Finest Hour 178, Fall 2018
Leo Amery (1873–1955) was a lifelong friend of Winston Churchill, although politically they were often at odds with each other. They first met while at school together at Harrow—a humorous account of which Churchill immortalized in his autobiography My Early Life. Both men worked as war correspondents in South Africa and shared a tent together the night before Churchill’s famous armoured train encounter that led to his capture by the Boers, subsequent escape, and enough resulting notoriety to catapult him into Parliament “ten years before you!” as he later chided Amery, who had preferred to slumber in his cot.
Unlike Churchill, Amery remained a lifelong Tory and zealously championed protective tariffs, while Churchill, a supporter of free trade, left the Conservative party to join the Liberals in 1904. When Churchill returned to the Tory fold to serve as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin from 1924 to 1929, he found a strong antagonist in Amery, who served as Colonial Secretary in the same Government.
After 1929 both men found themselves consigned to the backbenches during the appeasement years. Although Amery, like Churchill, was an outspoken critic of Hitler and an advocate of rearmament, the two men differed strongly over home rule for India, which Amery supported and Churchill opposed. Ironically, when Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940 he named Amery as his Secretary of State for India. This led to intense clashes between them in Cabinet.