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Why Chamberlain Really Fell

Tony Corfield offers a provocative new interpretation of the events that brought Churchill to power in the spring of 1940.

The occasion of the fall from power of Neville Chamberlain and his replacement as prime minister by Winston Churchill in May 1940 is remembered as one of the few Parliamentary epics of our history. British arms had just suffered a stinging reverse in Norway. In the two-day debate in the House of Commons of May 7th, and 8th, Sir Roger Keyes, in admiral's uniform complete with six rows of medal ribbons and the Grand Cross of the Bath, opened the assault by the Government's own supporters on the handling of the Norwegian campaign. Mr Amery, another Conservative Member, called for a change of Government. Quoting Oliver Cromwell's dismissal of the Long Parliament, he used words which for the second time rang across history.

You have sat here for too long for any good you are doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

At the end of the debate the Government's majority fell to eighty-one. Some thirty-one Government sup- porters had voted with the opposition and another sixty abstained. The Government had received notice to quit. Two days later Chamberlain had gone and Churchill had replaced him as the prime minister of a National Government.

There is a dramatic and convincing finality in this account, dutifully recounted by Churchill himself in his history entitled The Second World War. It carries the author's celebrated Olympian perspective on the affairs of our nation.

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