Who Was Winston Churchill? (Who Was...?)

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To ensure funding for these social reforms, he and Lloyd George denounced Reginald McKennas ' expansion of warship production. To pass its social reforms into law, Asquith's Liberal government presented them in the form of the People's Budget. In February , Churchill was promoted to Home Secretary , giving him control over the police and prison services, [] and he implemented a prison reform programme.

One of the major domestic issues in Britain was that of women's suffrage. By this point, Churchill supported giving women the vote, although would only back a bill to that effect if it had majority support from the male electorate. In the summer of , Churchill spent two months on de Forest's yacht in the Mediterranean. Churchill, learning that the troops were already travelling, allowed them to go as far as Swindon and Cardiff , but blocked their deployment; he was concerned that the use of troops could lead to bloodshed. Instead he sent London police—who were not equipped with firearms—to assist their Welsh counterparts.

Asquith called a general election for December , in which the Liberals were re-elected and Churchill again secured his Dundee seat. After the event, two of the burglars were found dead. In March , he introduced the second reading of the Coal Mines Bill to parliament, which—when implemented into law—introduced stricter safety standards to coal mines. As part of his naval reforms, he pushed for higher pay and greater recreational facilities for naval staff, [] an increase in the building of submarines, [] and a renewed focus on the Royal Naval Air Service , encouraging them to experiment with how aircraft could be used for military purposes.

Taking centre stage was the issue of how Britain's government should respond to the Irish home rule movement. Churchill supported the bill and urged Ulster Unionists —a largely Protestant community who desired continued political unity with Britain—to accept it. In September, Churchill took over full responsibility for Britain's aerial defence, [] making several visits to France to oversee the war effort. Churchill did not request a new command, instead securing permission to leave active service. Back in the House of Commons, Churchill spoke out on war issues, calling for conscription to be extended to the Irish, greater recognition of soldiers' bravery, and for the introduction of steel helmets for troops.

After the war, Lloyd George called a new election. Churchill was responsible for demobilising the British Army, [] although he convinced Lloyd George to keep a million men conscripted to use as an Army of Occupation on the Rhine. Churchill was an outspoken opponent of Vladimir Lenin 's new Communist Party government in Russia, [] stating that "of all the tyrannies in history, the Bolshevik tyranny is the worst". Churchill's attentions were also turned to the Irish War of Independence , where he supported the use of the para-military Black and Tans to combat Irish revolutionaries.

Churchill became Secretary of State for the Colonies in February To end it, Churchill pushed for a truce, which came into effect in July.

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This was written into the Anglo-Irish Treaty , which Churchill helped draft. Churchill was responsible for reducing the cost of occupying the Middle East. Turkish troops advanced towards the British, leading to the Chanak Crisis , with Churchill calling on British troops to stay firm. In late , Lloyd George made Churchill chair of a Cabinet Committee on Defence Estimates, which met in January to determine how much military expenditure could be cut without jeopardizing national security.

While this was occurring, the Conservatives withdrew from Lloyd George's coalition government, precipitating the November general election. He did not win the seat. In , Churchill stood as an independent candidate in the Westminster Abbey by-election but was defeated. Although Churchill had no background in finance or economics, Baldwin appointed him as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He consulted various economists, the majority of whom endorsed the change; among the few who opposed it was John Maynard Keynes. Churchill ultimately relented and agreed to the measure, after which he became its supporter. Churchill announced the return to the gold standard in his first budget, published in April Amid the General Strike of , Churchill was responsible for overseeing publication of the British Gazette , the government's anti-strike propaganda publication.

Churchill proposed that any lowering of wages should be paralleled with a reduction in the owners' profits. A compromise between the two was not reached. But in England we have not yet had to face this danger in the same deadly form.

We have our own way of doing things. In the general election , Churchill retained his Epping seat but the Conservatives were defeated and MacDonald formed his second Labour government. Back in London, he was angered by the Labour government's decision—backed by the Conservative Shadow Cabinet—to grant Dominion status to India, [] calling it "a crime". Churchill called for swift action against any Indian independence activists engaged in illegal activity; [] he called for the Indian National Congress party to be disbanded and its leaders deported. In October , Churchill published his autobiography, My Early Life , which sold well and was translated into multiple languages.

After he published an article about the experience in the Daily Mail , he received thousands of letters and telegrams from well-wishers. In August , he visited Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Churchill backed John Simon 's calls to reject the request, believing that if Germany re-armed it would soon pursue the re-conquest of territories lost in the previous conflict.

Churchill has condoned the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

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However, he stressed that the UK must stick with its tradition of Parliamentary democracy, not adopt fascism, [] and opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Churchill, holidaying in Spain when the Germans reoccupied the Rhineland in February , returned to a divided Britain.


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The Labour opposition was adamant in opposing sanctions and the National Government was divided between advocates of economic sanctions and those who said that even these would lead to a humiliating backdown by Britain as France would not support any intervention. Taylor later called this "an appointment rightly described as the most extraordinary since Caligula made his horse a consul.

This meeting prompted Baldwin to comment that it was "the time of year when midges came out of dirty ditches". Neville Chamberlain was also taking a growing interest in foreign affairs, and in June, as part of a power-bid at the expense of the young and pro-League of Nations Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden , he demanded an end to sanctions against Italy "the very midsummer of madness".

