‘The decision of the British people has been recorded in the votes counted to-day. I have therefore laid down the charge which was placed upon me in darker times. ’ 1
Churchill was greatly shocked by the result of the general election and his immediate response was to take an extended holiday abroad, perhaps less to recover his health and more to recover his wounded pride. As leader of the opposition he presided over some far-reaching reforms of his party but, as usual, preferred to leave the domestic chores to others and to concentrate on international affairs. His reputation as the most famous Englishman meant he was a popular speaker in Europe and the USA, and made a number of significant speeches on the theme of international affairs, including his description of the ‘iron curtain’. He spent much less time in the House of Commons, which created a vacuum in the Tory leadership until Butler, Eden and Macmillan took it upon themselves to fill the gap.
Churchill won his first general election to become Prime Minister in October 1951 at the age of seventy-six. With the succession of the new Queen in 1952 there was much optimism and talk of a new Elizabethan Age. But there was also an acknowledgement that this was Churchill’s swansong and few expected him to see out the full Parliament as Prime Minister. His fitness for office and relationship