Why did Chamberlain remain Prime Minister of Britain until 10 May, 1940?

Why did Chamberlain remain Prime Minister of Britain until 10 May, 1940?

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WW2 officially began on 1 September 1939, but Churchill did not become Prime Minister until 10 May 1940. Neville Chamberlain, the same leader of appeasement with Hitler, remained Prime Minister all that time.

Why is this? Wasn't some emergency election possible? Didn't the British people recognize how ill-suited Chamberlain would be because of his former appeasement? Why didn't Chamberlain resign much earlier, since his championing of appeasement had clearly failed?

I did read a tiny bit of this on Churchill's Wikipedia page. It said "it became clear that, following failure in Norway, the country had no confidence in Chamberlain's prosecution of the war and so Chamberlain resigned." But it still raises the question as to why a new Prime Minister was not chosen right away in September 1939, or at least some time in that year.

I also noticed that 10 May 1940 is exactly the same date as the German invasion of Benelux and France. And I remembered the Phony War that existed up until that date, IIRC. In other words, the end of the Phony War apparently has something to do with this, but it's hard to see which is the chicken and which is the egg.

Edit: The title was originally, "Why didn't Churchill become Prime Minister some time in 1939?" I still think that question and the current one are practically synonymous, because, well, who else would become PM except Churchill? Why didn't one resign early, AFAIK, is the same as saying why didn't the other step in earlier? I don't know if this really matters or not, but wanted to explain myself anyway.

Didn't the British people recognize how ill-suited Chamberlain would be because of his former appeasement?

No, because it's not true at all. Chamberlain may certainly be an inadequate war leader, but Appeasement is no evidence for it. If you are suggesting that people might think his earlier Appeasement meant Chamberlain wouldn't fight Germany, there's little evidence contemporaries believed it, probably because it would have seem blatantly false. Lest we forget, it was under Chamberlain that Britain declared war on Germany.

I realise this goes against the orthodox view first set in 1940 by the highly problematic, scapegoating book Guilty Men, however Chamberlain was not nearly as naively pacifistic as he is often portrayed as. In fact, under his ministry Britain rearmed as quickly as financial and public pressures would permit - and the rest of the British government would have known this.

Chamberlain, his senior ministers, and their advisers had no intention of relying solely on diplomatic means… [the British government] embarked on a program of strengthening the armed forces beginning in 1934… Chamberlain observed [that] 'I believe the double policy of rearmament and better relations with Germany and Italy will carry us safely though the danger period, if only the Foreign Office will play up.'

But difficulty for Chamberlain not only resided with the Foreign office that… advocated the balance of power. On the left, the opposition Labour Party, supported by pacifist organizations like the Women's international League of Peace and Freedom, argued against rearmament.

Maurer, John H., ed. Churchill and the Strategic Dilemmas Before the World Wars: Essays in Honor of Michael I. Handel. Routledge, 2014.

The key point here is that Chamberlain's rearmament was opposed by the Labour Party. So even if people were to argue Chamberlain was too much of a pacifist to be a war leader, such an attack would have needed to come from within his own party, not the political opposition. As we shall see, he retained the support of the Conservative Party right to the very end.

That's not to say some individuals may have suspected Chamberlain of cowardice or inaction, especially as the phony war drew on, but it would have been an incredible claim shortly after the Chamberlain ministry declared war in 1939. In any case, up to his resignation but there was no general feeling that Chamberlain couldn't be trusted to fight.

Of course, whether he could fight well is another question entirely.

Why didn't Chamberlain resign much earlier, since his championing of appeasement had clearly failed?

The premise here seems to be that people would have wanted to punish Chamberlain, so to speak, with removal from office for pursuing Appeasement. The thing is, that is an anachronistic view of the road to war, one certainly not shared by Chamberlain or his contemporaries. The reason is simple: most of them advocated or applauded appeasement just a year ago.

Chamberlain didn't invent or "champion" Appeasement, he simply believed he had no other realistic option. Historians now realise that British leaders including Chamberlain were acutely aware of just how weak the British military was, how adverse the strategic situation was, and how constrained they were by the poor economic and financial resources available. The British public at home was still in no mood for war - Chamberlain was universally cheered in the press when he returned from Munich. Overseas, the Dominions refused to support a "war of aggression" against Germany, and the United States remained stuck in its isolationist ways.

[A]ppeasement enjoyed considerable public support, certainly until the autumn of 1938… [T]he 1967 Public Records Act facilitated greater access to official sources. This allowed historians to compile more detailed analyses, suggesting that the harsh economic, military and strategic realities of the 1930s demanded a policy of appeasement, Historians highlighted Britain's relative military weakness, noting how contemporary politicians were acutely aware of Britain's shortcomings. Furthermore, attention was drawn to… Japanese expansionism in the Far East, the financial constraints on rearmament, [and] the pro-appeasement Dominions.

Hucker, Daniel. Public Opinion and the End of Appeasement in Britain and France. Routledge, 2016.

This doesn't mean Appeasement was necessarily the right move. Perhaps an early response to Hitler could have intimidated him into backing down. Or perhaps not: threatening military response would have been hollow. This remains an area of scholarly debate. The point, though, is that Chamberlain acted according to the public will, pursuing a strategy that seemed reasonable to many of his contemporaries.

It's important to note that appeasement was over by early 1939, long before the war had broken out. Chamberlain was not appeasing Hitler for the sake of appeasing Hitler, but rather trying to do his best given the hand he was dealt, and he changed his approach as the situation changed in the lead up to war. By 1939, Appeasement had "failed", but it also "succeeded". Its failure to contain Germany helped steeled public opinion in both Britain and her Empire for the upcoming war. Moreover, delaying the confrontation bought Britain precious time to rearm, which laid the foundations for victory in the Battle of Britain.

Thus, it wouldn't have made much sense for people to replace him for the association with appeasement after the war begun.

1940 May 10 is exactly the same date as the German invasion of Benelux and France… In other words, the end of the Phony War apparently has something to do with this, but it's hard to see which is the chicken and which is the egg.

Chamberlain retained the support of his party, and therefore by extension Parliament, up until his resignation. His position only really crumbled during the Norway Debate in the aftermath of the failed expedition, on 7 and 8 May. Most notably, retired Admiral of the Fleet Lord Roger Keyes delivered a scathing speech, and many others criticised the Chamberlain ministry's lack of preparations as well as general handling of the campaign.

However, none other than Churchill closed the debates with a strong defence of the government, and Chamberlain ultimately still won the vote of confidence by a majority of 281 to 200.

Nonetheless, at this point Chamberlain believed that a national unity government was necessary for the war effort. Since the Labour and Liberals wouldn't serve under him, he was obliged to resign. The first choice to succeed him was actually Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, not Churchill. In the end however Halifax declined to step up to the position, so it ultimately went to Churchill.

The meetings to arrange for the government restructuring took up the day, so that the handover went into effect on Friday, 10 May. It was thus a total coincidence that on the exact same day Germany launched its offensive.

Some context to support Semaphore's answer… drawing (partially) from John Terraine's "Right of the Line".

The policy of appeasement is sometimes used to portray Chamberlain as a pacifist under whom Britain was hopelessly unprepared for war. Yet when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer (in charge of finances) in 1935, he rejected an expansion plan prepared by the RAF (one of several)… but on the grounds that it was far too small!. Which is unusual for a guardian of the public purse. So he definitely saw dangers ahead and wanted to prepare for them - even against popular opinion.

And an opinion : Appeasement was quite a cunning strategy and accomplished its goals. Only one of these was to buy time for rearmament. At the time of Munich (Spring 1938) Britain had only a few Hurricane fighters, whose guns froze above 15000 feet, and less than one squadron of Spitfires… and a lot of biplanes like Gloster Gladiators (*). Even with Germany's relatively poor preparedness at the time, it would have been an unequal match.

Another goal was to give Hitler a real choice… abide by the agreement, or break it.

But the main goal was to place the responsibility clearly and absolutely on Hitler if he did break it, and engineer the moral outrage that would unite opinion behind going to war. You will notice that it was "this piece of paper" and not Neville Chamberlain, that promised "Peace in our time".

Without that - say, if Churchill had been PM in 1938 and declared war - perhaps even in 1939 as Chamberlain did - he would have been regarded as a rash warmonger (as he was in the 30s) and the war effort much weakened and dis-united by dissent and bickering. Just as we can still see even 15 years after the 2003 war against Iraq, where the basis for war (the WMDs) was less strongly established.

Appeasement firmly established in the minds of the British that, in 1939, regrettably, the job had to be done and we'd better get on with it.

That being the case, Chamberlain had been proved right in his preparations, and was the logical choice to run the job, at least until the failures e.g. in Norway became apparent.

I can't find the quote attributed to Churchill around that time, that hints he fully understood all this. It was along the lines of "Poor Mr. Chamberlain will be badly treated by the history books. I know this, for I will write them". And of course, he did.
EDIT to update : the actual quote (source) doesn't explicitly support this.

For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.

