The Chancellors (13): Sir John Anderson

Sir-John-Anderson-Budge_466Sir John Anderson, 1943-45

National (with no party label), in Churchill’s wartime National Government

For Anderson’s career up until 1940, see the entry in the series on the home secretaries here.

When Churchill moved Anderson from the Home Office, very much for political reasons, it amounted to a promotion. As home secretary, Anderson was not a member of the war cabinet, though he often attended. As lord president of the council, Anderson chaired the lord president’s committee: as such, he was in overall charge of coordinating the home front, working closely with Attlee and Bevin. It was a position that played to his strengths. So successful was he in that role that when Sir Kingsley Wood died suddenly, and Anderson replaced him as chancellor, he continued to play the same role in a reformed committee of a similar stripe.

Once again, though, he lacked a sure political touch. Like Wood, his response to the Beveridge Report was, and sounded, equivocal. Once more, it took Morrison to repair the political damage.

As chancellor, his primary role was still that of coordination; the Treasury came second. So invaluable was he, that Churchill left instructions that, in the event of Churchill and Eden being killed before the end of the war, Anderson should succeed him (he had also said the same about Bevin). As chancellor, he continued the adaptation of the Treasury to Keynesian economics and implemented PAYE. When Churchill won in 1951, Anderson was offered the de facto post as economic overlord, which he turned down.mw165067

Recently, on Twitter, Dan Jackson (@nothumbriana) wondered whether Anderson was the last holder of high office to wear a winged collar; if he was, that is perhaps symbolic. Anderson remains one of ten men to have been both chancellor and home secretary and, most of all, was one of the key figures in Churchill’s wartime government.

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