Churchill’s resignation as Prime Minister
Having lost the 1945 election to Clement Attlee’s Labour party, Churchill and the Conservative party triumphed again in the 1951 General Election when he became Prime Minister for the second time. Now in his late seventies, Churchill’s health started to suffer, but despite suffering from a number of strokes he held the post for another 4 years before resigning as Prime Minister in December 1955.
This letter from Churchill to President Eisenhower of the United States describe his ‘feeling of both relief and denudation’ after stepping down, and his satisfaction with his successor, Anthony Eden. He explains how he had come to realise that at his age he could not justify leading the Conservative party any longer, but that change has come at the right time and ‘in the right way’. He goes on to wish Eisenhower well at an upcoming summit meeting with the Soviet Union, expressing his stance against nuclear saturation and caution that it may lead to a new set of deterrents to avoid ‘the extinction of the human species’.
Despite having retired as Prime Minister, Churchill was clearly still heavily engaged in the politics of the day, and offered to ‘gladly do anything in my power from a distance and a private station’ to achieve a ‘good result’. He continued to serve as MP for Woodford until he stood down for the last time at the 1964 General Election. Written during the Cold War, only two years after the death of Stalin and inauguration of Eisenhower, this letter demonstrates that nuclear power was a key diplomatic concern to the world powers at this the time. The 1955 Geneva summit referred to in this letter was a meeting of The Big Four: President Eisenhower of the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Eden of Britain, Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin of the Soviet Union and Prime Minister Edgar Faure of France. The intention was to begin discussions on peace and increased global security, against the escalating threat of nuclear war and heightened international tensions that continued throughout the Cold War.