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Winston Churchill resigns »

Winston Churchill resigns » 1955


The later life of Winston Churchill documents the life of the British statesman from the end of World War II and his second term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, until his eventual death and funeral in 1965. After the end of the war Churchill had to step down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom because the Conservative Party lost the 1945 election. For six years he was to serve as the Leader of the Opposition. During these years Churchill continued to influence world affairs; in 1946 he gave his Iron Curtain speech which spoke of the expansionist policies of the USSR and the creation of the Eastern Bloc; Churchill also argued strongly for British independence from the European Coal and Steel Community (which he saw as a Franco-German project as Britain still had an empire). In the General Election of 1951 Labour was defeated and Churchill became Prime Minister for a second time. Churchill continued to lead Britain but was to suffer increasingly from health problems. Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally he resigned from the Cabinet in 1955. However he continued to sit as an MP for Woodford until he retired from politics in 1964. Churchill died on 24 January 1965 and was granted the honour of a state funeral. He was buried in his family plot in St Martin's Church, Bladon near to where he was born at Blenheim Palace.

The 1945 election

Although Churchill's role in World War II had generated him much support from the British population, he had many opponents. He also expressed contempt for a number of popular ideas, in particular creating a system of national public health care and improving public education. Partly as a result of this Churchill was defeated in the 1945 election by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party.[1] There are different theories as to why he lost this election; it could be that the voters thought that the man who had led them so well in war was not the man to lead them in peace, or that the election result was not a reaction against Churchill personally, but against the Conservative Party's record in the 1930s under Baldwin and Chamberlain. Also, the proposed reformist policies of the Labour Party—such as introducing the NHS—appealed strongly to voters. During the opening broadcast of the election campaign, Churchill astonished many of his admirers by warning that a Labour government would introduce into Britain "some form of Gestapo, no doubt humanely administered in the first instance".  Churchill had been genuinely worried during the war by the inroads of state bureaucracy into civil liberty, and was clearly influenced by Friedrich Hayek's anti-totalitarian tract, The Road to Serfdom (1944).

His Resignation Honours included recommendations outside of party politics for the Chiefs of Staff of the armed services and the Ministry of Defence, which had the approval of the new Prime Minister.
Churchill with American General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery at a meeting of NATO in October 1951, shortly before Churchill was to become Prime Minister for a second time
Although Churchill was no longer Prime Minister, he would not leave the public eye for many years. His image as a world leader, and seasoned diplomat would allow him to remain a figurehead in British politics. Churchill became the leader of the opposition, the Conservative Party. While acting as leader Churchill accomplished a great many things, and would make his voice heard on proposals which he strongly opposed. The first major issue where Churchill made his view known was whether or not to release India from British control. In a speech to the House of Commons in early March 1947, Churchill warned against handing power over to India too soon. Churchill felt that the political parties in India did not truly represent the people, and that in a few years no trace of the new government would remain.
Winston Churchill was an early supporter of pan-Europeanism. In his speech at the University of Zurich in 1946, Winston Churchill called for a "United States of Europe" and the creation of a "Council of Europe". He also participated in the Hague Congress of 1948, which discussed the future structure and role of this Council of Europe. The Council of Europe was finally founded as the first European institution through the Treaty of London of 5 May 1949 and has its seat in Strasbourg.

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