Winston Churchill is known as one of the iconic leaders of the 20th century, helping lead the Allied powers to victory during World War 2 as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Why did Winston Churchill resign?
Winston Churchill would resign two times as Prime Minister of Great Britain. Churchill would first resign upon the defeat of his Conservative Party in 1945. After taking back the position in 1951 he would again resign 4 years later.
Churchill would remain in British politics until his death at 90 years old.
Read on to learn about why Winston Churchill resigned from his position as prime minister.
Churchill’s 1945 Resignation
Churchill boasted an extensive, prodigious career in British military leadership and politics, along with many literary achievements that would eventually earn him the Noble Peace Prize in literature.
Winston joined the Fourth Hussars of the British army in 1895 at the age of 20, serving in campaigns in India, Sudan, and South Africa. Despite a distinguished military career, Churchill would turn to politics in 1900 when he was elected into parliament.
For the next decade, Churchill would serve in several government positions before finally earning the title of the country’s first lord of the admiralty in 1911. While Churchill was considered an effective leader of the navy, he was largely responsible for the failed Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaigns of the First World War and was let go from his position.
Churchill would serve in various government positions throughout the interwar period, though he would take a political hiatus throughout the 1920s. In 1939 Churchill was called back to lead the navy as World War 2 broke out.
He would replace Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister less than a year later.
The height of Winston Churchill’s career was undoubtedly his reign as Prime Minister during World War 2. Churchill was known for his strong leadership, rallying the British population against the Nazi threat spreading throughout Europe.
Part of the “Big Three”, along with Joseph Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Churchill would play a decisive role in the decision making of the Allied powers throughout the conflict. He would also play a major role in the negotiations of how Europe would be divided after the end of the war.
In July 1945, only a few weeks before the American deployment of the atomic bomb ended World War 2, Churchill’s Conservative party lost to the Labour party in the British general election. This was a massive shock to Churchill and his party, who were confident they would ride the coattails of the war into an overwhelming victory.
Instead, it was a massive victory for the Labour Party, which won 47.7% of the vote compared to the Conservative party’s 36.2%. The Labour Party also gained a large majority in Parliament with 146 seats.
Many speculate that the reason for this election outcome was that while the Labour Party promoted peace and a positive future after the war that mirrored many of the characteristics of the American New Deal, the Conservatives solely campaigned on the strength of Churchill’s leadership.
Churchill would give up his position to Clement Attlee and the Labour Party of this period would move the country in a different direction in many ways, such as decolonizing some parts of the British empire.
During this period Churchill turned away from public political life immediately after the election and spent much of his time living in the South of France, pursuing his hobbies of bricklaying and painting.
His political fervor would be reignited in his “Iron Curtain speech”, as he became a voice of strong Cold War leadership against the Soviet Union.
Churchill would win back the office in 1951 and would be knighted in 1953. He would also win the Nobel Peace Prize for literature that year for his long writing career.
Churchill’s 1955 Resignation
Churchill would finally retire as prime minister in 1955 and would go to live on for another decade. Before handing in his resignation Churchill made sure to warn his advisors to “never be separated from the Americans.”
He was replaced by foreign secretary Anthony Eden, whom he was very critical of during the election. Churchill reportedly loathed leaving office and felt a part of him died when he gave up the position to Eden.
Churchill’s final term as prime minister is generally hailed as a success, as he got rid of postwar rationing, created house-building projects across the country, and made Britain one of the few countries with nuclear capabilities at the time.
Churchill would remain in parliament until 1964 and would die a year later at the age of 90.