Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Churchill Series – Oct. 30, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In yesterday’s post we looked at one, extracts from a letter Churchill wrote May 11, 1940, the day after he’d assumed the premiership to his predecessor Neville Chamberlain seeking to set up a meeting with Chamberlain and the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax; and two, a memorandum Churchill dictated on Nov. 8, 1940 directing the Cabinet Secretary, a civil servant, to inform him how best Churchill could authorize that when conflicts involving statistic-based claims arose, the statistical unit directly answering to him and headed by his good friend, Oxford physicist Eric Lindemann, would have the final say.

The May letter is very courteous and cautious. (Churchill even explains why he would like the meeting to be in his office, then at the Admiralty, rather than at Downing Street.) The Nov. memorandum is “do this now without consulting the Cabinet Ministers.”

Why the change in tone and method in six months? Why can Churchill be so imperial in the memorandum?

Because he’s proven his mettle as leader and events have played out to strengthen his political standing within the Cabinet and with the people.

From the time he took office he succeeded in blocking any consideration of German peace offers realizing that entertaining them would start a slide down a slippery slope which would sap the nations resolve to fight on under any conditions. Deservedly or not, he received much of the credit for “the miracle of Dunkirk.” The fall of France, which could have discouraged people and thereby weakened his leadership, he turned to advantage with “Very well, alone.”

The invasion didn’t come in the Summer or Fall of 1940. By November the British realized they’d won the Battle of Britain.

On Nov. 5 President Roosevelt had been re-elected.

On May 11 Churchill was confident of his political skills, but he knew his political power was weak; on Nov. 8 he was rightly confident of both his political skills and power.