Spring 1963 (Age 88)

In April the American Congress and President John F. Kennedy awarded Sir Winston Churchill an honourary citizenship of the United States of America.

In May it was announced that Sir Winston would not contest the next election. And so would end one of the truly remarkable parliamentary careers in the history of the free world. In some ways that announcement could be viewed as Churchill’s real retirement, because he was, as Lord Beaverbrook has written, “in every sense a professional politician, having trained himself for his vocation.” Robert Rhodes James has noted that Churchill was born into politics, and it was his devotion to his father that shaped his early political interests, attitudes and ambitions and propelled his early political career.

He had entered the House of Commons as Conservative Member for Oldham at the end of 1900 when he was just 26. This early period was devoted to finishing his father’s battles. In 1904 he had crossed the floor to the Liberals over the issue of Tariff Reform. 1906Two years later he was elected as a Liberal Member for North-West Manchester. In 1908 he had to stand for reelection to Parliament because of his appointment to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. He was defeated by his Conservative opponent, but within a month he found a new constituency in Dundee, Scotland.

In 1922 Churchill was defeated at Dundee and out of the House of Commons. The Liberal Party was in disarray. Attempts to return in West Leicester as an Independent in 1923 and in the Abbey Division of Westminster as a Constitutionalist in 1924 were narrow failures. Late in 1924 he was elected in Epping, near London, and subsequently rejoined the Conservatives.

In 1945 Labour refused to continue the wartime coalition and a general election ensued while Churchill was at Potsdam. Churchill’s constituency had changed from a country seat to a populous borough and its name was changed to Woodford. Despite the breakdown of the alliance, as a mark of respect Opposition parties declined to stand an official candidate against the Prime Minister in his own constituency.

But by the 1960s great diplomacy was required to convince Sir Winston that it was time to relinquish the seat. Even Lady Churchill, who so often took on impossible tasks in dealing with him, could not bring herself to meet this challenge alone. In the end, a coalition of Lady Churchill, son-in-law Christopher Soames, and a very tactful Constituency Chairman, Mrs. Doris Moss, achieved the inevitable, although Sir Winston would attend the House of Commons several more times until his final visit on 28 July 1964.

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