London Letter

London Letter

Randolph Churchill's feud with Eden

BEVERLEY BAXTER October 27 1956
London Letter

London Letter

Randolph Churchill's feud with Eden

BEVERLEY BAXTER October 27 1956

London Letter

Randolph Churchill's feud with Eden

BEVERLEY BAXTER

When Napoleon realized that he had lost the Battle of Waterloo, he said to one of his generals. "I have only one regret. I failed to hang Fouche." Thus did the emperor express his innermost feelings toward that sinister figure who set a pattern for all time as a minister of police and became the most hated and feared man in France.

No one could be less like l ouché than Randolph ( h inch ill. only son of Sir Winston, but I can well imagine that as Sir Anthony F'.den looks upon the turbulent political scene today he mutters to himself.

I have only one regret. I failed to destroy Randolph."

All this is a prelude to a frank portrait which I propose to put before you. It is the portrait of a man. forty-five years old. who accumulates enemies as a miser accumulates gold.

I o understand the significance of Randolph Churchill at this moment it is necessary to recall that the staunchest newspaper champion of Sir Anthony Filen today is no levs a person than Baron Beaverbrook. It was not ever thus. During Hilen's regime at the Foreign Office he was riddled with grapeshot and stink bombs by the Canadian press magnate. But when Fden became prime minister our compatriot saw the light and was converted like Saul of I arsus.

But let there be no mistake about it —the immortal Max has many faults, but sycophancy is not one of them. His sudden enthusiasm for Fden was genuine.

He does not seek honors. After his stupendous services to the state as minister of aircraft rinduction in the Hitler war. he could have had a step-up in the peerage by merely whistling for it. hut when other men had given their lives he refused to accept any reward.

It was inevitable that when the lixpress newspaper group became the open and belligerent champion of Fden as prime minister people would say that Max wanted a lift in the peerage which, according to the gossips, had been refused by Churchill. Nothing could be more remote from the truth. Winston would have given him anything including the silver spoons.

I he fact is that the ways of the Beaver are stranger than the ways of a maid with a man. While the Daily F.xpress. Sunday Fxprcss and Fvening Standard blared encouragement to the new prime minister, there came the announcement that Mr. Randolph Churchill would write on politics once a week in the Fvening Standard, and that he would express his own opinions even though they were contrary to those held by the Fxprcss group.

I he wise ones winked. Since when did newspaper barons give space to writers who were antagonistic to the established policy of their newspapers? Four or live articles perhaps, just as window dressing, but not a weekly column. But they did not know the Beaver.

EVEN IN-LAW EDEN ISN’

SPARED BY RANDOLPH

Which brings me to the hero of our narrative, Randolph F rederick léd ward Spencer Churchill. The vital statistics of this formidable figure are that he has been married twice, that lie sat in parliament as a Fory from 1940 to 1945. and did gallant war service with the Yugoslav patriots after Germany had overrun tl.eir country.

continued on page 82

London Letter Continued from page 4

Politics hadn’t a place for him so Randolph put politics in its place

But that does not quite exhaust the essential statistics. As a Tory he was defeated in the 1945 election that swept the socialists into power like a tidal wave and left only a few of us marooned on the opposition benches.

It was not the first time that Randolph had drunk the bitter waters of defeat. He was beaten in 1935 in Liverpool, and beaten later in 1936 in a Scottish by-election. But that is no disgrace. His father suffered many defeats at the poll in his tempestuous career.

Yet the undeniable fact remains that Randolph was never again adopted as a candidate, not even when his father led the Tories back to power in 1951. Finally his name was removed from the list of available candidates at the Conservative Central Office.

But how did Randolph accept this blow to his ambitions? He took it like Coriolanus who, when he was banished from Rome, declared, "Rome banishes me? I banish Rome.” Thus did Randolph put parliament in its place.

Father showed the way

But let there be no doubt about it —he is an excellent writer on politics. He has style, forcefulness and courage. And. heaven knows, he has combativeness. Therefore, those of us who had known him through the turbulent years were delighted when the Beaver took him on the Evening Standard. As a political writer Randolph can hold his own with any of his contemporaries and is able to draw upon the invaluable experience gained by being his father’s son.

Yet the rise of Eden to the premiership presented an undoubted personal problem to our stout hero. The new prime minister had married Randolph's cousin. We were aware that Eden was not on the tiny list of Randolph’s favorites, but would our buccaneer feel some hesitancy in attacking his cousin-bymarriage?

