847. Harrod to Winston Churchill , 4 October 1938 [a]

[Continues at 855 ]

6, Beaumont Street, Oxford #

4 October 1938

Dear Mr. Churchill

May I for one hereby testify that I am absolutely convinced, in view of such contacts and experience as I have, that the majority of the country is on your side in the foreign policy issue. [1] I am in favour of a fairly quick election because I believe that there is a tendency to relapse into lethargic optimism until the next crisis when an appeal will be too late.

Of course an electoral pact is essential, and, I believe, quite possible. In one way strong labour representation must help us--in re-gaining Russia.

May I appeal to you for two things. One, a Midlothian campaign carried out throughout the country. Two, initiative with regard to the electoral pact. There is far too much squeamishness at present. If you would go to your Berchtesgaden and talk and talk at Attlee, I believe you could do the trick. If you would have the sense of taking charge of the situation, being the biggest man of the lot, you would find yourself in virtual charge. After all the basis is right, because you agree on the vital and essential and indeed only problem of the moment. I could contribute my tiny mite to this situation, if it were of any value, Attlee's secretary being an old personal friend of mine, who has some respect for me. (John Dugdale.)

I tried talking to the Prof, [2] with whom I usually pick these things over, this evening, but found him encased in such a massive iceberg of pessimism that conversation was impossible. He suggested that we did not wish much to win an election, since the legacy from Chamberlain made all lines equally hopeless. I am sure you will rise above this and be prepared to take the kicks which materialize. [3] I write very briefly having a sense of the pressure you are under.

Yours very sincerely

Roy Harrod.

  1. 1. The foreign policy issue was the element unifying the opposition to the National Government. Harrod was one of the promoters of an electoral pact on such grounds in occasion of the Oxford City by-election: see note 1 to press item 28 .

    2. F. A. Lindemann.

    3. In connection with this letter, Churchill wrote to Lindemann on 9 October 1938: "Harrod has written all this stuff to me, which seems very silly, but please talk to him about it in an amicable manner." (CcTLS copy, one page, unsigned, in Char 2/332/37). According to Gilbert, however, Churchill did not share Lindemann's pessimism: see M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume V, part 2: The Wilderness Years, 1929-35, London: Heinemann, 1981, p. 1198n.

    It should be noted that Harrod's account, given a few years later in a speech as the Liberal candidate for Huddersfield, gives a different flavour to the story:

    • There were those days in which he [Churchill] stood alone among the Tories pointing out the dangers that threatened us from the Nazis and urging that we should put our defences in order. In those days he and Liberal members were working for the same end. He paid tribute to the Liberal party, as he always rightly called Sir Archibald Sinclair and his followers--alas, he has now stooped to the electoral ruse of calling them Sinclair Liberals. The National Liberals were then the object of his and our contempt. I well remember how proud I was when two days before the famous Munich decision, the telephone rang in my house in Oxford and I heard the well known accents of Winston Churchill himself at the other end of the telephone seeking my advice about galvanising opposition to the Munich agreement. I well remember how my telephone bell rang a month later and again I heard the well known voice on a similar quest. [...] That was the period in which I wrote an article in the Manchester Guardian there for all to see, urging progressives to unite with him in opposing Chamberlain. [HP VI/558-563. On the front page, Harrod noted: "First part of a speech delivered at Beveridge meeting of June 27, 1945"].

    Harrod's chronology is certainly wrong: the Munich agreement was signed on 29 September, while the Manchester Guardian article ("The Opposition. An Electoral Pact Needed", 1938:23 , here as press item 30 ) was published on 6 December. A copy was sent to Churchill on 9 December (see letter 874 ).

    1. a. ALS, two pages on one leaf, in Char 2/332/14 (Churchill Archives Centre, courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Churchill College, Cambridge, and the Keeper and staff of Churchill Archives Centre). The letter is printed in M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume V, part 3: The Coming of War (1982), pp. 1197-98.


Welcome page

top of page

Return to index of this section

Go to previous page

Go to next page