Winston Churchill's Last Campaign: Britain and the Cold War, 1951-5

By John W. Young | Go to book overview

4
THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE AND THE 'STALIN NOTE', FEBRUARY-OCTOBER 1952

IN the wake of the North American visit, with US politics overshadowed by the Presidential race, any hopes that Churchill originally had of pressing towards an early Summit evaporated. Only in retrospect was it clear that he was waiting to exploit the arrival in office of a new President to develop the campaign for dU + 00E9tente. Yet the Spring and Summer of 1952 saw events which had a major impact on later efforts to relax East-West tensions. Following his initial burst of energy after returning to Downing Street, Churchill's own health began to suffer and pressures mounted in Conservative ranks for him to retire. In America, the debate over Cold War fighting intensified and ideas of 'liberation' became more publicly prevalent. Yet these were also the months when, after years of deadlock, Stalin showed an apparent readiness to make radical changes in his German policy. Certain historians indeed have argued that a real opportunity to dissolve Cold War divisions was lost in 1952, at a time when even Churchill took marginal interest in the subject.


THE AILING PREMIER

Although Harold Macmillan later claimed that, throughout 1952, Churchill 'maintained remarkable vitality'1 there can be little doubt that, for much of the year, the Prime Minister was plagued by poor health. He had barely returned to England when, on 6 February, King George VI died in his sleep. Churchill, distraught at the news, was thrown into a new Round of exertion. On the 12th he met the new Queen for their first audience and three days later had to welcome dignitaries from around the world to the royal funeral. At the same time, the annual budget was looming and the Labour Opposition had brought a vote of censure for the

____________________
1
H. Macmillan, Tides of Fortune, 1945-55 ( 1969), 391.

-88-

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