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How did Winston Churchill become Prime Minister on 10 May 1940?

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Presentation on theme: "How did Winston Churchill become Prime Minister on 10 May 1940?"— Presentation transcript:

1 How did Winston Churchill become Prime Minister on 10 May 1940?

2 Churchill becomes Prime Minister – the factors  Churchill’s anti-Hitler and anti-appeasement views throughout the 1930s. He regularly criticised the government about the pace of rearmament and appeasement of Hitler.  The weakness of Neville Chamberlain as a war time leader during the phoney war from Sept 1939 to May 1940. Chamberlain’s appeasement and the events of the phoney war created doubts about his ability to lead the country to victory over Germany.  The role of the Labour Party in May 1940. Clement Attlee called for a vote of no confidence in Chamberlain and then put his support behind Churchill rather than Lord Halifax, Chamberlain’s preferred successor.

3 “The Phoney War” – Sept1939 – May 1940  1 September 1939 – German invasion of Poland  3 September 1939 – British declaration of war by Chamberlain  27 September – German conquest of Poland  April 1940 – German occupation of Norway and Denmark. British Expeditionary Force was sent to help but failed. Chamberlain received great criticism as a result of this.

4 May 8 1940 – could Chamberlain go on after the loss of Norway?  What was the attitude of General Public?  What was the attitude of Labour Party?  What was the attitude of Conservative Party?  How did the loss of Norway actually strengthen the position of Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty?

5 The House of Commons debate about the loss of Norway – 8 – 9 May 1940 “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go” Leo Amery, Conservative MP, 9 May 1940 (and Oliver Cromwell, 1653)

6 The role of Clement Attlee  The Labour Party had been against appeasement since the Spanish Civil War started in 1936. Many Labour politicians had been out to Spain to support the Communist forces.  They hated Hitler for his treatment of socialists and communists.

7 If you were Clement Attlee what could you have done?  Call for a vote of no confidence in Chamberlain’s government  Offer to serve in a new COALITION GOVERNMENT, with Chamberlain?  Ask for a new leader from the Conservative Party? Possible alternatives included Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary or Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty.

8 OR Lord Halifax Chamberlain’s Foreign Secretary Winston Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty Anti-appeaser throughout the 1930s

9 What did Attlee decide?  Called for a Vote of No Confidence – Chamberlain survived! BUT Government majority reduced from usual 240 MPs to 81.  Attlee said that the Labour Party would never serve under Chamberlain.  It was clear that Chamberlain could not carry on as Prime Minister and so on the 9 May 1940 he resigned.  Attlee refused to support Halifax – who refused to compete for the leadership. The only candidate left therefore was Winston Churchill


11 Attlee’s Reward  A new Coalition Government was set up, composed of Conservative, Labour and Liberal MPs. All by-elections were not contested.  Churchill set up a new 5 man “War Cabinet”: Churchill – PM and Defence Secretary Chamberlain – Lord President of the Council Lord Halifax – Foreign Secretary Clement Attlee (Lab) – Lord Privy Seal (Deputy PM) Arthur Greenwood (Lab) – Minister without Portfolio  Other Labour ministers were brought into the full cabinet (Ernest Bevin as Minister for Labour and Herbert Morrison as Home Secretary)

12 How had Winston Churchill become Prime Minister by 10 May 1940?

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