Churchill and his War Rivals

David Day argues that deft footwork, personal PR and skilful use of both patronage and rhetoric were key elements in sustaining Britain's wartime PM in a position intrinsically far weaker than has often been supposed.

Few leaders of the twentieth century can compare with Winston Churchill. For many years, Churchill stood like a colossus, over-shadowing lesser politicians in the lobbies of Westminster. His successful defence of Britain in 1940 established his reputation as a military leader, as he stood against the tide of compromise and later led the world to an eventual victory against fascism. But his military leadership was only made possible by the possession of consummate political skills that allowed him to out-man- oeuvre and defeat political rivals at crucial points during the war.

The stirring rhetoric of Churchill's speeches was one of his most important political assets, building up a base of public and parliamentary support that kept him beyond the reach of his critics for most of the war. However, four serious military crises during 1940-42 produced political upheavals that brought these critics within striking distance of toppling him, Defiantly facing his opponents, Churchill drew upon all the considerable weapons in his political armoury to defend his position.

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