In 1945, in the first general election held in the UK for a decade, Anthony Eden's Tories crashed to defeat and Winston Churchill returned as the Prime Minister of a Coalition Government of National Unity dominated by the Labour Party.
Churchill wins the Khaki Election of 1945
by Ed & Scott PalterThe punchline was that having crossed the aisle to switch parties twice before, this time "Winnie" had been unceremoniously dumped by own party. To seek power this time, he had been forced to exercise an uncharacteristic combination of tact and diplomacy. And although it would have been unthinkable for such an unashamed blueblooded aristocrat to actually join the Labour Party, he was fortunate to have built war-time relationships, and his offer of continuity was acceptable at least to the hierarchy who had after all served as his sub-ordinates. But of course Churchill was a ruthless leader willing to sacrifice almost anything for the big prize, and in a sense, there was nothing out of character about his actions, even if his style was somewhat different.
Having muscled into Downing Street only because Lord Halifax's peerage barred him from occupying the Prime Minister's office, Churchill still did not become Leader for six months until ill health forced Neville Chamberlain's retirement in October 1940. Fortunately for Churchill's career, if the Tories hated him for supplanting Chamberlain, then the British electorate hated the Tories even more. Twenty Members of Parliament left the Conservative Party as well; these Churchill loyalists ran as National Commonwealth Party Candidates in districts where the Labour Party agreed not to field a candidate, much like the post World War agreement between the Liberal David Lloyd George and the majority Conservative Party. Significantly, they agreed to embrace the Beveridge Report.
The result was a landslide victory for the Coalition So much so, that the Labour Party immediately realised their error - they could have easily won even if they had campaigned under Clement Attlee's original slogan "Let us face the future". Because the truth was that returning soldiers did not want to return to business as usual, and the soul of the Labour Party was behind a programme of transformative change. As Lloyd-George had found after the First World War, the majority party soon tires of coalition and by 1947 the country was set for a fresh general election. By then, the Tories had largely recovered their fortunes. In Eden, the Conservatives were led by a revisionist who struggled to accept that Britain was a clapped out power; he would face a resurgent Labour Labour in which Churchill's ministers had been dumped from the leadership, and a new breed of radicals were in the vanguard. Resting upon the decision of the electorate depended the short-term futures now just of Britain, but also of Israel and India, two nations which we on the cusp of winning independence from the British Empire. We explore a variant of this idea in Attlee and Churchill win the Khaki Election of 1945 based on Scott's original suggestion and comment below.