(*) For an idea how well that might have gone down, I recommend a short story "A Piece of Cake" apparently based on practical experience by Roald Dahl. Yes, that Roald Dahl.

those old Gladiators aren't made of stressed steel like a Hurricane or a Spit. They have taut canvas wings, covered with magnificently inflammable dope, and underneath there are hundreds of small thin sticks, the kind you put under the logs for kindling, only these are drier and thinner. If a clever man said, "I am going to build a big thing that will burn better and quicker than anything else in the world,' and if he applied himself diligently to his task, he would probably finish up by building something very like a Gladiator.
I sat still waiting.
Then suddenly the reply, beautiful in its briefness, but at the same time explaining everything. "Your--parachute--turn--the buckle.'

From a German perspective I also think it is unfair to paint Chamberlain as a pacifist who would avoid war at all costs and was unsuitable for the job. He declared war together with France on September 3th, two days after the invasion.

If people are unhappy with the "Phony War", I would like to ask what exactly do they imagine what England and France could have done.

The border between France and Germany was heavily fortified. So Germany has a very good defendable and prepared choke point with a fully equipped modern army. For people who did not experience war it should be pointed out that most people remembered one of the worst wars 20 years earlier who killed many of their family and friends in the horror of trench warfare and were therefore for a good reason not eager to another war.

Moving heavy mobile units or massive infantry was considered impossible in the Ardennes. (which was the reason that Germany's attack was so successful).

Moving through Belgium or the Netherlands to attack Germany would violate their neutrality as long as both countries do not agree. This would in return paint a big red target on their chest which a neighbor who defeated the stronger Poland in weeks. Using force would not only make the Allies the aggressor, it would make the "The Rape of Belgium" propaganda of the Allies in WWI ridiculous.

The Soviet Union also invaded Poland and shared it with Germany. So the obvious partnership excluded a very advantageous two front war and it also allowed Germany to be supplied with goods. Blockading the North Sea is much now less effective.

All points on the western front were also valid for Germany, as France had also strong fortifications and invading the Low Lands again would offer opportunities for France and England to countermoves. So I do not think replacing Chamberlain with Churchill would have any immediate effect and therefore Chamberlain could not be blamed for the inactivity.

While the other answers give a lot of historical insight, I feel the answer to the question why Churchill didn't become prime minister earlier is because there was no majority in the British Parliament who preferred another parliamentarian over Chamberlain as PM.

This may seem like an answer that is trying to be technically clever rather than insightful, but as it stands the question is mostly illustrating a confusion about how the British political system works. Once this technical answer is given, one may of course ask a follow up question along the lines of "why was there no majority in the house of commons to topple Chamberlain before May 1940"? Which in turn may be related to public support as explained in the other answers.

But the answer to the original question (as stated) falls squarely into the technicalities of how the British Parliamentary system works: even if a PM is exceedingly unpopular (which Chamberlain was not, as elaborated in the other answers) that does not at all mean that s/he will cease being PM.

Chamberlain was certainly wrong in his appeasement policies. And no, he wasn't buying time with it. It is clear from his statements from the period that he believed that it was possible to stop Hitler with diplomatic concessions. In this, he was certainly in accordance to the general public sentiment, which was, as other answers and comments point, against war. Certainly, Britain was rearming during the period, but the point of Chamberlain's politics was to avoid war, not to postpone it to a time when Britain was better equipped.

It is important to remember the course of German demands and acquisitions in the 1930's, to understand that those demands were not unreasonable or demented. Germany reannexed the Saar in 1935, through a plebiscite that was provisioned by the Versailles Treaty. It was a region with a majority of German population. Then Germany remilitarised the Rhineland, which was, and never ceased to be, metropolitan German territory. That put an end to a buffer zone between Germany and France, but it can hardly be called an absurd.

Then Germany demanded four other things: 1. the Anschluss of Austria (which had an overwhelmingly German population, that gave strong popular support for the idea), and the annexation of 2. the Sudettenland, 3. Memel, and 4. Dantzig/Gdansk. All those regions were German-majority regions; so, as an abstraction, such demands did not offend the sence of justice of most people. The fact that these apparently reasonable demands were part of a German strategy for war and domination of Europe was not immediately apparent - and was in fact the kernel of the debate about appeasement.

Those who thought that the demands were reasonable and fair, and that Hitler, albeit being a tyrant, was a tyrant of the old kind, with limited strategic goals that could be negotiated, favoured appeasement: to give Germany its reasonable demands, with reasonable assurances for reasonable protections of the rights of the ethnic minorities in those regions. The fate of political oppositionists in Memel, Gdansk, the Suddeten, or Austria, was of minimal concern - after all, those people were in great part already subjected to brutal dictatorial regimes, like those of Dolfuss/Schuschnnig, Bock/Pilsudsky, or Smetona, and that was considered pretty normal.

Those who thought that the German demands, reasonable as they were, were just a part of an expansionist strategy, which could be much more ambitious than the mere political reunification of German ethnicity, opposed appeasement, and proposed stronger diplomacy - of which, of course, threats of war were an integral part. Those people were not visionaries - Hitler himself had extensively written about his strategy, and made no secret of the fate he intended to impose into the Slavic or otherwise non-German populations of Eastern Europe.

And so, the Sudetten crisis was to be the watershed moment that finally cleared which of those political currents was correct. Austrians were for the most part happy to be anschlussed - and those who weren't, either were, like Communists and Socialdemocrats, already being repressed under Austria's own national government, or, like Schuschnigg's loyalists, didn't attract much sympathy, as they were the ones doing such repression. Czechoslovakia was different - it was a democracy, and its inhabitants weren't German or happy with German domination. Hitler promised to annex the Sudetten but to otherwise respect Czechoslovakia's independence. He broke that promise and invaded and subjected the Czech part of Czechoslovakia, showing in practice that he wouldn't be stopped by diplomacy and that his politics wasn't merely a politics of unifying ethnic Germans.

Now, Czechoslovakia had a quite formidable defensive line in the Suddeten. While they obviously could not counter-attack and invade Germany, they could have set up fierce resistance, much more than Poland did. The terrain is difficult, not the plains and prairies of Poland, and Czechoslovakian fortifications were strong and modern. This point shows, I think, the extent of Chamberlain's mistakes. If he was intent to rearm Britain for a future war, then he shouldn't allow the Germans to remove the Czechoslovakian defensive line, leaving the poor republic defenceless when the following, predictable, onslaught came. He was really deluded about Hitler's intentions and strategies.

Only then public opinion turned against appeasement. That would be the precise moment when Chamberlain could have been ousted. But Chamberlain himself recognised that we was wrong, and changed his mind on the possibility of containing Hitler through diplomacy. He was weakened by the blunder, and Churchill, who had opposed the policy, was strengthened. But it didn't cost Chamberlain his leadership within the Tories, and he remained prime minister. The moment of his possible fall had passed. When the invasion of Poland came, Chamberlain was no longer defending a policy of appeasement - and indeed his government immeadiately declared war on Germany, as it had promised before. And so, there was no particular reason why Chamberlain would be ousted in September 1939. He survived the crisis of March, when Hitler occupied "Bohemia and Moravia"; he was not to survive the crisis of the failure to defend Norway. But there was no particular British internal crisis due to the invasion of Poland.

What ensued was the drôle de guerre - the inaction of the allies in the Western Front, while the Wehrmacht slaughtered Poland. This was another wrong policy, but it cannot be blamed upon Chamberlain alone; any action would have to be started from French territory, and the French government, not Chamberlain, was the main culprit of the drôle de guerre.

His fall came with the invasion of Denmark and Norway, not because the British public opinion realised that war was unavoidable, but because it realised the war was iminent, and that the invasion of France, and probably Belgium and the Netherlands, was a matter of days. Thence Chamberlain lost his position, not directly as a punishment for appeasement or drôle de guerre, but because it was consensual that all main parties should be included in government, and Churchill was by far more acceptable to Labour (and Liberals, though that probably didn't matter as much).

Luckacs' two books on the subject (The Duel: 10 May-31 July 1940: the Eighty-Day Struggle between Churchill and Hitler and Five Days in London, May 1940) are a good read, mapping quite well the positions of Churchil and Chamberlain (and Labour's. And Halifax's - whose dellusions seem to have been more persistent than Chamberlain's) during the crisis that lead to the fall of France.

English lad here. Some people won't like the actual reason why Chamberlain remained Prime Minister. But here it is: The British - certainly the English - people didn't actually have a problem with the National Socialists. It's only when they started on us that we came to hate them.

You need to realise that we were a 100% White, and strongly-Nationalist nation back then.

Past Prime Ministers

Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden is best known for his controversial handling of the Suez crisis in 1956, during the second year of his premiership.

Sir Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon was born on 12 June 1897 and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, University of Oxford.

Sir Anthony Eden carved out a career in the Foreign Office, serving as Foreign Secretary 3 times during important periods in the Second World War and the Cold War.

He was acknowledged by many as Winston Churchill‘s successor and took over as Prime Minister in April 1955 at the age of 57. He immediately called a general election and on 5 May 1955 increased the Conservative majority from 17 to 60.

