Beginnings of Appeasement/ Abdication crisis
CHAPTER 26, p481
1935-36, Churchill still hoped to get back into office, hopes dashed by appointment of Sir Thomas Inskip as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, 13th March 1936. (This was a theme that Churchill had been speaking on since 1934, at least).
RJ: “It was as if a signal had been run up announcing that any appointment, however inappropriate, was preferable to the leaders of the Conservative party than Churchill’s inclusion in the government”
(Inskip’s appointment was described as worst since “Caligula made his horse a Consul”.)
Over 1935, Churchill’s approach in promoting rearmament had become more inclusive, partly through being more sympathetic to those - mostly centre-left - who saw the League of Nations as route to collective security. “he adopted a two-handed policy”.
June 1935, Anglo-German Naval Treaty conceded to Hitler the right to build Navy up to 35% if Britain’s strength. Baldwin replaced MacDonald as PM, Hoare became Foreign Sec., also in June.
Autumn 1935, [October] Italy attack on Abyssinia,
November 1935, General Election, national Government re-elected but with smaller majority
early March 1936, marched into demilitarised Rhineland zone.
Abyssinian War created some dilemmas for Churchill, and not just because of his “excessive late-1920s respect for Mussolini”.
He was concerned that aggressive action could force Mussolini onto Germany’s side. But that collided with his desire to strengthen the League of Nations (of which Abyssinia was a member). The League of Nations Union (private pro League organisation) had run a “Peace Ballot” which found overwhelming support among respondents for economic sanctions against aggressors, strong support for naval blockades. Result of ballot made it easier for Labour and Liberal parties to move to a [RJ] “more realistic view of collective security”.
Churchill’s response to Italian invasion, then: “We must do our duty, but we must do it only in conjunction with other nations .... We are not strong enough to be the law-giver and the spokesman of the world.”
September 1935: Hoare made a speech to the League in Geneva which was “the most resonant pro-collective security speech made by any British minister during the 1930s.”
4th October: Italy attack - 1st October, Churchill wrote privately to Austen Chamberlain: “”It would be a terrible deed to smash up Italy, and it will cost us dear. ... if we had felt so strongly on the subject, we should have warned Mussolini two months before.”
14 November Gen Election: Government had majority of 278 over Labour and 250 over all other parties combined. But Churchill got no offer of office in nthe new government: “This was a very great and bitter disappointment to me”.
Churchill left for a break - to get over his disappointment, and read (in December) [CHECK DATE] the Hoare-Laval peace proposals [“sell-out”, says RJ] in Spain. 11 December Bracken wrote to Churchill that Baldwin “is now greatly discredited”, and Hoare was…