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1951: Churchill denies 'warmonger' claims

The Conservative leader, Winston Churchill, has wound up his election campaign with a hard-hitting speech in which he vigorously denied accusations of warmongering.

The former prime minister, who is bidding to return to office after six years in opposition, was speaking in Devonport in Plymouth, on the final day of the five week campaign.

Labour has been in power since the end of World War II in 1945. Labour leader Clement Attlee was returned to government in February 1950 - but his administration has been hampered by a strong opposition and splits within his own party.

His decision to go to the polls now in the hope of increasing his majority comes at a time of worsening oil dispute with Persia and Egypt's attempt to regain control of the Suez Canal.


"If I remain in public life at this juncture it is because I believe I may be able to make an important contribution to the prevention of a third world war""

Winston Churchill

Labour has concentrated its attack on Mr Churchill and the Conseratives saying their return to government would make a third world war more likely.

"Whose finger on the trigger?" has become the slogan for this campaign after the Daily Mirror coined the phrase for a front-page headline.

Mr Churchill firmly rejected the charge of warmonger in today's speech: "This is a cruel and ungrateful accusation. It is the opposite of the truth.

"If I remain in public life at this juncture it is because, rightly or wrongly but sincerely, I believe that I may be able to make an important contribution to the prevention of a third world war, and to bringing nearer that lasting peace settlement which the masses of the people of every race and in every land fervently desire."

Mr Churchill said he had sought to prevent war ever since his speech at Fulton in the United States in March 1946, in which he spoke of an "iron curtain" descending across the continent of Europe and the need to reach agreement through the auspices of the United Nations Organisation.

Mr Churchill went on to attack Mr Attlee and his government's track record.

"Nothing could be worse for our country and nothing could be more injurious to the cause of world peace than for Mr Attlee to be returned dependent upon a sham reconciliation between the main body of the Socialist Party and the powerful and turbulent left-wing forces whom Mr Bevan represents," he said.

Mr Bevan resigned from the government in protest at a decision to raise funds for rearmament by charging for spectacles and dentures, which had previously been free on the NHS - established during his period as minister of health.

He is seen by some on the left wing of the party as a leader in waiting.

In Context
Winston Churchill won the election, returning to the post of prime minister for the first time in peacetime at the age of 77.

The Conservatives took 321 seats to Labour's 295. The Liberals had not even been able to put up a candidate in every constituency and consequently lost out to the Conservatives.

However, Labour polled the highest share of the vote, gaining 12,948,605 votes, 200,000 more than Churchill received and higher than any of its landslide victories in 1945, 1966 or 1997.

Mr Churchill was knighted in 1953.

He served as prime minister until 1955 when he resigned due to poor health. He returned to the backbenches until his death in 1965.


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