October 13, 2017

1950. Churchill and Attlee Clash on the Issue of Settling the Cold War

Parties Make Their Final Appeals Ahead of Election
Winston Churchill delivering a speech in Leeds in 1950 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Edinburgh

February 14, 1950

Conservative leader Winston Churchill promised tonight that if his Tory party is victorious in the British election he would attempt to bring about an end to the East-West Cold War between Joseph Stalin and the Western Powers.

"I have not, of course, access to the secret information of the government," Churchill said. "Nor am I fully informed about the attitude of the United States. Still, I cannot help coming back to this idea of another talk with Soviet Russia on the highest level."

He called for a "supreme effort to bridge the gulf between the two worlds so that each can live their life, if not in friendship, at least without the hatreds and maneuvers of the Cold War."

Churchill last night left no doubt as to who would head the Conservative government if it is victorious on February 23. At one point in his attack on the socialist incumbents he declared, "What we need is fewer controls throughout the country and more control at the head of the government."

He was bitter in his criticism of the Labour administration. "Everything they touch turns to muddle," he said, in foreign affairs, domestic problems, housing, or finance.

Britain, once a powerful member of the so-called "Big Three," had changed from a world power to a world problem. Britain "became a nation absorbed in its own class and party warfare." She had even failed to develop her own atomic bomb.

He said that Russia had organized an Eastern European empire, that even the 500 million Chinese had come into her orbit. But Mr. Churchill said that "Communism is a novel—and China is old. I do not regard China as having finally accepted Soviet servitude."

He said that America today is a force for peace—because of our possession of the atom bomb and the projected hydrogen bomb.

"When all is said and done," Churchill declared, "it is my belief that the superiority in the atom bomb...in American hands is the surest guarantee of world peace tonight."

It was almost, but not quite, the Winston Churchill of old. The speech will have a profound effect on the British voting nine days from now.

This is Bill Downs in Edinburgh. Now back to Eric Sevareid in Washington.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 16, 1950

The British election is beginning to sound more like an American contest tonight.

Herbert Morrison, the number two man in the Labour Party, tonight gave the socialist answer to Winston Churchill's proposal that the Conservatives would settle the Cold War if elected.

He called Churchill's proposal "vague and irresponsible."

"This is hardly the time for soapbox diplomacy," Morrison declared at a meeting in Lewisham, his home constituency. And it's dangerous to belittle Winston Churchill in this country.

Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin also spoke tonight on his home grounds but made no further reference to the Conservative proposal, which in last night's radio address he called a Churchill stunt.

Labour minister Morrison said, "I do not rule out high-level talks between nations who are taking different views about the affairs of the world, if and when it is clear that such talks would be advantageous."

"But," he added, "Let me say this, and in no spirit of spitefulness, if anybody were to go in for high-level talks with the Soviet Union, I would beg my fellow countrymen not to appoint Mr. Churchill as their principal representative. He has been in high-level talks with Soviet leaders before and did not always come out so well."

Winston Churchill blew the fresh winds of international controversy into the battle three nights ago, and his Conservative Party kept publicity fires alive today by going out of the way to deny that Mr. Churchill was dead, or that he was even ailing. The Conservatives claim that irresponsible rumors concerning the wartime prime minister's health are being deliberately circulated.

Lord Woolton, Conservative Party chairman, took the occasion to make one of those political forecasts common in our own politics on the eve of polling.

Woolton said that he is "almost afraid to tell how the Conservatives are doing for fear that they will become complacent."

"But," he predicted, "this party is jolly well going to win."

Earlier a Conservative Party survey claimed a lead of two and one-half percent of the vote, and that the margin is growing. Labour's leaders are making no predictions.

This is Bill Downs in London. Now back to Eric Sevareid in Washington.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 18, 1950

It is clear today that if Britain's Conservative Party wins the election next Thursday it will be because of the personality and vote-getting skill of one man—Winston Churchill.

The 75-year-old wartime prime minister has responded to the call of the campaign like an old-time firehouse to the alarm bell. And last night he pulled out all the stops in the Tories' last and most important nationwide radio appeal over the BBC.

This is probably Mr. Churchill's last appearance in the hustings—and he played it to the hilt.

The Labour socialists want to create "a monster state owning everybody and owning everything." He admitted to being an old man, but he added, "While God gives me the strength and the people show me their goodwill, it is my duty to try, and try I will."