Less than a year into his premiership, his opinion poll approval ratings had fallen from 70% to around 40% and his failings as Prime Minister were increasingly the talk of Whitehall and the press. Tired, stressed, overworked and in desperate need of a holiday, he became increasingly ill after a series of abdominal operations in 1953.

As Prime Minister, he left the areas he had very little experience in, such as domestic and economic policy, to his deputy Rab Butler, preferring instead to focus on foreign affairs. The Cold War was at its peak, and the preoccupation of maintaining the country’s great power status was at a time when the British economy could no longer afford such commitments. This led Britain, under Sir Anthony Eden’s leadership, to miss out on important developments in western Europe, such as the 1955 Messina talks on closer economic integration.

His controversial handling of the Suez crisis in 1956 ultimately proved to be his downfall. After the nationalisation of the Suez canal by the Egyptian nationalist Colonel Abdul Nasser, Sir Anthony Eden, fearing a new Arab alliance would cut off oil supplies to Europe, conspired with France and Israel in order to retake the canal. Following a badly performed invasion, widespread international condemnation from the United Nations, the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth and the threat of sanctions from the United States, Sir Anthony Eden was forced into a humiliating retreat.

“In his mind,” the Sunday Times Washington correspondent Henry Brandon observed, “Sir Eden‘s whole proud career had been scarred by a decision which misfired for lack of American cooperation.” He attempted to cover up the conspiracy, lied to Parliament and ordered his civil servants to burn the damaging evidence. Isolated, he resigned on 9 January 1957 having shown the world that Britain was no longer the great power it had once been. The Suez crisis, according to one of his official biographers D R Thorpe, “was a truly tragic end to his premiership, and one that came to assume a disproportionate importance in any assessment of his career”.

Sir Anthony Eden was created Earl of Avon in 1961 and died in January 1977.

Why did Chamberlain remain Prime Minister of Britain until 10 May, 1940? - History

The revelation from Peter Mandelson’s memoirs last week that Nick Clegg told Gordon Brown that he had to resign before any coalition negotiations between Labour and the Liberal Democrats could begin did not come as a shock. Indeed the conventional wisdom immediately after the election was that even if Labour managed to remain in office there was almost no circumstance in which Brown could remain Prime Minister for any more than a year. However, the timing and order of Brown’s resignation(s) has proved to have been significant.

Rather than resigning as Prime Minister, Brown’s response to Clegg’s demand was to resign as Labour leader – initially hoping and seeking to stay on as Prime Minister for several months. The possibility of a coalition or other arrangement with the LibDems and others was then opened up for Labour, but at the same time the party was effectively left rudderless going into negotiations. Had a deal been done, future Labour leadership candidates would have been bound by a coalition agreement and unable to put forward manifestos with distinctive and new policy directions unless they were prepared to renegotiate the whole deal. Brown’s departure may have opened up the possibility of talks, but in practical terms it may also have doomed them to failure.

Changes in government in the United Kingdom have historically been swift to the point of brutality. The aftermath of the 2010 Election is an exception and certainly the longest transition period in recent history. Usually it is a simple matter of a drive to the Palace and the outgoing Prime Minister finds them self in the less desirable role of Leader of the Opposition. (Five Labour MPs may be currently be lobbying colleagues to get the job but it is not a position any politician wants to have inflicted on them by the electorate at large.)

But Brown had already stepped down as Labour leader meaning that his deputy, Harriet Harman, and not him became Leader of the Opposition. We tend to remember defeated Prime Ministers and outgoing party leaders as having immediately resigned when the election results came in. In fact, staying on for a number of months – if only to allow for a leadership election to take place – is more common.

After losing the 1997 election, John Major became Leader of the Opposition as well as Shadow Foreign and Defence Secretaries in his own Shadow Cabinet due the defeat of a number of his former Cabinet colleagues. It was Major who first challenged the new Prime Minister Tony Blair over the dispatch box at Prime Minister’s Questions. The defeated Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan stayed on as Leader of the Opposition for about a year from 1979 to “take the shine off the ball” rather than plunge their party into an immediate leadership contest.

While Brown’s reign as Prime Minister was over on the basis of the election results, it did not necessarily mean an immediate end to his front bench political life. As Leader of the Opposition, even for a short transitional period, Brown would have had the chance to challenge Cameron on coalition government policy and the public spending cuts that are now taking place, simultaneously allowing him to defend his own record of managing the economy. Newspapers and blogs would not be commenting on his poor attendance record in parliament (he has yet to speak in the new House of Commons.) His party colleagues running for the Labour leadership might not have been so able to write off the Brown years and to attack policies that – through collective responsibility – they supported while they were in Government. While ceasing to be Prime Minister would always have been a culture shock for Brown, should the man who was at the heart of Government for 13 years, near the top of his party for longer and who so recently was the face of Labour in the election debates have been so remarkably, and completely, silenced?

We can only speculate if Labour would currently be performing better – politically or in the opinion polls – if Brown was still party leader and Leader of the Opposition. In any case that has little long term significance as Labour will have largely written off wooing the wider public for a few months while they select a new leader. But for Gordon Brown himself life as a humble back bencher may well have been easier to adapt to and cope with had he stayed on for a spell – however briefly – as opposition leader.

If Clegg’s aim was to mark Brown very clearly as “the loser” – the media are all too keen to report politics as a horse race with definite winners and losers as no grey areas – then he succeeded. If Clegg wanted himself to be seen as “the vanquisher” then that was not particularly noticed. But what if Clegg’s aim was to force Labour into an immediate and possibly brutal leadership election with the victor in the difficult position of setting themselves as a potential Prime Minister while the Coalition government still enjoys a political honeymoon? Only time will tell whether Nick Clegg got what he wanted.

Former Prime Ministers in the House of Commons

Although Gordon Brown is said to have been heartened by the endorsement given to him by his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency (where he has been said to have been active since the election), past history suggests that this will be his last term in Parliament.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major both stepped down as MPs at the next general election after ceasing to be Prime Minister. Tony Blair, leaving office in what might be called “peace-time” (stepping down during his party’s term in office rather than following an election defeat) immediately resigned as an MP, triggering by-election in his Sedgefield constituency. He was never what we might call “a House of Commons man.”

The last former Prime Ministers to remain in Parliament were James Callaghan (who fought the 1983 election as a former Prime Minister and retired in 1987) and Edward Heath (first sought re-election as an ex-PM in 1979 and remained in Parliament until 2001.) Both of these men became Father of the House (MP with the longest period of unbroken service) and were parliamentarians. Heath in particular wished to remain in the lower House and never accepted a peerage. Having said that, he had also hoped to re-enter Government as Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary after her election victory in 1979, he himself having appointed his predecessor as party leader and former Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home to the Foreign Office.

Former Premiers staying in the Commons traditionally sit in the first seat “below the gangway” – the set of stairs that divides the two groups of benches on either side of the House – on the side of their own party. On the Conservative side John Biffen, in his book “Inside the House of Commons” recalled Sir Winston Churchill “in the corner seat below the gangway, a shadow of his former greatness but a presence nevertheless” and that Sir Edward Heath “later occupied the seat, morosely observing the rule of upstarts.”

On the Labour side of the House, Biffen notes that the bench below the gangway was “occupied by left-wing freebooters” and indeed it is still home to Labour’s ‘awkward squad’. The first seat below the gangway on the Labour side is once again occupied by Dennis Skinner who, as Biffen notes, exploits its geographical position to great effect:

The bench occupies a strategic position in the chamber. From his corner seat Dennis Skinner can address the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, or others deserving his advice, sotto voce or louder. Some of his wisdom gets into Hansard, much more is lost.

It is in the Commons that Gordon Brown will ultimately have to make his mark as a backbencher – although recent former party leaders are perhaps better remembered for television appearances and after dinner speeches than their parliamentary contributions. History shows that former Prime Ministers, if they remain in the Commons chamber, never quite lose the knack of making history. During the Norway Debate in May 1940, former Prime Minister David Lloyd George was among those who called for Neville Chamberlain to “sacrifice the seals of office” and step down as Prime Minister. William Barkley, parliamentary reporter and sketch writer for the Daily Express reported on Lloyd George’s contribution:

Mr Lloyd George stood up. As fast as MPs had gone out they now came crowding in. They came to see the Wizard. The wonderful Wizard-as-was. As was in the last war. In a few minutes he showed that he is still the hardest hitter and liveliest debater.

Two days later, Chamberlain had resigned to be replaced as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill.

