CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 14
THE PEOPLE’S RIGHTS is something of a campaign collectable from the 1910 General Election; a compendium of six fiery Churchill speeches attacking the Conservative Party for not supporting “The People’s Budget.” Originally published in a cheaply printed, widely circulated, softcover edition (with a great cover photo) and a simultaneous (and far more limited) hardcover printing, the book is rarely encountered today in either format.
We catch up to it next, and at just the right moment, in our tour of Winston Churchill’s books.
Winston Churchill’s avid campaign speechmaking on behalf of the Liberal Party during the January 1910 General Election resulted in a resounding Liberal victory. Working in partnership with his new friend and inspiration, the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George, Churchill, as President of the Board of Trade during the two years preceding the General Election, had implemented an unprecedented program of “radical” progressive reforms on behalf of the unemployed, the disenfranchised and the needy.
He’d also skirmished volubly in the House of Commons over “The People’s Budget,” the Liberal Party’s revolutionary new funding program, pushing it through — in tandem with Lloyd George and Prime Minister H.H. Asquith — by legislatively stripping the House of Lords of its power to reject money bills. This infuriated even further his already enraged Tory aristocrat former-colleagues.
Churchill was rewarded by Asquith with a promotion to Home Secretary; Britain’s second youngest ever, responsible for the criminal justice system, fire brigades, immigration services, mines, fisheries, roads and bridges, public morals, dangerous drugs, explosives and firearms.
Churchill, of course, jumped in with both feet, vigorously studying and mastering nearly each of these realms—then offering ideas to improve them, one by one. He did not merely champion prison reform, for example; he doggedly visited prisons himself to learn about their deficiencies.
Six days after becoming Home Secretary, he attended the opening night of John Galsworthy’s new play, Justice, a denunciation of solitary confinement in prisons, taking with him the Chairman of the Prison Commissioners, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, a solitary confinement proponent.
The drama powerfully affected Churchill and so intensified his reformist efforts that two months later he announced a major reduction in the permissible use of solitary confinement, prompting Galsworthy to write in a letter to Churchill’s Aunt Leonie: “I have always admired his pluck and his capacity, and a vein of imagination somewhat rare amongst politicians.
I now perceive him to have a heart, and to be very human. I think he will go far.”
We wish you, with all our heart, safety, health and politicians with imagination and a heart