Urinal Humor: Churchill & Attlee

Urinal Humor: Churchill & Attlee

Churchill and Clement Attlee
Churchill and Clement Attlee (Hansard Society)

Syn­di­cat­ed colum­nist Charles Krautham­mer cit­ed an amus­ing encounter between Churchill and social­ist Prime Min­is­ter Clement Attlee in the Mem­bers’ uri­nal at 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 1874-1932, page 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.

4 thoughts on “Urinal Humor: Churchill & Attlee

  1. I heard the sto­ry in 1961 at a din­ner at New Col­lege, Oxford from the last MP for Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty, A.P. Her­bert who was also in the uri­nal. Herbert’s ver­sion was slight­ly dif­fer­ent. Churchill’s reply was, “Its big, pro­duc­tive, and if you bug­gers see it you’ll only want to nation­alise it.”

  2. Glad to know this is authen­tic. I always thought this was one of the great fun­ny and iron­ic Churchill quotes. I have nev­er used it in class only dur­ing cock­tail par­ties; I think it is too off col­or for high school though of course I am sure most kids today would think noth­ing of it. Nonethe­less, it is great to know this is gen­uine. I have always assumed it WAS, but real­ize now that Man­ches­ter may not be a sol­id Churchill source.

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