Looking ahead to the Prime Ministerial Debates

In anticipation of the Prime Ministerial Debates – the first of which will be broadcast on ITV on Thursday 15th April – Michael Cockerell’s latest documentary offered advice on How to Win the TV Debate. Among the highlights of the film was behind the scenes footage from the Kennedy-Nixon 1960 Television Debate which revealed how JFK ensured the psychological upper hand by entering the studio just seconds before the broadcast began, while Nixon waited alone at his podium for several minutes. With the three main party leaders much more experienced in television they probably won’t find it so easy to knock the others off their stride, but each man and their team will have given careful thought to the style they adopt. Nobody will risk looking at their watch lest they come over as impatient and uninterested like George Bush Senior or want to appear too aggressive as Al Gore did when debating with George W. Bush.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Kennedy-Nixon debate is the discrepancy that while television viewers generally thought John F Kennedy had won, radio listeners believed Richard Nixon to be the victor. Today, not all voters will watch the entire program, with many instead settling for the edited highlights on the news. For most people then, the greatest victor will likely be the leader who is able to produce the best line suitable for “clipping” in the TV news similar to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 ‘zinger’ – saying “there you go again” to incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Conversely anyone who is unfortunate enough to make a clip-able gaffe, such as Gerald Ford’s 1976 “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” will soon find it not only repeated endlessly on television but on YouTube and going viral with devastating consequences to their party’s campaign.

In the UK, the road to the television debate has been a long and hard one. Harold Wilson called for a debate when facing Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, but by the time Wilson himself was Prime Minister he had changed his mind and would not debate with Edward Heath. Politicians ahead in the polls have always declined to debate. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher felt that there would be nothing to be gained in taking on the experienced and avuncular James Callaghan. Another reason, or excuse, for knocking back an invitation to debate has been the feeling that the American Presidential style was too centred around a single person when Britain is electing a government and not an individual. Now, the press and bloggers will be getting down to some US style fact checking while the politicians indulge in post-debate spinning. After the Channel 4 Ask The Chancellors debate David Miliband, Eric Pickles and Susan Kramer all used Twitter to claim that their man had been most impressive or to have a dig at their opponents.

It’s worth noting that the presidential style debate and feel of this campaign, with the leaders taking an even more central role than previously, means that the winner could have a stronger than usual mandate to be Prime Minister. If Brown wins the debates and because of this goes on to win the largest number of seats, he will probably be very unlikely to give up his position as Prime Minister if the Liberal Democrats, as has been suggested, name this as their price for joining Labour in coalition government.

Neil Kinnock suggested that had he been allowed to debate with Margaret Thatcher, a draw for him (as Leader of the Opposition) would count as a win. That is more complicated in this election as for a long time the expectation has been that Cameron would win while Labour is fighting as underdog. It is harder to unconditionally accept that a score draw is really good enough for the candidate thought of as the better media performer or equally for an incumbent Prime Minister seeking another term in office.

There are 76 rules and restrictions governing the debates – including the times the leaders have to answer questions and respond to each other, that the audience will be largely silent and that the leaders will shake hands at the end. The questions will be selected by a panel from the broadcaster from those submitted by audience members and will be directed to all three leaders, so no specifically personal questions will be allowed. Parties will have a live hotline to the organisers – no doubt insisting on reaction shots for their own or other candidates or calling the broadcasters for allowing anyone to slip over time. If this format proves restrictive, viewers may prefer the nine Cabinet Contender debates, in which the current Cabinet will line up against their Conservative and LibDem opposite numbers, to be shown on the Daily Politics programme.

Sadly, the Election Call format will not make a return on television, although Martha Kearney is to present six Leaders’ Election Call programmes as part of the World at One on Radio 4. Originally broadcast on radio in 1974, Election Call was later simulcast on television becoming a staple of the schedules but in 2005 it again became a radio only programme and the sitting Prime Minister, Tony Blair, did not appear. Perhaps there is a feeling that, in the internet age, phoning up to talk to politicians is old hat but it is a shame that this gem of a format – genuinely interactive and the only chance the public really had to talk directly to their prospective leaders – will not make a proper return. Perhaps the politicians will breathe a sigh of relief as the public tended to have a better record of catching them off guard with a tricky question than the broadcast interviewers do.

A criticism of How to Win the TV Debate is that it looked only at the head to head nature of the US Presidential Debates and did not really consider the dynamic-changing addition of the third candidate (which did actually occur in the 1992 Presidential Debate when the Independent candidate Ross Perot appeared.) In a Channel 4 News report, Gary Gibbon reveals that Cameron and Clegg will draw lots for the centre position – where it has been suggested candidates tend to look most reasonable. Due to his poor eyesight, Brown will be stage left to allow him to see the clock and his rivals.

Cockerell’s film ends with the suggestion that this is the end of a career for at least one party leader but is possible that all of three leaders could do well enough in the debate and get good enough election results, even without winning outright, to remain in their jobs. It is also important to remember that the TV debate is not a single debate, but a series of three. This should not mean that the first one should be viewed with complacency. In the 1960 Presidential Election, there were four TV debates. Nixon at the time was believed to have lost the first, won the second and third debates and drawn with Kennedy on the fourth. For Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg the Prime Ministerial debates will be both a marathon and a sprint.

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Neville Chamberlain Biography, World War II, Appeasement

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Neville Chamberlain, in full Arthur Neville Chamberlain, (born March 18, 1869, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England—died November 9, 1940, Heckfield, near Reading, Hampshire), prime minister of the United Kingdom from May 28, 1937, to May 10, 1940, whose name is identified with the policy of “ appeasement ” toward Adolf Hitler ’s Germany in the period immediately preceding World War II.

Joseph Chamberlain British politician and social

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  • Joseph Chamberlain, (born July 8, 1836, London, Eng.—died July 2, 1914, London), British businessman, social reformer, radical politician, and ardent imperialist
  • At the local, national, or imperial level, he was a constructive radical, caring more for practical …

National Government (1937–1939)

120 rows · The National Government of 1937–1939 was formed by Neville Chamberlain on his …

Was Neville Chamberlain really a weak and terrible leader

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Seventy-five years after the Munich Agreement signed with Hitler, the name of Neville Chamberlain, British prime minister at the time, is still synonymous with …

List of prime ministers of the United Kingdom

  • The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of the Government of the United Kingdom, and chair of the British Cabinet.There is no specific date for when the office of prime minister first appeared, as the role was not created but rather evolved over a period of time through a merger of duties
  • However, the term was regularly, if informally, used of Walpole by the 1730s.

Chamberlain Declares “Peace for Our Time”

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  • On September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain received a rowdy homecoming after signing a peace pact with Nazi Germany

What is Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain Of Britain Known

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Arthur Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1938.Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain

Neville Chamberlain on Appeasement (1939)

  • (1939) Britain and France pursued a policy of appeasement in the hope that Hitler would not drag Europe into another world war
  • Appeasement expressed the widespread British desire to heal the wounds of World War I and to correct what many British officials regarded as the injustices of the Versailles Treaty.

When Neville Chamberlain tried to 'no-platform' the

Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s Conservative prime minister between May 1937 and May 1940, deployed it systematically – and sometimes maliciously …

Winston Churchill becomes prime minister of Britain

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Winston Churchill becomes prime minister of Britain Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, is called to replace Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister following the latter’s

Neville Chamberlain seen in colourised images released to

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  • Looking awkward in his top hat and great coat, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gives a pained smile as a poppy is pinned to his lapel in 1937
  • Less than two years later, Chamberlain

Chamberlain and appeasement Flashcards Quizlet

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  • Neville Chamberlain was the British prime
  • minister who believed in appeasement
  • In 1938 Germans living in the border areas of Czechoslovakia
  • Tarted to demand a union with Hitler's Germany
  • On 30 September in the Munich Agreement without asking
  • Czechoslovakia Britain and France gave the Sudetenland to Germany.

List of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom

  • The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the leader of Her Majesty's Government and chairs Cabinet meetings
  • It is the highest civil office in the United Kingdom
  • The appointment of a Prime Minister by the monarch is formal, based on advice given to them
  • However, though the advice is technically informal, the monarch would create a constitutional crisis if they did not comply.

Neville Chamberlain's "Peace For Our Time" speech

  • Chamberlain read the above statement in front of 10 Downing St
  • And said: "My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour.

The deal with Hitler that buried Neville Chamberlain The

Harris believes that the war Chamberlain managed to avert in September 1938 would have been “a disaster for Britain and France.” As the prime minister knew well, Britain

Neville Chamberlain was right to cede Czechoslovakia to

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British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, right, speaks to Adolf Hitler’s interpreter Paul Schmidt during their meeting at the Hotel Dreesen at Godesberg, Germany, in September 1938.

Why did Chamberlain remain Prime Minister of Britain until

  • 30 WW2 officially began on 1 September 1939, but Churchill did not become Prime Minister until 10 May 1940
  • Neville Chamberlain, the same leader of appeasement with Hitler, remained Prime Minister all that time.

Why did Chamberlain use appeasement

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  • NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN Instituted in the hope of avoiding war, appeasement was the name given to Britain's policy in the 1930s of allowing Hitler to expand German territory unchecked
  • Most closely associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, it is now widely discredited as a policy of weakness.

The United Kingdom and Appeasement History of Western

  • As with many in Europe who had witnessed the horrors of the First World War and its aftermath, United Kingdom Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was committed to peace
  • The theory was that dictatorships arose where peoples had grievances, and that by removing the source of these grievances, the dictatorship would become less aggressive.

