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

By John W. Young | Go to book overview

12
THE FAG-END OF POWER, SEPTEMBER 1954-APRIL 1955

HAVING refused to bequeath a 'fag-end administration' to Eden, Churchill decided to preside over such a government himself. He had long ceased to give direction to the government at home, had never recovered the vigour drained by his stroke in May 1953, and had effectively become a one-issue premier, obsessed by the danger of nuclear war and the need for détente. However it is a moot point whether Churchill's search for a Summit was a reason, or a rationalization, for clinging to office. Norman Brook believed that his chief was, quite simply, reluctant to give up the power that went with the premiership and held on until, in April 1955, a general election--which he knew he could not fight--became inescapable. As Churchill himself had told Lord Rosebery half-a-century before however, 'The one real difficulty I have to encounter is the suspicion that I am moved by mere restless ambition.'1 For this reason, Churchill willed himself to the pursuit of certain causes, often in the face of great odds. And, after September 1954, whatever the problems it faced, it was the hope of achieving a relaxation of Cold War tensions which still provided the Prime Minister with a campaign to fight. The fact that, for several months, all chance of East-West dialogue was spoiled by the debate over German rearmament, and that other blows, personal and political, continued to dent his hope, may explain why he lost an interest in government for long periods and eventually was prevailed upon to retire. The irony is that, just as he departed, the idea of a Summit finally drew close to realization.


LONDON, PARIS, AND WOODFORD

The collapse of the EDC project in the French Assembly provoked one of the gravest ever crises in the Atlantic Alliance. As September began it

____________________
1
J. Wheeler-Bennett, Action this Day: Working with Churchill ( 1968), 42-6; R. S. Churchill, Winston S. Churchill, ii, Companion Volume, Part I ( 1969), 168.

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