“The Essential Principle Is Personal Freedom. . .”
Churchill, who suffered his second consecutive by-election loss on 19 March, opened negotiations with the Conservative Leader, Stanley Baldwin, to bring more than 30 anti-Socialist Liberal Mps into an informal alliance with the Conservatives, provided the Conservatives agreed not to contest their seats at the next General Election.
“How I wish you were here…”
On 6 April 1924, Churchill published an article, “Socialism and Shaw” in The Sunday Chronicle, vigorously attacking the minority Socialist government: “The leaders of the Socialist movement themselves have hardly succeeded in shaking themselves free from personal considerations. The Socialist Lord Privy Seal asks the House of Commons to raise his salary from two thousand to five thousand pounds a year‹a proceeding perfectly proper on the Capitalist hypothesis, but hardly in harmony with Socialist idealism.
“Mr Bernard Shaw, that sparkling intellectual and brilliant champion of the Socialist Utopia, squealed like a rabbit when subjected to the mild Lloyd Georgian supertax. Even Mr Moseley, the latest recruit, has not yet divested himself of his unearned increments or quit the life of elegance and luxury in which he has his being.”
Churchill then set out his owned classical liberal philosophy: “The essential principle is personal freedom, the right of the individual to make the best of himself, or, within limits, the worst of himself, if he chooses; the stimulation of all these individual activities by the reward of enterprise, toil, and thrift; and their reconciliation through the laws.” The Socialists, he said, aspire “to prescribe from year to year, from month to month, or from week to week, the life and labour of every single citizen; what he was to do; where he was to do it; what he was to receive for doing it; where he was to live; under what conditions he could change his employment or his habitation. Nothing would be omitted from their control.”
On 7 May 1924, Churchill pressed his attack in a speech, “The Present Dangers of the Socialist Movement,” given at a Conservative Party meeting in Liverpool of over 5,000 people, the first time he had spoken at a Conservative gathering in twenty years: “This political cuckoo (loud laughter)‹if I may without disrespect borrow a metaphor from our tardy spring (laughter)‹is strutting about in borrowed plumes. This Socialist, whose life has been one long sneer at the British Empire, is able to appropriate as unearned increment to himself and his friends the whole of the fruits of the toil, the thrift, and the self-denial of his predecessors. Without that constitutional authority which springs from a majority at the polls, and without having had to do a hand’s turn of work or make the slightest effort, he has been placed in a situation where he was able to distribute a surplus for which he had neither toiled nor spun.
Earlier in the Spring, Churchill had written his first letter from Chartwell to his wife, Clementine, who spent Easter in Dieppe with her mother:
The weather has been delicious & we are out all day toiling in dirty clothes and & only bathing before dinner. I have just had my bath in your de Luxe bathroom. I hope you have no amour propre about it!…I drink Champagne at all meals & buckets of claret and soda in between, & the cuisine tho’ simple is excellent. In the evenings we play the gramophone (of wh we have deprived Mary) & Mah Jongg with yr gimcrack set.
Everything is budding now that this gleam of deferred genial weather has come.
Only one thing lacks these banks of green – The Pussy Cat who is their Queen.
I do hope, my darling, that you are all enjoying yourselves & that you are really recuperating. How I wish you were here…”