Neville Chamberlain: A Failed Leader in a Time of Crisis

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  • Although Britain’s appeasement toward Germany began before Chamberlain became prime minister in 1937, he was its high priest throughout
  • The prime minister did not inform his cabinet or seek

Neville Chamberlain Turtledove Fandom

  • Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Arthur Neville Chamberlain (18 March 1869 – 9 November 1940) was a British Conservative politician and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1937 to 1940
  • Chamberlain's legacy is marked by his appeasement policy regarding his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding part of Czechoslovakia to

How Britain Hoped To Avoid War With Germany In The 1930s

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  • Instituted in the hope of avoiding war, appeasement was the name given to Britain’s policy in the 1930s of allowing Hitler to expand German territory unchecked
  • Most closely associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, it is now widely discredited as a policy of weakness
  • Yet at the time, it was a popular and seemingly pragmatic policy.

Prime Ministers of Great Britain

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  • The Prime Minister is the political leader of the United Kingdom and is the head of the Government
  • So far there have been 14 Prime Ministers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, some more than once
  • The official residence of the Prime Minister of Britain is 10 Downing Street, London

Chamberlain announces Britain is at war with Germany

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  • The news that Britain was at war was broken by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at 11.15am on Sunday 3 September 1939
  • In a 5 minute broadcast on the …

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Britain is known for

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  • Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Britain is known for: O A
  • Giving military aid to Czechoslovakia
  • Trying to avoid war by appeasing Germany
  • Encouraging Japan to enter the war
  • Signing a mutual defense treaty with Germany.

How Neville Chamberlin Misread Hitler and Allowed the

The principle architect of the policy of appeasement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, entered the House of Commons and angrily denounced Hitler stating “the responsibility for …

Eighty Years Ago, Winston Churchill Became Prime Minister

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  • On May 10, 80 years ago, Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain
  • Germany had already become the dominant power in continental Europe
  • Within a month and 12 days, France would surrender

"The Twilight of Truth": George Stewart, Neville

Unlike Cummings, George Steward, the personal press officer to Neville Chamberlain (British prime minister between May 1937 and May 1940), was a career civil servant.

How Churchill Became The World's Greatest Wartime Leader

  • The British Expeditionary Force was drawn into a far larger campaign than that in Norway, and the fate of Western Europe hung in the balance
  • Chamberlain’s first reaction was to believe that his duty was now to stay Prime Minister, ensuring stability in the face of fresh crisis.

Why did Neville Chamberlain suggest appeasement to German

  • NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN Instituted in the hope of avoiding war, appeasement was the name given to Britain's policy in the 1930s of allowing Hitler to expand German territory unchecked
  • Most closely associated with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, it is now widely discredited as a policy of weakness.

Joe Biden meets Britain's Boris Johnson in 1st overseas

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are greeted and walk with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson ahead of …

Book excerpt: Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1942. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia.

Here is a new and rollicking good biography of Winston Churchill, one of the most important figures of the Twentieth Century &mdash and of Western Civilization. If you know nothing about Churchill, you have no legs to stand on in criticizing (or praising) Euro-American history and culture.

Churchill had already led a colorful and eventful life when he was called back to serve &mdash again! &mdash as the first lord of the British Admiralty on September 3, 1939. Neville Chamberlain &mdash who so misjudged Hitler! &mdash was Prime Minister and would remain Prime Minister until May 1940. The majority of Chamberlain&rsquos advisory Cabinet were antagonistic towards Churchill, perhaps especially because they had been proven so wrong concerning Hitler, and Churchill so very, very right.

As an example of German brazenness, the same night that Churchill returned to the Admiralty and the leadership of the largest (but out-of-date) Navy in the world, a German U-boat torpedoed the passenger liner Athenia en route from Glasgow to Montreal. Among the 112 passengers drowned were 28 Americans, who died within hours of the declaration of American neutrality.

Within a week of assuming his once-again position, Churchill received a letter that would begin a world-changing relationship. From Chapter 19, &lsquoWinston is back,&rdquo page 467:

The most important new relationship Churchill forged as first lord, however, was not initiated by him. On 11 September 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated a correspondence with Churchill that was to have world-historical significance, and that opened up a second line of communication to the British Goverment independent of Chamberlain, though with his knowledge. &lsquoMy dear Churchill,&rsquo the President began, &lsquoIt is because you and I occupied similar positions in the [First] World War that I want you to know how glad I am that you are back again in the Admiralty&hellip What I want you and the Prime Minister to know is that I shall at all times welcome it if you will keep me in touch personally with anything you want me to know about.&rsquo He closed with a personal note, &lsquoI am glad you did the Marlboro volumes before this thing started &mdash and I much enjoyed reading them.&rsquo Churchill grasped the opportunity eagerly, choosing &lsquoNaval Person&rsquo as his hardly impenetrable codename. (When he became prime minister he changed it to &lsquoFormer Naval Person&rsquo.) Over the next five years he sent 1,161 messages to Roosevelt and received 788 in reply, averaging one exchange every two or three days for the rest of Roosevelt&rsquos life. Nearly two years of the epistolary friendship prepared them both for their historic meeting in August 1941.

Past Prime Ministers

Industrial relations Act 1971 (repealed 1974): controversial legislation to curb union power.

Interesting facts

Arundells, Heath's home in Salisbury is open to the public.

Sir Edward Heath was Prime Minister during a time of industrial upheaval and economic decline during which he led Britain into the European Community.

Edward ‘Ted’ Heath was born in Kent to working class parents, in contrast to many previous Conservative leaders and Prime Ministers. He was grammar school educated before going to Balliol College, Oxford, where he was awarded an organ scholarship in his first term. He received a second class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and travelled widely in Europe during his holidays, especially in Spain and Germany. It was during these travels that he first witnessed the horrors of fascism and dictatorship that were sweeping across Europe.

Heath served in the Second World War, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before briefly entering the Civil Service. He was elected to Parliament in 1950 and rose rapidly to become Government Chief Whip to Anthony Eden before backing Harold Macmillan‘s attempt to lead the UK into the European Community.

He was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1965, and so began his long-lasting rivalry with Harold Wilson, leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister.

Heath won the 1970 election, and served his only term as Prime Minister during a time of strong industrial change and economic decline. He was elected on a manifesto to turn around the nation’s fortunes and pursued a number of policies that would later become identified with ‘Thatcherism’. Unemployment continued to rise which, combined with the strength of the trade unions, forced a famous U-turn on the government’s economic policy.

It was from this point that the trade unions sensed they could seize the initiative. Heath’s attempts to weaken their power had failed, and when their pay demands were not met, they went out on strike. Particularly crippling were the miners’ strikes of 1972 and 1974, the second of which led to the 3-day week, when electricity was limited to 3 consecutive days’ use.

Heath also worked to create a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

Heath continued to serve in the House of Commons until 2001, becoming the Father of the House. Along with Harold Macmillan, he was an outspoken critic of Margaret Thatcher. Outside of politics he maintained lifelong passions for conducting and playing music, as well as sailing, notably winning the Admiral’s Cup while Prime Minister.


Following his defeat in the 1945 general election, Churchill became the Leader of the Opposition. His wartime reputation was such that he retained international respect and was able to make his views widely known. [ citation needed ]

Speech in Fulton, Missouri Edit

In 1946, Churchill was in America for nearly three months from early January to late March. [1] It was on this trip that he gave his "Iron Curtain" speech about the USSR and its creation of the Eastern Bloc. [2] Speaking on 5 March 1946 in the company of President Truman at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Churchill declared: [3]

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere.

The essence of Churchill's view was that the Soviet Union did not want war with the western Allies but that its entrenched position in Eastern Europe had made it impossible for the three great powers to provide the world with a "triangular leadership". Churchill's desire was much closer collaboration between Britain and America, but he emphasised the need for co-operation within the framework of the United Nations Charter. [4] Within the same speech, he called for "a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States". [3]

In 1947, according to a memorandum from the FBI's archives, Churchill allegedly urged the US to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union in order to win the Cold War while they had the chance. He reportedly spoke to right-wing Republican senator Styles Bridges, asking him to persuade Truman to launch a strike against Moscow to destroy the Kremlin and make it easy to handle the directionless Russia. The memorandum claims Churchill "stated that the only salvation for the civilization of the world would be if the President of the United States would declare Russia to be imperiling world peace and attack Russia". Russia would have been defenseless against a nuclear strike at the time of the Churchill's proposal, since the Soviets did not obtain the atomic bomb until 1949. [5] Churchill's personal physician, Lord Moran, recalled that he had already advocated a nuclear strike against the Soviets during a conversation in 1946. [6] Later, Churchill was instrumental in giving France a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, providing another European power to counter-balance the Soviet Union's permanent seat. [7]

