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CHURCHILL AND THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY

  • Stuart Ball
Abstract

THE words ‘Churchill’ and ‘party’ lie in uneasy company. Winston Churchill is regarded as the least orthodox and party-minded of all those who stood in the front rank of British politics during the twentieth century, always navigating by his own compass. This view is shaped by Churchill’s remarkable egotism and the well-known incidents of his career: the two changes of party allegiance, the coalitionism of 1917–22, the rebellious ‘wilderness’ years of the 1930s, and the premiership almost above party in 1940–5. It has been reinforced by the preponderance of biography in the writing about Churchill, and especially by those which regard him as a ‘great man’. Churchill tends to be removed from his political context and separated from his peers, and there is a reluctance to see him in any conventional light. As a result, by far the most neglected aspect of Churchill’s life has been his party political role, and in particular his relationship with the Conservative party.

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1 The only discussions are Lord Blake, ‘Churchill and the Conservative Party’, in Crosby Kemper (ed.), Winston Churchill: Resolution, Defiance, Magnanimity(Columbia, Mo., 1995), 141–56, a brief narrative treatment which does not go beyond 1940, and the more specific study by John Ramsden, ‘Winston Churchill and the Leadership of the Conservative Party 1940–51’,Contemporary Record, 9, no. 1 (1995), 99–119; the latter’s volume in the Longman History of the Conservative Party series,The Age of Churchill and Eden 1940–57(1995), provides further analysis and is the most valuable exploration of this theme after 1940. Paul Addison,Churchill on the Home Front 1900–55(1992), is unusual in concentrating on domestic politics and makes many important points, but still leaves Churchill’s relationship with the party in the background; it excludes discussion of the India revolt and thus has a comparatively short examination of 1929–39, and like most works gives less weight to the 1945–55 period. A recent substantial study by Graham Stewart,Burying Caesar: Churchill, Chamberlain and the Battle for the Tory Party(1999), focuses on Churchill’s career during the 1930s.

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Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • ISSN: 0080-4401
  • EISSN: 1474-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/transactions-of-the-royal-historical-society
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