April 25, 2015

Finest Hour 119, Summer 2003

Page 04

The Views of Mr. Powell

I was married to J. Enoch Powell for forty-six years, and can assert that, contrary to what Conrad Black writes in his review of John Lukacs’ book, Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian, in Finest Hour #117, page 36, my husband never held the view “that Churchill should have made a live and let live deal with Hitler.” Mr. Powell was a professor of Greek in Sydney when war was declared and flew home that month (September 1939), joined the Army as a private soldier and ended the war as a Brigadier. I am sure you will wish to publish this letter in your next edition.

Lord Black responds:
My comment was based on what Mr. Powell told me in the presence of his biographer, Simon Heffer, when he came to lunch with us at the Daily Telegraph. He was, as you know, extremely antagonistic to the United States, held that country largely responsible for the dissolution of the British Empire, and told us he favoured a negotiated end to the war with Germany in 1943, and a postwar alliance with the Soviet Union rather than the United States and Western Europe. He said he had written to someone in 1943 proposing a negotiated end to the European war. We further discussed these matters several years later at the Conservative Philosophy Group where I described him as “irrationally antiAmerican” in the midst of a perfectly civilized exchange. I was in some other respects an admirer of Mr. Powell and enjoyed my meetings and correspondence with him.

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Tax Cutters

Kudos to Michael McMenamin’s Autumn 2002 “Action This Day” on Churchill’s massive 1927 tax cut proposal. McMenamin accurately reports that the cuts were paid for by reduction in expenditure, including military: an example of true leadership in stark contrast to current politicians who style themselves conservatives and propose huge tax reductions. Today’s taxation proposals, unlike Churchill’s, are not paid for with spending cuts but funded with borrowed money; they will increase the national debt, and the interest on that debt.

Mr. McMenamin responds:
Churchill would appreciate and accept Mr. Stier’s gracious compliment, but would hasten to explain his economic policies were more complicated than the limited space of “Action This Day” permits or Mr. Stier’s letter suggests. Churchill didn’t attempt, using a static analysis, to balance tax and spending cuts like a bean counter. To Churchill, tax cuts, spending reductions and even tax increases were part of a dynamic mix aimed, especially in 1927, at stimulating what we call today the supply side of the economy. Churchill elaborated on this in a newspaper essay in 1939:

My tenure of the Exchequer [1924-1929] ran into quiet and prosperous times. In my five years, I was able to reduce taxation substantially…the consuming power of the people was encouraged, and strong new resources of wealth were ‘left to fructify’ in the pockets of the people. Debt was substantially reduced; our obligations to the United States were punctually met….I devised a number of new taxes, all much abused at the time, all increased since, on silk, on petrol, and on motor-cars. I maintained a sinking fund of over fifteen millions a year effective payment. Unemployment fell to below the million mark. I really thought I was myself entitled to survey this work of five years with some major satisfaction.

Artistic License

On page 30 of FH 117 the caption identifies the middle figure as Rear-Admiral Madden, but he is wearing the stripes of a Vice-Admiral. I doubt that Madden and Jellicoe were Churchill’s “two highest executive officers.” I believe that these should include the First Sea Lotd.

Editors’ response:
The painting and caption are from The Sphere of 15 August 1914. The painting does not picture a real event, just a generalised view of what may have happened any time in the preceding ten days. It is highly stylised: I cannot imagine two admirals briefing the First Lord in his office like this while still wearing their caps. On this date, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was Commander-in Chief, Grand Fleet and Rear Admiral Madden was his chief of staff (but not second in command). Madden was not promoted to the acting rank of Vice-Admiral until June 1915 and did not become second-in-command till 1916, so both the painting and caption are misleading. To refer to these two as the First Lords two highest executive officers is highly irregular. I doubt if the term was known to the Royal Navy and was probably coined by the caption writer in ignorance of official terminology, PHC

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