Europe Edit

Churchill was an early supporter of pan-Europeanism as, in the summer of 1930, he had written an article calling for a "United States of Europe", although it included the qualification that Britain must be "with Europe but not of it". [8] In a speech at the University of Zurich in 1946, he repeated this call and proposed creation of the Council of Europe. This would be centred around a Franco-German partnership, with Britain and the Commonwealth, and perhaps the United States of America, as "friends and sponsors of the new Europe". Churchill expressed similar sentiments during a meeting of the Primrose League at the Royal Albert Hall on 18 May 1947. He declared: "Let Europe arise", but he was "absolutely clear" that "we shall allow no wedge to be driven between Britain and the United States". In 1948, he participated in the Hague Congress, discussing the future structure and role of the Council, which was finally founded as the first pan-European institution through the Treaty of London on 5 May 1949. [9] [10]

In June 1950, Churchill was strongly critical of the Attlee government's failure to send British representatives to Paris to discuss the Schuman Plan for setting up the European Coal and Steel Community, saying that: "les absents ont toujours tort" ("the absent are always wrong"). [11] However, he still did not want Britain to actually join any federal grouping nevertheless, he is listed today as one of the "Founding fathers of the European Union". [12] [13] After returning as Prime Minister, Churchill issued a note for the Cabinet on 29 November 1951 in which he listed Britain's foreign policy priorities as Commonwealth unity and consolidation, "fraternal association" of the English-speaking world (i.e., the Commonwealth and the US), and a "United Europe, to which we are a closely and specially-related ally and friend. (it is) only when plans for uniting Europe take a federal form that we cannot take part, because we cannot subordinate ourselves or the control of British policy to federal authorities". [14]

Partition of India Edit

Churchill continued to oppose the release of India from British control. In a speech to the House of Commons in early March 1947, he warned against handing power to an India government too soon because he believed the political parties in India did not truly represent the people, and that in a few years no trace of the new government would remain. [ citation needed ]

Ireland Edit

It was during his opposition years that Churchill twice expounded his views on Ireland to successive Irish ambassadors in London. In November 1946, he met John W. Dulanty and told him: "I said a few words in parliament the other day about your country because I still hope for a united Ireland. You must get those fellows in the north in, though you can't do it by force. There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country". [15] In May 1951, he met Dulanty's successor Frederick Boland and said: "You know I have had many invitations to visit Ulster but I have refused them all. I don't want to go there at all, I would much rather go to southern Ireland. Maybe I'll buy another horse with an entry in the Irish Derby". [15] Churchill had happy childhood memories of Ireland from his father's time there as private secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1876 to 1880. [15]

The Second World War (book series) Edit

In the late 1940s, Churchill wrote and published six volumes of World War II memoirs. The series is entitled The Second World War and added his personal thoughts, beliefs and experiences to the historical record as he interpreted it. Churchill traded the literary rights to his books in return for double the salary he made as Prime Minister. Major points in Churchill's books included his disgust in the handling of Hitler prior to the outbreak of war, primarily with the policy of appeasement which the British and French governments pursued until 1939. [ citation needed ]

Election result and cabinet appointments Edit

The Conservatives won the general election in October 1951 with an overall majority of 17 seats and Churchill again became prime minister, remaining in office until his resignation on 5 April 1955. [16] As in his wartime administration, he appointed himself as Minister of Defence, but only on a temporary basis. On 1 March 1952, he handed over to the reluctant Field Marshal Alexander, who had been serving as Governor General of Canada since 1946. [17] Eden was restored to Foreign Affairs and Rab Butler became Chancellor. [18]

A significant appointment was Harold Macmillan as Minister of Housing and Local Government with a manifesto commitment to build 300,000 new houses per annum. Macmillan achieved his target and, in October 1954, was promoted to replace Alexander at Defence. [19] Housing was Churchill's only real domestic concern as he was preoccupied with foreign affairs. His government introduced some reforms including the Housing Repairs and Rents Act 1954 which inter alia addressed the issue of slums, and the Mines and Quarries Act 1954, which in some respects was a precursor to health and safety legislation. Churchill was, however, greatly concerned about immigration from the West Indies and Ian Gilmour records him saying in 1955: "I think it is the most important subject facing this country, but I cannot get any of my ministers to take any notice". [20]

Health issues to eventual resignation Edit

Churchill was just short of his 77th birthday when he became prime minister again and he was not in good health. The main worry was that he had had a number of minor strokes and he was not heeding their warnings. [21] In December 1951, George VI had become concerned about Churchill's decline and resolved to broach the subject in the new year by asking Churchill to stand down in favour of Eden, but the King had his own serious health issues and died on 6 February without making the request. [22]

Because of Churchill's health and his evident inability to focus on paperwork, he was not expected to remain in office for more than a year or so, but he constantly delayed resignation until finally his health necessitated it. One of the main reasons for the delay was that his designated successor Eden also suffered a serious long-term health issue, following a botched abdominal operation in April 1953. [23] George VI was succeeded by Elizabeth II, with whom Churchill developed a close friendship. [24] Some of Churchill's colleagues hoped that he might retire after her Coronation in June 1953 but, in response to Eden's illness, Churchill decided to increase his own responsibilities by taking over at the Foreign Office. [25] [26] [24] Eden was incapacitated until the end of the year and was never completely well again. [27]

Possibly because of the extra strain, Churchill suffered a serious stroke on the evening of 23 June 1953. Despite being partially paralysed down one side, he presided over a cabinet meeting the next morning without anybody noticing his incapacity. Thereafter his condition deteriorated, and it was thought that he might not survive the weekend. Had Eden been fit, Churchill's premiership would most likely have been over. News of his illness was kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. He went home to Chartwell to recuperate and it was not until November that he was fully recovered. [28] [29] [30] Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, he retired as prime minister in April 1955 and was succeeded by Eden. [31]

Foreign affairs Edit

The special relationship Edit

Apart from his determination to remain in office for as long as possible, Churchill's main preoccupation throughout his second premiership was with foreign affairs and especially Anglo-American relations. The catalyst for his concern was the H-bomb as he feared a global conflagration and he believed that the only way to preserve peace and freedom was to build on a solid foundation of friendship and co-operation (the "special relationship") between Britain and America. Churchill made four official transatlantic visits from January 1952 to July 1954. [32]

Decline of empire Edit

The decline of the British Empire had been accelerated by the Second World War and the post-war Labour government pursued a policy of decolonisation. Churchill and his supporters believed that maintenance of Britain's position as a world power depended on the empire's continued existence. [33] A key location was the Suez Canal which gave Britain a pre-eminent position in the Middle East, despite the loss of India in 1947. Churchill was, however, obliged to recognise Colonel Nasser's revolutionary government of Egypt, which took power in 1952. Much to Churchill's private dismay, agreement was reached in October 1954 on the phased evacuation of British troops from their Suez base. In addition, Britain agreed to terminate her rule in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by 1956, though this was in return for Nasser's abandonment of Egyptian claims over the region. [34] Elsewhere, the Malayan Emergency, a guerrilla war fought by pro-independence fighters against Commonwealth forces, had begun in 1948 and continued past Malayan independence (1957) until 1960. Churchill's government maintained the military response to the crisis and adopted a similar strategy for the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya (1952–1960). [35]

Churchill and Truman Edit

Churchill and Eden visited Washington in January 1952. [36] The Truman Administration was supporting the plans for a European Defence Community (EDC), hoping that this would allow controlled West German rearmament and enable American troop reductions. Churchill affected to believe that the proposed EDC would not work, scoffing at the supposed difficulties of language. [36] Churchill asked in vain for a US military commitment to support Britain's position in Egypt and the Middle East (where the Truman Administration had recently pressured Attlee not to intervene against Mossadeq in Iran) this did not meet with American approval—the US expected British support to fight communism in Korea, but saw any US commitment to the Middle East as supporting British imperialism, and were unpersuaded that this would help prevent pro-Soviet regimes from coming to power. [37]

Churchill and Eisenhower Edit

Churchill had enjoyed a good political relationship with Truman but was uneasy about the election of Eisenhower in November 1952 and told Colville soon afterwards that he feared war had just become more probable. By July 1953, he was deeply regretting that the Democrats had not been returned and told Colville that Eisenhower as president was "both weak and stupid". The main problem, in Churchill's eyes, was John Foster Dulles, the new Secretary of State, whom he distrusted. [38] Churchill believed that Eisenhower did not fully comprehend the danger posed by the H-bomb: Churchill saw it in terms of horror, Eisenhower as merely the latest improvement in military firepower. [39]

After Stalin's death on 5 March 1953, Churchill proposed a summit meeting with the Soviets but Eisenhower refused out of fear that the Soviets would use it for propaganda. [40] [25] [41] Churchill persisted with his view before and after his stroke, but Eisenhower and Dulles continued to discourage him. One explanation for their cool response was that this was the McCarthy era in the US and Dulles took a Manichean view of the Cold War, but this just added to Churchill's frustration. [25] [42] Churchill met Eisenhower to no avail at the Bermuda Conference in December 1953 [43] and in June/July 1954 at the White House. [44] At the latter, Churchill became annoyed about friction between Eden and Dulles over US actions in Guatemala. By the autumn of 1954, Churchill was threatening, but also postponing, his resignation. In the end it was the Soviets who proposed a four-power summit, but it didn't meet until 18 July 1955, three months after Churchill had retired. [45] [46]