Let it be known that Randolph put such thoughts out of our mind at once. Hardly had he settled down to his task than he opened fire on the new occupant of Downing Street. And he has never stopped.

In Randolph's eyes Sir Anthony is a weakling, a wobbler, a dilettante and a bungler. England had fallen low indeed when it could find no better successor to the immortal Winston than this tailored dummy from the Foreign Office.

"Sir Anthony is the strong man who will lead us to prosperity,” shouted the Express group. "Put your trust in Sir Anthony.” No wonder Fleet Street gasped.

Then came the next surprise. With a flare of trumpets the Evening Standard announced that another political commentator had been engaged by them, a writer who would have complete freedom of expression just the same as Randolph Churchill. The new star was no less a person than Richard Strong.

But who or what was Richard Strong?

It is true that there are some fifteen millien people living in Greater London and that in such a multitude there must be a certain amount of undiscovered genius, hit one does not appear overnight from nowhere and calmly take his place as an urrestricted political writer on London’s foremost evening newspaper.

Mr. Strong revealed his hand in the very first article. In his opinion Sir Anthony Eden was a man of destiny whose urrivaled knowledge of foreign affairs would make him not only the peacemaker, bit the pacemaker. America and Great Britain would be drawn closer together b\ the warm understanding between Eisenhower and Eden. Let us rejoice that at such a difficult period in the world s hbtory we were able to produce a leader who was liked and respected by th; whole world.

Again and again at Westminster I was asked about the identity ot Richard Strong, but like the man in the Gallup Poll I could only answer, "Don't know."

Yet. as Mr. Strong went appropriately from strength to strength, my ear began to detect familiar phrases. l ord Beaverbrook has always liked the pungent commun of short words. Not for him the voluptuousness and cadence ot the poet. He says what he has to say with no obscurantism or irritating asides. Everything is forthright and crystal clear.

To do Mr. Strong credit his style was not completely of the Beaverbrook school. There were moments when it slid into the tortuousness that bore a marked similarity to a recent editor ot Aneurin Bevan s left-wing weekly Tribune. The editor had resigned from the Tribune and had disappeared into space. Could he be the mysterious Richard Strong, assuming that he had adopted that name as a disguise?

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you. although you will agree that the element of coincidence is there.

But how was Randolph, the hero of our story, faring all this time? He went to Chicago for the Democratic convention and wrote some excellent stuff. With the glory of his name he attracted much attention and hospi'ality in America, and there is no reason to suppose that he did not behave like l ittle l ord Eauntleroy.

In the portrait 1 have painted you may think that I have put in too many warts. but that is neither my desire nor intention. The blunt truth is that Randolph Churchill bears a great name that none of us wants to see lowered by faults of temperament.

There is a place for a man who has the courage to defy the gods. Nor is the role of political rebel a dishonorable one. But when criticism descends to vulgar abuse it misses the target and recoils upon the marksman. It may be that in Randolph's judgment Eden is a weakling whose premiership will prove disastrous. But when criticism becomes wholly destructive and without sensibility it strikes not merely at the man but at the exalted position that he holds.

1 would not have written this 1 etter if Randolph Churchill were a normal politician or journalist, indulging in vagaries ot temperament. But a man cannot shake off his duties to his family—and more especially when he bears the name ol one who is immortalized while still on earth.

There is no foreseeable political future for Randolph, which is a good thing tor Britain; but as a brilliant journalist and as an informed commentator on current events he can influence the public mind and add knowledge to the multitude.

Nor would 1 deny him the right to criticize the prime minister without mercy, providing that such criticism is born ot judgment and conviction and not from prejudice. Lord Beaverbrook is right to give him a platform.

Slipstream of time

Each year's quartet of seasons blur So swiftly, one into the next.

That when blue violets occur.

And purple plumes of lilac stir—

I look about me. vaguely vexed And puzzled . . . almost instantly

Green leaves will whirl in scarlet showers

From every tall and neighboring tree, And where the garden used to be The frost rides down the final flowers—

And yet, when winter gales shall howl 1 ike hungry wolf packs on the prowl. And blizzards smoke across the plain, l ook . . . here are the violets once again!

PATIENCE EDEN

Therefore 1 wish Randolph well and trust that we shall not meet by accident on a dark night. As for Mr. Strong, may he go appropriately trom strength to strength, -k