Churchill and Wanstead, episode three

To mark the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, Wansteadium is blogging its reading of Churchill: The Member For Woodford by David A Thomas. The first two episodes are here and here.

Episode three
After yesterday’s description of women as “flappers”, another Churchill phrase enters the debate – his description of himself “purring with delight”. Wansteadium seems to remember something similar in another context. Maybe someone knows their Churchill?

Something which Churchill was definitely not purring about though was the size of the available meeting halls in Wanstead in the run-up to the 1929 general election. Thomas tells us: “So small were the halls in Wanstead and Woodford that Churchill ordered two large marquees, each capable of accommodating five times the number of the largest halls.” A common frustration then as now – though since those days the new library has been built which does have a meeting room next to it (whatever it’s called).

His campaigning efforts paid off – he was re-elected OK, but the Tories were turfed out of office and he himself faced a decade in the wilderness. Thomas tells us this was “a period in which he increasingly alienated himself from almost everyone, assailed by friends, colleagues, opponents, some of his constituents and of course his enemies”. So he went on a big tour of the US and Canada. When he returned the big issue was Indian independence. “He spoke and wrote about it interminably,” says Thomas. But his constituents were in a “bright film of enthusiasm” in supporting him. Churchill was particularly suspicious of Gandhi, calling him “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir… a malignant, subversive fanatic”. Phew. (Much later, towards the end of the war, Gandhi wrote to Churchill saying that he had decided to take the fakir comment as a compliment.)

Anyway, the voters (including flappers this time) of Wanstead, Woodford, Epping and throughout this part of the world was ‘loving, ardent and unanimous’ – he won a majority of more than 20,000.

In the next instalment, just around the corner were the twin threats of mass unemployment and the rise of the Nazis.