After his stroke, Churchill carried on through 1954 until, aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, he retired as prime minister in April 1955 and was succeeded by Eden. [31] Elizabeth II offered to create Churchill Duke of London, but this was declined as a result of the objections of his son Randolph, who would have inherited the title on his father's death. [47] He did, however, accept the Order of the Garter to become Sir Winston. Although publicly supportive, Churchill was privately scathing about Eden's handling of the Suez Crisis and Clementine believed that many of his visits to the United States in the following years were attempts to help repair Anglo-American relations. [48] Churchill reportedly said about Suez: "I would never have done it without squaring the Americans, and once I'd started I'd never have dared stop". [49]

After leaving the premiership, Churchill never again spoke in the Commons, though he remained an MP and occasionally voted in parliamentary divisions. By the time of the 1959 general election, he seldom attended at all. Despite the Conservative landslide under Macmillan's leadership in 1959, Churchill's own majority in Woodford fell by more than a thousand. After that election, he became Father of the House, the MP with the longest continuous service: he had already gained the distinction of being the only MP to be elected under both Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II. He spent most of his retirement at Chartwell or at his London home in Hyde Park Gate, and became a habitué of high society at La Pausa on the French Riviera. He stood down as an MP before the 1964 general election. [50]

In June 1962, when he was 87, Churchill had a fall in Monte Carlo and broke his hip. He was flown home to a London hospital where he remained for three weeks. Jenkins says that Churchill was never the same after this accident and his last two years were something of a twilight period. [51] In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by an Act of Congress, proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of the United States, but he was unable to attend the White House ceremony. [51] There has been speculation that he became very depressed in his final years but this has been emphatically denied by his personal secretary Anthony Montague Browne, who was with him for his last ten years. Montague Browne wrote that he never heard Churchill refer to depression and certainly did not suffer from it. [52]

On 27 July 1964, Churchill was present in the House of Commons for the last time, and one day later, on 28 July, a deputation headed by the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, presented Churchill with a Resolution which had been carried unanimously by the House of Commons. The ceremony was held in Churchill's London home at 28 Hyde Park Gate, and was witnessed by Clementine and his children and grandchildren: [53]

That this House desire to take this opportunity of marking the forthcoming retirement of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Woodford by putting on record its unbounded admiration and gratitude for his services to Parliament, to the nation and to the world remembers, above all, his inspiration of the British people when they stood alone, and his leadership until victory was won and offers its grateful thanks to the right honourable Gentleman for these outstanding services to this House and to the nation.

Churchill suffered his final stroke on 12 January 1965. He died nearly two weeks later on the 24th, which was the seventieth anniversary of his father's death. He was given a state funeral six days later on Thursday, 30 January, the first for a non-royal person since W. E. Gladstone in 1898. [51] Planning for his funeral had begun in 1953 under the code-name of "Operation Hope Not" and a detailed plan had been produced by 1958. [54] His coffin lay in state at Westminster Hall for three days and the funeral ceremony was at St Paul's Cathedral. [51] Afterwards, the coffin was taken by boat along the River Thames to Waterloo Station and from there by a special train to the family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. [55] On 9 February 1965, Churchill's estate was probated at £304,044 (equivalent to £5,930,235 in 2019) of which £194,951 (equivalent to £3,802,428 in 2019) was left following payment of death duties. [56] [57]


A declaration of intent by Franklin Reid Gannon, (author of The British Press and Germany 1936–1939) footnote 1 reads, ‘It is one of the great ironies of the period, and perhaps the major conclusion of this study, that appeasement was in fact the product of a crisis of the liberal conscience. So much print—and newsprint—has been devoted to painting the distinction between the far-sighted Liberals of the Left who understood the real nature of the Nazi menace from the very beginning, and the reactionary conservatives of the Right who welcomed Hitler not only for himself alone but also for the check he promised to deliver to Bolshevist Russia. This view, though previously assaulted, has not yet been laid low it is hoped that this study will contribute to its timely demise.’

To ‘lay low’ a ‘view’ may seem a quixotic undertaking. We may assume the writer to mean simply that he hopes to change an opinion. He is not alone with his hopes. The opinion he refers to has indeed been ‘previously assaulted’. By those who saw it as damaging to themselves, it was assaulted from the moment when appeasement ended in war. The assault was a sortie in defence of their reputations by and on behalf of political leaders struggling to maintain power and credibility. Their motives were simple and compelling. The assaults never quite ceased. They were often undertaken in the obituaries, inevitably frequent as the fifties and sixties passed, of those most involved during the thirties in making policies of which the results, seen in September 1939, were generally assessed as undesirable. These posthumous exercises were sporadic and sometimes apologetic in tone—the deceased had acted without positively evil intent the aims of his policy had been less ignoble than its consequences had led the vulgar, the superficial and the uninformed to suppose he had been frustrated by world forces beyond his control (Mod. version of Old English term ‘God’).

As historiographic counsel strove to apportion and re-apportion blame for the crack-up, students sympathized with the summing up of the magistrate in the court action following a multiple car-smash: All those concerned had been experienced drivers and cold sober the lethal

accident had occurred when all the vehicles were on their proper side of the road, and stationary.

More recently, at a point somewhere not precisely discernible along the line of the last three or four years, assaults, of the type welcomed by Gannon, began to be resumed with new vigour. Gannon’s own book has served as one of the rallying points. Many articles and lectures have been deployed around it. In the May issue of Encounter, ‘the recent publication by the Clarendon Press of Mr Frank Gannon’s thesis’ was seen as an encouraging reinforcement of the Cause by D. C. Watt Reader in International History in the University of London at the outset of a long and contentious, though poorly researched article on one element of the same general theme.

‘The Cause?’ What Cause? What are these layers low of, these contributors to the timely demise of, views actually on about? As just said, the people in charge of the car at the moment of the collision had clear and cogent reason for disclaiming responsibility, sharing out the blame between others on the road, and their own pesky back-seat drivers Churchillians, anti-fascist liberals, bawling marxist pamphleteers, and a horde of enfranchized citizens who, unless the war went on for ever, would one day have a chance to get to the polls and record a verdict in accordance with the evidence. Neville Chamberlain wanted to remain Prime Minister, and did so. Lord Halifax, Samuel Hoare, and John Simon all wanted to remain in office, and did so, at least until the next pile-up in May 1940. Above all the Conservative Party could not afford to shrug off, without attempted rebuttal, the charges stridently uttered in such widely popular publications as Guilty Men, and impudently supported by quotations from their own public statements.

Not quite so clear, though, it seems, equally cogent, are the reasons for the current effort to re-open and re-state the case. Cui bono? What motivates this campaign what causes the minds of these historiographers to leap so alike? And it is to be remarked that some of them write with a kind of nervously defensive anxiety, a shrill urgency ordinarily found in pamphleteering around some immediate political enterprise of great pith and moment.

It is easy, though not for that reason pointless or unnecessary, to relate this phenomenon to what is loosely but intelligibly described as the Right Backlash seen in action at very numerous points of the political and cultural scene during the three or four above-mentioned years. Signs of it were, of course, obvious in the birth and flamboyant infancy of the Heath administration. Everyone could see them, too, in the rise of Mary Whitehouse and all that that implied. By no accident, the paranoia of the Whitehouse adherents regarding Leftish influences supposedly permeating the bbc is to be observed in some of the itchy complaints from those who feel that to re-adjust the image of the Right in the thirties is an essential of Right propaganda in the seventies. Before the Nazis came to power, their propagandists understood how

rewarding it was to demonstrate, in the teeth of all the evidence to the contrary, that the Left had stealthily captured all the commanding heights of the media, including the history books. It is thought worth while to try to persuade people that tv in Britain is dominated by Reds. So why should not D. C. Watt, in Encounter refer to ‘that residual legatee of Victor Gollancz’ Left Book Club, Penguin Books’?

Post World War Two Prime Ministers [ edit ]

Winston Churchill (1940-45) [ edit ]

A cigar-chomping, top hat-wearing millionaire toff who was rubbish as Chancellor, and whose idea to invade Turkey was one of WWI's biggest blunders, Winston Churchill was an unlikely hero. However, his popular touch and ability to think outside the box were always assets, and thus he was launched, into the hot seat to manage the UK's gravest ever crisis, a job he mostly did well at (Italy's failure to collapse instantly being a major fly in the ointment). However, once peace came, he was as surprised as everyone else to find himself unceremoniously removed from power by an electorate underwhelmed by the prospect of Tory "business as usual." Voters always vote for the future.

Clement Attlee (1945 - 1951) [ edit ]

Clement Attlee (Labour) was an agnostic, and a man who nationalised the utilities and oversaw the creation of the British National Health Service by Health Minister Nye Bevan. As the first Labour Party Prime Minister with enough of a majority to do anything radical, he was a hero of socialists and consistently ranks highly in rankings of Prime Ministers. Was hugely influential in Indian Independence and developing Britain's own nuclear deterrent. He was Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition government with Churchill, and arguably more effective than Churchill at the day to day management of the country in the war effort.

