Urinal Humor: Churchill & Attlee

by Richard Langworth on 23 August 2015

Churchill and Clement Attlee

Churchill and Clement Attlee (Hansard Society)

In a Con­sti­tu­tion Day lec­ture in 2011 at Hills­dale Col­lege, syn­di­cated colum­nist Charles Krautham­mer cited an amus­ing encounter between Churchill and social­ist Prime Min­is­ter Clement Attlee in the Mem­bers’ cloak­room of the House of Com­mons, circa 1951. Attlee is stand­ing over the trough as Churchill enters on the same mis­sion. Observ­ing Attlee, Churchill shuf­fles as far away as possible.

Attlee: “Feel­ing stand­off­ish today, are we, Winston?”

WSC: “That’s right. Every time you see some­thing big you want to nation­alise it.”

I labeled this an unat­trib­uted quip in the “Red Her­rings” appen­dix to my quo­ta­tions book, Churchill by Him­self.  I am happy to say that I was wrong, thanks to the help of colum­nist Chris­t­ian Schnei­der, who also recently pub­lished the quote in the Mil­wau­kee Journal-Sentinel 

Mr. Schnei­der advised that he had this quote from William Manchester’s The Last Lion, vol. 1, Visions of Glory 1874-1932page 35. On my guard (because Man­ches­ter, a great styl­ist, made many detail errors), I looked up his footnote.

The ref­er­ence is to a 21 Octo­ber 1980 inter­view Man­ches­ter con­ducted with Sir David Pit­blado (1913-1997)—civil ser­vant, prin­ci­pal pri­vate sec­re­tary to Attlee in 1951, joint PPS to Churchill in 1951-55, and PPS to Anthony Eden in 1956. Sir David was a reli­able source and—with great delight—we may restore this one to the ranks of the genuine.

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