Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Churchill Series – Nov. 27, 2007

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

Derek Lukin Johnston, for years archivist of The Sir Winston Churchill Society of Vancouver, Canada, ended an article, “Master of the English Language”, published in The Churchill Centre’s Finest Hour, as follows:

I conclude with a report of the speech with which Churchill, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in April 1926, wound up the debate on the Budget. This is extracted from Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s daily letter to King George V:

Mr. Churchill was in his happiest mood and imparted that happiness to the House in full measure. Obviously revelling in his task, he delivered a joyous and slashing attack on his opponents.

The debates, he said, had revealed the hopeless insincerity of the Liberal and Socialist platitudinous pleas for economy. As a matter of fact the Socialists did not wish for economy—their policy had always been in favour of prodigality of expenditure.

Mr. Churchill then set the House rocking with laughter with an analysis of the epithets which had been used by Opposition speakers during previous debates.

The words robbery or robbed had been used 67 times, confiscation 10, plunder 10, steal 3 — it had been used once more since by Mr. Thomas but that addition had arrived after the list was closed—theft 2, filch 1, grab 1, cheat 1, breach of faith 19 and so on.

He himself had also received the following compliments: the villain of the piece, robber, marauder, cat-burglar and artful dodger.

As, however, the Labour Party had for some years saluted him with the expression murderer, the title robber seemed to him to be a form of promotion.

Having set the House in a thoroughly good and exhilarated humour by this extremely amusing analysis Mr. Churchill, taking full advantage of the atmosphere which he had thus created, delivered a first rate fighting speech in justification of the Government’s policy, and, having dealt devastatingly with the. . . . Opposition’s arguments, wound up on a note of defiance by declaring that the Government would be judged not by the violence of their opponents’ language but by the consequences of their own actions.

It was a crushing rejoinder delivered in Mr. Churchill’s best manner, with all the rhetorical power and devices which make him one of the most formidable debaters in the House of Commons.
Johnson’s entire article is here.