Winston Churchill again (1951 - 1955) [ edit ]

Churchill was returned to the office of Prime Minister in '51, but didn't make a great peace time leader. His health was very bad, suffering a series of strokes from 1949. ⎛] Most of this second term was spent dealing with foreign affairs, one of which led to the joint UK-US coup of Mossadegh in Iran in the early 1950s. He also broke the BBC's monopoly on television by launching ITV, paid for by advertising.

Anthony Eden (1955 - 1957) [ edit ]

Eden (Conservative) built an early reputation as a politician by opposing appeasement in the 1930s and as Foreign Secretary during World War Two, but pretty much nothing of note happened under him except the Suez Crisis , which led to his resignation (although he was also seriously ill). ⎜]

Harold Macmillan (1957 - 1963) [ edit ]

Under the half-American Macmillan (Conservative) the UK tried to join the European Community, splitting the Conservative Party, but was vetoed by France. Famous for the first campaign soundbite anyone can remember - "You've never had it so good." An advocate of decolonization, he told South Africa to take note that "The wind of change is blowing through this continent."

Alec Douglas-Home (1963 - 1964) [ edit ]

After Macmillan resigned over health problems, there was some trouble over who would succeed him. It became clear that the Earl of Home was the only one who could command the support of the whole Conservative party, and so was appointed Prime Minister, despite being a member of the House of Lords. He disavowed his peerage, becoming Sir Alec Douglas-Home. A by-election was coming up, and he stood for the Conservatives. He was a Prime Minister, though not in either house of Parliament for 2 weeks, quite exceptional for the 20th century. Though not much happened while he was in office, he was notable as the only Prime Minister to sit two would-be kidnappers down, give them a beer, and talk them out of it. Ballsy. ⎝]

Harold Wilson (1964 - 1970) [ edit ]

Wilson (Labour) legalised abortion and decriminalised homosexuality. He awarded medals to The Beatles, lowered the voting age to eighteen and brought in the first laws against racial discrimination. He is often regarded as the first "presidential" Prime Minister.

Edward Heath (1970 - 1974) [ edit ]

Under Heath (Conservative), Britain joined the European Community, violence in Northern Ireland got pretty bad, and the economy went a bit rotten, allegedly due to the Trade Unions. When he lost leadership of the Conservative party, he publicly sulked and whined about "that woman" and how everything she did was wrong.

Harold Wilson (1974 - 1976) [ edit ]

During his second time in office, Wilson gave sweeping Health and Safety rights to workers and managed to stop some of the Trade Union troubles by inviting their leaders for beer and sandwiches at Number 10.

James Callaghan (1976 - 1979) [ edit ]

Oh god, an atheist! Economy was getting messy as Callaghan (Labour) entered the office, since trade unions were demanding massive pay rises. When they weren't getting them, they were bringing the country to a halt, and the rises were given. Economy couldn't handle it. Nice man, but didn't have the balls majority in Parliament to say no to the Trade Unions. Best known for the Winter of Discontent , a series of strikes that coincided with the very harsh winter 1978-79 and the breakdown of Callaghan's attempts at pay restraint. It is widely believed that he said "Crisis? What crisis?" in response, and this increased his reputation of as out of touch as well as powerless, but he didn't actually say this, it was a Sun headline. ⎞] He is disliked in Scotland for the 1979 Scottish devolution referendum which found a majority in favour of devolution, but thanks to rules introduced by anti-devolutionists (specifically Labour MP George Cunningham ) turnout was too low for the result to be valid and Scotland had to wait another 20 years.

Margaret Thatcher (1979 - 1990) [ edit ]

Mrs. Thatcher (Conservative) was elected on a manifesto of bringing the Trade Unions under control (after they ended up spending most of the 1970s on strike and causing countless problems), but then the witch went power-crazy. She sold everything the government owned, crushed the rights of Trade Unionists, led the nation to glorious victory over the Argentinian junta in the Falklands War, hated British involvement in the European Community but signed the Single European Act anyway, and then went crazy and introduced the Poll Tax despite even her closest aides' warnings. The aides turned out to be right, and she finally had to leave the office after 11 years.

John Major (1990 - 1997) [ edit ]

After Thatcher, all the Government owned was the railways, so Major (Conservative) sold them too. He also set up a hotline about traffic cones. In 1995 he resigned and challenged himself for the party leadership unbelievably he won. ⎟] Two years later, he put the same question to the nation, and wasn't so lucky. He was famous for his greyness, though his parents were circus folk and his half-brother Terry Major-Ball was a genial minor celebrity and author.

Tony Blair (1997 - 2007) [ edit ]

Blair (New Labour) brought about peace in Northern Ireland, introduced a national minimum wage, gave independence to the Bank of England (much like the US Federal Reserve), made gay rights in the UK happen (including civil partnerships), devolved power to Scotland and Wales - then ruined it all by going to war in Iraq, and going on a crazy authoritarian spree of giving powers to the executive and trying to make us all carry identity cards. He also basically sold peerages.

Gordon Brown (2007 - 2010) [ edit ]

As Gordon Brown (Labour) entered office, the civil service made a series of major errors and the financial crisis began. For a terrible television performer, this seemed fatal. Then he made some flip-flops over the 10p tax rate, and the Expenses Scandal occurred. He absolutely had to go, in the eyes of the public. Perhaps he would've been a beloved Prime Minister if things out of his control hadn't happened so badly. On the other hand, he had been in charge of the economy for the previous ten years.

David Cameron (2010 - 2016) [ edit ]

David Cameron (Conservative) came from nowhere in 2005 and ran on a platform of absolutely no policies other than ending Inheritance tax and saying, "Hey, I'm not Tony Blair." Being a much better media performer than Gordon Brown (especially in the first year the UK had televised debates) made a big difference. Aligning himself with massively cutting government spending and hating the jobless, he won the most seats, but didn't receive a majority and had to accept a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. While his cuts did seem to target solving the deficit crisis, many saw his cuts as ideological in nature and leaving Britain a much smaller-government nation. His government refused to single out spending on science and research for protection from cuts. ⎠]

In 2015 the Tories won a majority in Parliament, allowing Cameron to push for an even more radically anti-working class agenda. ⎡] He made a campaign promise to conduct a referendum on whether or not the UK would stay in or leave the EU, and scheduled a vote on June 2016. He preferred "remain", but allowed members of his party to campaign for Brexit alongside Nigel Farage.

Brexit won, forcing Cameron to resign in disgrace, forever remembered as the bloke who may have broken the union. Though, to be fair it's probably better than being remembered as "that PM that fucked a pig".

Theresa May (2016 - 2019) [ edit ]

Theresa May (Conservative), the former Home Secretary, took control of the party after Cameron made the ill-advised vote on Brexit. While she supported Remain, she insisted that Brexit was final, and that the UK would leave the EU in accordance to what the people voted. After repeatedly saying she wouldn't call for an early election, she called for an early election in 2017, confident that Jeremy Corbyn's unpopularity would have her increase her majority. But then came the actual election, and she lost her majority along with her authority, leaving her at the mercy of the DUP and the European Brexit negotiators.

Mired in intraparty turmoil post election, May went from having a popular and fearsome image (some called her the heir to Thatcher), she lost all of it as everyone realized she was a comically inept, woefully detached elitist who's not half as clever as she thinks she is. When her Brexit deal was rejected three different times by parliament, all humiliating defeats given to her by Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May finally resigned as leader and PM in 2019.

Boris Johnson (2019 - ) [ edit ]

oh. oh fffffffffffFFFFFFFFFFUCK!

The British, nicer (which STILL isn't saying much), poor-man's Donald Trump, complete with watered down versions of the media circus acts, stunning incompetence, lack of respect for the rule of law, hatred for the poor, disgust of immigrants and refugees, sheer brutality, and downright sociopathic tendencies belied by Johnson's signature disconnection and narcissism that few can ever reach. In only five months after being voted in by 0.25% of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson (Conservative) has broken the law, failed almost every single parliamentary vote since he became PM, (setting a new record each and every time) and failed to crash the country out of the European Union without a deal on October 31st, thanks to the previously mentioned repeated failures. But since he ran on a slogan of getting Brexit done, that put him in sharp contrast to Jeremy Corbyn, who equivocated on Brexit due to his part's severe divide between Leave and Remain voters. Johnson's 78 seat supermajority win in the 2019 election has now set the stage for five years of horror as he has now firmly put the UK on the path of leaving the EU, intensifying austerity like never before, privatizing and fully dismantling the NHS, and utter incompetence and lethary in the ongoing COVID-19 response.

Hope? Well, Keir Starmer is currently leading the Labour Party, and has managed to close the gap in polling (which was 20 points down!). Of course, therein lies a problem. He must undergo the arduous task of unifying the bitterly factioned Labour Party, with a hard left and soft left/moderates who absolutely hate eachother to an unhealthy extent. If he gets lucky (As in, Johnson's incompetence reaches a new high, which is not at all out of question), he may be able to win in 2024 with a divided Labour Party. But if he cannot unify Labour when the time is right, things look bleak for the future of left-wing politics in the UK.