and women who tirelessly fought for our freedom from the Nazi threat. I fear that today we sometimes take that freedom for granted. However, as long as we, the people, make sure the knowledge and facts of the Second World War is passed from one generation to another, our world may yet be safe and avoid a similar war that many today believe could soon be upon us. We must take to heart Great-Grandpapa’s advice to historian and acclaimed author James Humes, “Study history, study history. In history lie all the secrets to statecraft.”

Churchill at Harrow School

Churchill at Harrow School

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