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Churchill’s 1950 Election Message on Film

British Pathé Website Releases Rare Informal Footage

Churchill_at_deskBritish Pathé has released fifteen minutes of rarely seen film footage from January 1950 showing Winston Churchill preparing a newsreel message for the British general election held the following month. The film includes a sequence of camera takes in which Churchill experiments with different vocal inflections and word emphases. He also interacts with the cameraman and crew, sharing his musings about different speaking techniques, and chuckling at himself when losing his train of thought. At one point he even tries “an experiment with my voice” by reciting – from memory – lines from Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a work Churchill had first read some 50 years before. To view the film, please CLICK HERE.

In his message, Churchill expresses the importance of the election to Britain and the world, reflecting his concern about the Cold War and the consequences of continued government by the Labor Party: “The choice is plain: are we now to take another plunge into socialist regimentation or are we to return to the high road of freedom of enterprise and with proper safeguards and opportunity for all?”

Churchill calls upon individual Britons to use their “genius, contrivance, initiative and diligence” to muster a “new surge of impulse and courage” with which to protect their “small island” from the “cramping and narrowing” confines on socialism. He celebrates the strength and individuality of the British populace, urging them to “make the best of themselves” and “rise by their own exertions”.

When voting was held on February 23, Churchill’s leadership and voter dissatisfaction with Prime Minster Clement Attlee and the Labour Party resulted in a significant upsurge in support for the Conservatives, who gained 85 seats. While Labor retained a slight majority in the House of Commons, the stage was set for Churchill’s return to No. 10 Downing Street the following year when the Tories captured 321 seats in the October 1951 election, compared with Labor’s 295. Churchill served as Prime Minister for the next four years, retiring for the last time in April 1955.

Informal film of Churchill is rare and this example provides a delightful opportunity to see that, even at age 75, he had not lost either his sense humor or his commanding presence and still had an abundance of both to offer Great Britain and the world.

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