Churchill in Politics
After returning from the war in Africa Churchill again stood for election to Parliament and was on this occasion successful in becoming MP for Oldham in 1900.
The “Khaki” election of 1900 called so due to the perceived British victory in the Boer War gave the Conservative Party a large electoral boost and allowed Churchill to fully capitalise on his experiences in the conflict and win, all be it closely in a seat in which he had come third the year before.
Despite this success it was not long before Churchill found himself at odds with the Party over the introduction and support of tariffs on foreign imports.
The move spearheaded by Joseph Chamberlain who had supported Churchill in Oldham was so at odds with the Victorian ideal of free trade that Churchill was removed as the official Conservative candidate for Oldham and defected to the Liberal Party.
In 1904 after dramatically crossing the house to take up a position on the Liberal benches, Churchill became a highly outspoken advocate of free trade and in 1906 was re-elected to Parliament as a Liberal this time in the constituency of North West Manchester.
This turned out to be a highly advantageous move as Churchill after securing victory in Manchester was promptly offered a junior ministerial position in the incoming Liberal government.
The next eight years passed quickly and successfully for Churchill as he aided the Liberal government in instituting the wide ranging social reform which would become the foundation for the modern welfare state.
During this period Churchill held several prominent cabinet positions including Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty and this trend continued until the outbreak of the First World War.
Early in the war Churchill championed the battle in the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign both in Parliament and to the admiralty.
The eventual failure of these campaigns forced Churchill to resign his position in the House and travel to France to fight on the frontline.
After two years on the Front Churchill returned in 1917 as Minister for Munitions and eventually Secretary for War and Air and Colonial Secretary in the Liberal coalition under David Lloyd George, during this period Churchill secured the independence of Ireland and drew the borders of the Middle East.
In 1922 the Liberal Party suffered a catastrophic collapse and Churchill was left without post or party, despite this he was re-elected to parliament as an independent in 1924 and was later asked by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to re-join the Conservative Party and serve in government as the Chancellor of the Exchequer which he did until 1929.
The following decade 1929-1939 became known as Churchill’s wilderness years.
After arguing against the party position on several prominent issues, including the granting of self-government to certain parts of India and arguing strongly for rearmament; in light of Hitler’s aggression contrary to the appeasement policy in effect by the British Government Churchill was denied office and relegated to the backbenches.
When in 1939 war broke out as Churchill had always maintained it would, the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain asked Churchill to return as First Lord of the Admiralty a position he held until becoming Prime Minister in 1940.
Churchill as Prime Minister is remembered always for rousing speeches and grim defiance in the wake of France’s collapse and German domination of Western Europe and it is this indomitable will that allowed Britain to survive and continue the fight.
As Prime Minister Churchill was aware that Britain was not strong enough alone to turn back the German forces and so he turned his considerable political skill towards the forging of a Grand Alliance with the United States of America and the Soviet Union, the entry of whom into the conflict in 1941 turned the tide of the war.
After the collapse of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s defeat Churchill alongside Stalin and Roosevelt redrew the map of Europe in the fallout of six years of total war.
This was however not the end of conflict for Churchill as he then turned his attention to the Soviet Union and what he called the Iron Curtain addressing the issue in a speech in Fulton Missouri in 1946 where he also coined the phrase and founded the Special Relationship between the UK and the US.
Churchill spent the next five years in opposition as the Labour Party under Clement Atlee won a landslide victory in the election of 1945.
During this period Churchill was a competent and effective leader of the opposition and when in 1951 the Conservatives again secured a majority Churchill once again became Prime Minister.
Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in 1955 but served as an MP until his retirement at the 1964 General Election.