1945 and All That: the Conservative Campaign

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The Conservatives made what must have looked like the pretty straightforward choice: Churchill would win the election. The manifesto kind of sums it up: Mr Churchill’s Declaration of Policy to the Electors. It’s actually worth a look, you can find it here. Even the National label, harking back to the ‘thirties. was probably a mistake.

The convention is that campaigns don’t change a lot. Certainly, opinion poll evidence shows Labour had a healthy lead from 1942 on. Having said that, watch Churchill on the stump.

Perhaps his clumsiest moment was the so-called Gestapo Speech.

I must tell you that a socialist policy is abhorrent to British ideas on freedom. There is to be one State, to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State, once in power, will prescribe for everyone: where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say, what views they are to hold, where their wives are to queue up for the State ration, and what education their children are to receive. A socialist state could not afford to suffer opposition – no socialist system can be established without a political police. They (the Labour government) would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo.

Churchill never liked broadcasting.

When asked twenty years on, Attlee thought that 1945 was not a vote against Churchill, but against his party. But, how far did he personify it?

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