continued from Part 1…
Churchill reflected in his memoirs on why Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin had refused to admit his country had a defense problem—the rising might of Nazi Germany—because he thought the admission might cost him the 1936 election:
Mr. Baldwin was of course not moved by any ignoble wish to remain in office. He was in fact in 1936 earnestly desirous of retiring. His policy was dictated by the fear that if the Socialists came into power even less would be done than his Government intended. All their declarations and votes against defense measures are upon record. But this was no complete defense, and less than justice to the spirit of the British people. The success which had attended the naive confession of miscalculation in air parity the previous year was not repeated on this occasion. The House was shocked.
It is obvious to anyone who thinks about politics that Baldwin’s admission was astounding. Politicians—then and now—frequently put politics or party before country. But rarely does one admit it—particularly the leader of a nation.
For Churchill, such an act by a head of government, charged with his country’s security, was as inconceivable as it was reprehensible. He replied to Baldwin the same day, 12 November 1936:
I have been staggered by the failure of the House of Commons to react effectively against those dangers. That, I am bound to say, I never expected. I never would have believed that we should have been allowed to go on getting into this plight, month by month and year by year, and that even the Government’s own confessions of error would have produced no concentration of Parliamentary opinion and force capable of lifting our efforts to the level of emergency. I say that unless the House resolves to find out the truth for itself it will have committed an act of abdication of duty without parallel in its long history.
The following day, in a private letter to an old friend, Churchill was even more censorious:
I have never heard such a squalid confession from a public man as Baldwin offered us yesterday.” [WSC to Sir Archibald Boyd-Carpenter, 13 November 1936, in Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. V, 799.]