There had been demands for a Secret Session of the House and the senior ministers agreed to meet the deputation rather than listen to a potential four-hour speech by Churchill. Churchill's figures for the size of the Luftwaffe, leaked to him by Ralph Wigram at the Foreign Office, were less accurate than those of the Air Ministry and he believed that the Germans were preparing to unleash thermite bombs "the size of an orange" on London.

Ministers stressed that Hitler's intentions were unclear, and the importance of maximising Britain's long-term economic strength through exports, whereas Churchill wanted 25—30 percent of British industry to be brought under state control for purposes of rearmament. Baldwin argued that the important thing had been to win the election to get "a perfectly free hand" for rearmament.

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The meeting ended with Baldwin agreeing with Churchill that rearmament was vital to deter Germany. On 12 November, Churchill returned to the topic. Speaking in the Address in Reply debate, after giving some specific instances of Germany's war preparedness, he said "The Government simply cannot make up their mind or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind.

So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful for impotency. And so we go on preparing more months more years precious perhaps vital for the greatness of Britain for the locusts to eat. The exchange gave new encouragement to the Arms and the Covenant Movement. Churchill then advised against the marriage and said he regarded Simpson's existing marriage as a 'safeguard'.

In November, he declined Lord Salisbury 's invitation to be part of a delegation of senior Conservative backbenchers who met with Baldwin to discuss the matter.

On 25 November he, Attlee and Liberal Party leader Archibald Sinclair met with Baldwin, were told officially of the King's intention, and asked whether they would form an administration if Baldwin and the National Government resigned should the King not take the Ministry's advice. Both Attlee and Sinclair said they would not take office if invited to do so.

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Churchill's reply was that his attitude was a little different but he would support the government. The Abdication crisis became public, coming to a head in the first two weeks of December At this time, Churchill publicly gave his support to the King. The first public meeting of the Arms and the Covenant Movement was on 3 December. Churchill was a major speaker and later wrote that in replying to the Vote of Thanks, he made a declaration 'on the spur of the moment' asking for delay before any decision was made by either the King or his Cabinet.

On 4 December, he met with the King and again urged delay in any decision about abdication. On 5 December, he issued a lengthy statement implying that the Ministry was applying unconstitutional pressure on the King to force him to make a hasty decision. He was shouted down. Seemingly staggered by the unanimous hostility of all Members, he left.

Churchill's reputation in Parliament and England as a whole was badly damaged. Some, such as Alistair Cooke , saw him as trying to build a King's Party. Some such as A. Taylor see it as being an attempt to 'overthrow the government of feeble men'. James, view Churchill's motives as honourable and disinterested, in that he felt deeply for the King.

Churchill later sought to portray himself as an isolated voice warning of the need to rearm against Germany. While he had only a small following in the House of Commons during much of the s, he was given privileged information by some elements within the government, particularly by disaffected civil servants in the War Ministry and Foreign Office. The "Churchill group" in the latter half of the decade consisted of only himself, Duncan Sandys and Brendan Bracken.

It was isolated from the other factions within the Conservative Party that also wanted faster rearmament and a stronger foreign policy; [] [] one meeting of anti-Chamberlain forces decided that Churchill would make a good Minister of Supply. Even during the time Churchill was campaigning against Indian independence, he received official and otherwise secret information.

Lord Swinton , as Secretary of State for Air , and with Baldwin's approval, in gave Churchill access to official and otherwise secret information. Swinton did so, knowing Churchill would remain a critic of the government, but believing that an informed critic was better than one relying on rumour and hearsay.

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On 3 September , the day Britain declared war on Germany following the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, the same position he had held during the first part of the First World War. As such he was a member of Chamberlain's small War Cabinet.

In this position, he proved to be one of the highest-profile ministers during the so-called " Phoney War ", when the only noticeable action was at sea and the USSR's attack on Finland. Churchill planned to penetrate the Baltic with a naval force. This was soon changed to a plan involving the mining of Norwegian waters to stop iron ore shipments from Narvik and provoke Germany into attacking Norway, where it could be defeated by the Royal Navy. On 10 May , hours before the German invasion of France by a lightning advance through the Low Countries , it became clear that, following failure in Norway, the country had no confidence in Chamberlain's prosecution of the war and so Chamberlain resigned.

The commonly accepted version of events states that Lord Halifax turned down the post of prime minister because he believed he could not govern effectively as a member of the House of Lords instead of the House of Commons.


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  • Although a prime minister does not traditionally advise the King on a prime minister's own successor, Chamberlain wanted someone who would command the support of all three major parties in the House of Commons. A meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax, Churchill, and David Margesson , the government Chief Whip , led to the recommendation of Churchill, and, as constitutional monarch, George VI asked Churchill to be prime minister.

    Churchill's first act was to write to Chamberlain to thank him for his support. Churchill was still unpopular with many Conservatives and the Establishment , [] [] who opposed his replacing Chamberlain; the former prime minister remained party leader until dying in November. People said they didn't know what Britain would do without him.

    He was obviously respected. But no one felt he would be Prime Minister after the war.