And again, Churchill promised to attempt international amity through immediate conferences with the world's three leading powers.

This last point has hit the Labour Party leaders in a weak spot. Prime Minister Clement Attlee has promised that he will answer Churchill's proposal for conferences with Joseph Stalin in the socialist's final nationwide broadcast tonight. (The speech will be carried by CBS at 4:15 Eastern Standard Time.)

Last night, Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin made a reply saying that the "hydrogen bomb is not made yet and it won't be for a very long time." He declared that "international atomic control with inspection is the only complete answer to the problem."

With both the Conservatives and Labour claiming victory, election tension is increasing throughout the country.

Last night, for example, the election headquarters of Herbert Morrison, Labour's second-in-command, were broken into. Nothing was stolen—only a filing cabinet containing a secret vote survey was smashed.

This is Bill Downs in London. Now back to CBS in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 18, 1950 (Night show)

Great Britain has seized the diplomatic initiative for a new attempt to solve the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the Western Powers.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee's final nationwide speech for reelection as head of this country's socialist government, declared—as you might have heard over CBS—that "We are ready and eager to discuss with Russia, the United States, Canada, and all other nations ways and means of dealing with the menace" of the hydrogen bomb.

The international issue earlier this week was forced into the forefront of Britain's election campaign by Conservative leader Winston Churchill, who proposed immediate conference with President Truman, Joseph Stalin, and himself, if elected, to solve atomic energy control and the Cold War.

Prime Minister Attlee's statement means, in effect, that no matter which party assumes power next Thursday, Labour or Conservative, the new government will have a tacit mandate to institute moves for international amity between East and West.

However, Prime Minister Attlee laid down the qualifications of his government would make before such East-West talks could begin. He said that the failure of international cooperation on political and economic subjects between East and West "does not lie this side of the Iron Curtain. We are ready at all times to cooperate with Russia on equal terms in the comity of nations. But it must be on equal terms."

And Attlee added, "We cannot submit to domination. We will not change our way of life at the behest of others."

Mr. Attlee spoke of the "dreadful possibilities of the hydrogen bomb...and the United Nations proposal for control of atomic energy. UN machinery is still there ready to be used," he declared. "We are ready to use it to the full."

The Labour prime minister took another occasion in his half-hour speech to emphasize Britain's political independence.

"British social democracy," Attlee said, "stands as the great champion" against what he called "materialist totalitarianism."

"That is why the Communist Party attacks Labour more bitterly than Conservatism. It recognizes that in the British socialist movement there is the one great dynamic force which can successfully oppose it."

This is Bill Downs in London. Now over to the area in Great Britain where Thursday's election may be won or lost. For that story, to Manchester, Winston Burdett reporting.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 19, 1950

The most significant issues to emerge today from the British election are control of atomic energy and a new attempt to bring about a settlement of the East-West Cold War.

It is not clear this morning how much of the talk by Conservative and Labour leaders is election campaigning and how much will emerge in the government-to-be-elected as foreign policy.

But it is now clear that both of Britain's major parties are committed, upon election, to make some kind of move toward rapprochement with Soviet Russia.

Winston Churchill's Conservative Party has found an issue on which they are experts, and they are booming these international problems in an attempt to turn the election on a "war or peace" issue. The socialists charge that the Conservatives are trying to create a "crisis atmosphere" for the voting and cash in on Mr. Churchill's wartime leadership.

Last night Prime Minister Clement Attlee said in a nationwide broadcast that his government would be "ready and eager to discuss with Russia, the United States, Canada, and all other nations ways and means of dealing with the menace" of the hydrogen bomb.

At the same time, Churchill was speaking to a meeting in Essex. He warned about the perils of one-sided atomic disarmament. Asked whether he favored the banning of the atomic bomb, Churchill declared, "I think it would be a grave mistake for the Americans and British to give up this great weapon of defense until there has been an agreement for careful inspection in other countries...until there is some general process of disarmament that will not leave us at the mercy of the enormous Russian military power."

Churchill said that Russia has far more than 25,000 aircraft in commission and forces greater than could be produced by all the other powers. He said that only the United States' possession of the atom bomb in large quantities "could oppose a Russian advance to the Channel coast from which they could bombard this island."

That's the news in London. Now for another story on this vital British election. To the industrial Midlands and Manchester, Winston Burdett reporting.