“This Fulfils My Ambition”
In October 1924, Churchill returned to the campaign trail, standing for a seat in the House of Commons at Epping as a “Constitutionalist,” but giving “wholehearted support” to the Conservative Party. During the campaign, he attacked the Socialist government’s proposal to give a guaranteed loan to the Soviet Union of £40 million:
“Why should we do that? During the war we lent Russia £600 millions when they were fighting bravely on our side, but the Bolshevists, when they made the revolution, deserted the Allied cause and repudiated the debt. At the same time they stole £120 millions of British property in Russia, and we are at present whistling for our money….But it is not only a question of money‹it is a question of honour. Russia is a tyranny, the vilest tyranny that ever existed. The great mass of the Russian people are gripped by a gang of cosmopolitan adventurers, who have settled down on the country like vultures and are tearing it to pieces.
The election was held on October 29th and Churchill returned to Parliament with a substantial majority. The Conservative Party won in a landslide, 419 seats against 151 for Labour. As a consequence, Churchill wrote to a friend, “I think it is very likely that I shall not be invited to join the Government, as owing to the size of its majority it will probably be composed only of impeccable Conservatives.”
Churchill was wrong, however, and the man he had attacked in strong personal terms only a year earlier, now Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, invited him to join the government as Chancellor of the Exchequer: the second-highest post in the British government. Churchill readily accepted, telling Baldwin, “This fulfills my ambition. I still have my father’s robe as Chancellor. I shall be proud to serve you in this splendid Office.” The appointment was not well-received by the Conservative Party. The Times was critical and Austin Chamberlain said in a letter to Baldwin, “I am alarmed at the news that you have made Winston Chancellor, not because I do not wish Winston well but because I fear that this particular appointment will be a great shock to the Party.”
Churchill promptly set about putting together his budget, which included substantial tax reforms, notably lower income taxes. Writing to Sir Richard Hopkins, Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, to effect these tax increases, Churchill strongly opposed the Admiralty’s request of over £27 million to be spent for the construction of new ships over a three year period, ridiculing the Admiralty’s claim that this was necessary to prepare for a possible war with Japan. In a letter to Baldwin, he wrote:
“A war with Japan! But why should there be a war with Japan? I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime.”