CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 43
STEMMING THE TIDE, the fourth volume of Winston Churchill’s collected postwar speeches, captures Winston Churchill at a crossroads. His return to No. 10 as Prime Minister arrives midway through the book. His age and declining health are the subtext throughout. We look to STEMMING THE TIDE next,
in our chronological exploration of Churchill’s book-length works.
It was the fourteenth General Election of Winston Churchill’s fifty-year parliamentary career that carried him back to power. He was almost seventy- seven years old on October 26, 1951, when Clement Attlee tendered his resignation and King George VI asked Churchill to form a new government.
Churchill’s second administration was not remotely so dramatic as his first, but it was, in a far more prosaic sense, heroic. Refusing to give in to his own growing frailty, Churchill persevered, often with vision, grace, and, on occasion, brilliance in navigating his diminished nation through the postwar minefields of economic devastation at home, the Communist threat abroad, and an obstructive Opposition undermining him at every turn. He generated more than sporadic bursts of his old vigor and engagement, though those closest to him, including his wife Clementine, doubted his ability to survive. “One can’t expect to live forever,” he remarked to his physician, Lord Moran, in deflecting suggestions that he step down for his own survival. As for mistakes —“the man who makes no mistakes,” he insisted, “makes nothing.” “I am always ready to learn,” he told the House of Commons, “although I do not always like being taught.”
It is impossible just now to read Churchill’s final words in Stemming the Tide and not quote them. He addressed these words originally to the House of Commons on December 4, 1952, in response to a Motion of Censure brought against him by the Opposition Labour Party:
“I am rather careful about the word obstruction; I have looked it up… If we can show that a Government, even with a majority as moderate as our own, can in fact do several years’ good and faithful work, we shall have rendered an historic service…We are much encouraged by what has happened so far and by the failure of the Opposition to mask their own internal feuds by uniting in hysterical and violent abuse of their opponents. Their conduct…has been reprehensible in a high degree. Far from moving a Motion of censure…they should shake and shiver in their shoes with shame.”
We wish ever greater vaccination numbers and ever more good and faithful work to one and all, as we together attempt to render historic service.