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Why Did The British People Vote Winston Churchill Out Of Office? - Foreign Affairs - Nairaland

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Why Did The British People Vote Winston Churchill Out Of Office? by ItuExchange(m): 10:31pm On Aug 30, 2016
It is important to understand that Churchill's Conservative Party did not narrowly loose the 1945 election, they lost massively with one of the biggest electoral swings of the twentieth century. The Labour Party won the general election decisively, winning 393 seats, while the second-placed Conservatives only secured 197. It wasn’t so much a defeat as a rout.

So how could this victorious leader, who so inspiringly lead Britain in their hour of greatest peril have been so convincingly rejected by his own people?

I've spoken to many people who were involved in that election and it is clear that while most of the electorate respected and admired Churchill's war leadership, they did not support his political opinions. The Conservatives had been in power since 1935 but by 1945 many things; socially, politically and economically had changed. People did not want to return to the same old system of class deference and privilege, of hunger marches and a generation brought up in poverty. There was a feeling of if we can beat the Germans, then we can take on all these social and economic problems and defeat them like we defeated Hitler. People were ready for change.

During the war, people from the three major parties, Labour, Liberal and Conservative were prepared to put party differences aside. However in 1945 with the war over it was clear that the political truce was also at an end. Labour left the coalition and though Churchill continued to campaign under the old coalition title of the National Government, it was obvious to everyone that it was back to party politics of left versus the right.

Churchill who had been so in tune with the popular feelings during the dark days of 1940, was now out of touch. He badly misread the public mood and in a radio broadcast started compared British socialists to the Gestapo. Even members of his own family thought he had gone too far. These comments were widely viewed as a huge insult to many Labour Party (socialist) supporters who had fought and died against the Nazis, even some Conservatives realised this.

The effect of the war on the home-front had heralded some massive social changes. Angus Calder points out in his brilliant book "The People's War" that the evacuation of children from inner city areas exposed people from the the more ‘affluent shires’ to the reality of the lives of the slum dwelling urban poor. Surprisingly for the poor, war time food rationing proved to be a blessing as many had never had such regular and nutritious food. During the war the health of the British people overall actually improved, due to a diet that was nutritionally balanced, low in sugars and high in fibre and vegetables. Life expectancy of civilians actually improved during the war.

Many British people looked in admiration to the Soviet Union and how it was taking on the lion's share of the struggle against Fascism and naturally became more sympathetic to their political cause. Membership of the Communist Party in Britain reached an all time high and their influence far outweighed their size, with members in key positions in large factories and the labour movement. It is important to realise this was before the cold war and the fall of the iron curtain and Russia was viewed in a far more favourable light by the majority of the population.

The war also meant full employment and being in work meant that workers came into contact with and under the influence of Trade Unions. This for the first time influenced many women too, as for the first many females found work in factories instead of being condemned to work in domestic service for the rich. Both these factors increased the shift to the left in Britain.

Many on the homefront and overseas began to question what was the war about? Why did we fight? Was it simply about Poland, conserving the political status quo for the aristocracy and Empire, or were Britain and the Allies fighting for a better, fairer, freer world for all? There was a huge movement of individuals from one part of the UK to another. Scots mixed with cockneys, who mixed with scousers and Yorkshiremen, men who worked in the industrial cities with those who were brought up in the country. The forced mixing of classes and regions in war time factories, and in the armed forces along with the evacuation of children, all mixed up the rigid class structure. It started to undermine the idea of class deference to your "betters". Public school boys were conscripted to work in mines and shipyards as "Bevin Boys" and the armed forces became a huge melting pot of class and nationality.

One of the reasons why the Allies won the war was because of the huge technical and scientific advances that were employed to defeat the Nazis and Japanese. This too helped fundamentally changed the structure of British society. Penicillin, the jet engine, radar and the huge intelligence gathering effort, all required technically proficient, skilled and educated men and women to maintain, operate and control these technological advances. Many soldiers, sailors and airmen who had being trained to perform highly skilled tasks during the war, were unwilling to return to unskilled jobs of drudgery in civilian life. In many cases because of the education and training they received in the military they were able to move up the social ladder into the middle classes.

British soldiers were also becoming increasingly radicalised. Britain had always had a small professional army, not a large conscript force and the massive increase in numbers during the war had made conservative military culture difficult to maintain. Officers could no longer be selected from only the upper classes. Due to a shortage of recruits from the ‘right’ background, the RAF had to allow non-officers to become pilots, called pilot sergeants. (this was quickly reversed after the war). During the campaign in North Africa a debating society was set up to "educate" British soldiers. This educational initiative was known as the Cairo Parliament and provided an opportunity for British soldiers of all ranks to debate and argue about the current questions of the day. However this was quickly closed down when Senior officers found that British soldiers had overwhelmingly supported a motion that "The Soviet system was the best system for winning the war".

British soldiers rubbed shoulders with Americans, Canadians, Indians, and ANZAC's and the colonials' lack of deference to their officers began to rub off. Meeting soldiers from other Allied countries made UK soldiers realise that 'British was not always best.' American equipment was often technologically superior, better made and more reliable than much of the ‘British kit.'

British troops stationed in Africa and India made it plain that they had not signed up to maintain Britain's colonial Empire but to rid the world of fascism. After the defeat of the Japanese in Burma, British soldiers in Rangoon threw their officers overboard when they learnt the ship they had boarded was not taking them home but instead taking them to India to help maintain British rule there. In India and the Middle East there was a wave of strikes and mutinies. The Air Ministry reported ‘incidents that occurred at 22 RAF stations’, however later accounts put the figure at more than 60 units with more than 50,000 men involved. It was the biggest single act of mass defiance in the history of the British armed forces. It was clear that the conscript army that was dogged in its opposition to the Germans, was not happy about fighting to preserve an exotic Empire overseas.

When votes were cast it became clear that Labour had won a landslide winning almost twice as many seats as Churchill's Conservatives who only held on to 197 seats. Interestingly the huge swing to Labour only became apparent when votes from soldiers serving overseas were counted. Churchill had completely failed to understand and comprehend the huge social changes that had taken place in Britain and politically paid the price.

Source: https://www.quora.com/Why-did-the-British-people-vote-Winston-Churchill-out-of-office

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1 Like

Re: Why Did The British People Vote Winston Churchill Out Of Office? by HungerBAD: 10:35pm On Aug 30, 2016

The Brits wanted a leader in peace time,not a war time leader like Churchill.


Re: Why Did The British People Vote Winston Churchill Out Of Office? by nnachukz(m): 10:38pm On Aug 30, 2016
Op politics is like advertisement, it can tell you that sugar is even better than honey, if you don't ask questions and consult historical records you will be deceived. Just take last general election here as a case study if you are not biased.
Re: Why Did The British People Vote Winston Churchill Out Of Office? by nnachukz(m): 10:39pm On Aug 30, 2016
The same reason we removed GEJ from office without thinking twice. Ignorance and propaganda are effective tool, anytime anywhere.
Re: Why Did The British People Vote Winston Churchill Out Of Office? by happney65: 8:38am On Aug 31, 2016
Because he used to take Igbo.. grin grin

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