December 6, 2013

2013 Research Award Winner

The Churchill Centre is proud to announce Lauren Souter as the 2013 Research Award winner. Souter won the award as a student at Franklin High School in Franklin, TN.

Souter’s research topic was Winston Churchill’s Defeat in the 1945 general election. She chose this topic because, “I did not understand why someone that was so loved and revered lost the popular vote.” She is currently a student at Lee University sutdying Spanish and History.

Below is an excerpt of the winning paper. To read the full text, please click here.

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On July 26, 1945, Churchill’s defeat in the election of 1945 was announced. [1] This certainly came as a surprise to Churchill and to the rest of the world as it was not long before that date that the people had praised Churchill’s heroism. The New York Times commented, calling the outcome of the election, “one of the most stunning electoral surprises in the history of democracy.” [2] How then, did the defeat come about, and what caused it? To what extent was Churchill’s success in times of war the reason he was defeated in the 1945 election?

To fully analyze Churchill’s wartime success, one must first analyze his rise to power. Before Winston Churchill was in office, Neville Chamberlain had been serving as Prime Minister of England. On May 8, 1940, Chamberlain asked the Labor Party to join him in an all-party coalition government. However, the people of England were starting to have doubts about his leadership. [3] When France came under attack of Nazi Germany on May 10, 1940, Chamberlain realized that his policy of appeasement was not working and that action needed to be taken. [4] Chamberlain formally lost the confidence vote of the House of Commons, for the members also realized that appeasement was not working. So, on the same day as the first Nazi attack on France, Chamberlain announced his resignation. [5] It had previously been decided that no general elections would be held until after the war. As a result, the members of Parliament who were currently in office stayed in office and went far past the usual five-year term, as the next election would not happen until 1945. [6] Because there were not going to be any elections held, King George VI had to ask someone to take over the role of Prime Minister. The king decided that Winston Churchill was the man for the elite responsibility. That same day as the Nazi attack, May 10th, Churchill became Prime Minister of England. [7] Churchill had in mind the same strategy as Chamberlain: a coalition government made up of the leaders of the main political parties. [8]

As Churchill’s own political party association had been marked with much vacillation, switching from the Conservative party to the Liberal party, and later becoming an independent before rejoining the Conservative party in 1925, it is understandable why he would want a coalition government, as his own political opinions were distinctly eclectic. A coalition government would ensure the expression of opinions from all sides of the political spectrum. During the war, the country needed as many opinions as it could get to ensure that wise and proper decisions would be made. In Churchill’s opinion, a coalition government would be the only moral choice to defend the country in the time of war. [9]

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