President Saunders, Mr. Kemper, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a very great honour to be asked to give the Sixth Crosby Kemper Churchill Memorial Lecture in this splendid building which recreates the golden age of English architecture. It is also a very great privilege to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Westminster College. It is something in which I shall take a great pride for the rest of my life.
I have chosen for my theme an aspect of Winston Churchill's extraordinary career, which tends to be forgotten both in Britain and America. We are inclined to think that it began in 1940. But he was 65 by then - an age at which most people have reached retirement. My theme is his relations with the Conservative party. After 1940 they were relatively uncomplicated. Before 1940 it was a different story.
Churchill's relations with the party he came to lead were always ambivalent - more so than is usually appreciated. He was much influenced by his father's political career. Lord Randolph Churchill was a brilliant but flawed Conservative politician who died young - probably from tertiary syphilis or possibly from a tumor on the brain. At the end of his life he became sadly, and obviously, incapable of thought or speech. But he continued to perform on the parliamentary stage to the embarrassment of all who heard him. Many walked out. Only Gladstone, magnanimous always, treated him with unfailing courtesy. Lord Randolph, in the famous words of Lord Rosebery, a fleeting Liberal Prime Minister, 'was the chief mourner at his own protracted funeral' but, long before this sad deterioration, he was very bitter about the Conservatives. He wrote in 1891:
No power will make me lift hand, or foot, or voice for the Tories, just as no power would make me join the other side... I expect I have made great mistakes; but there has been no consideration, no indulgence, no memory of gratitude - nothing but spite, malice and abuse. I am quite tired and dead-sick of it all, and will not continue political life any longer.
At about this time he copied out for himself Dryden's lines: 'Not Heaven itself over the past hath power; But what has been has been, and I have had my hour.'
Lord Randolph was Chancellor of the Exchequer for a few months in 1886, resigning before he even produced a budget. Many people believed that he was the morning star of the Tory Party, its future leader and Prime Minister. But the actual Prime Minister, Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, took a different view. He regarded Lord Randolph as an insufferable colleague. When he offered his resignation on an issue of not great importance, with the object of asserting his personal indispensability, Lord Salisbury at once accepted it. Well-wishers tried to reconcile him. Lord Salisbury replied: 'Have you ever heard of a man having a carbuncle on his neck wanting it to return?'
Lord Randolph's treatment by the Conservative hierarchy always rankled with Winston. I remember a conversation I had with Lord Salisbury's grandson, the 5th Marquess, who held high office in various Coalition or Conservative governments in the 1940s and 1950. He told me that he was once dining with Churchill in September 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain. Churchill, as he sometimes did, sank into a silent and somber reverie. Then he suddenly turned to Lord Salisbury and said a propos of nothing: "I always consider that your grandfather treated my father disgracefully." Lord Salisbury was taken aback. He murmured some emollient comment. The conversation trickled into the sand and the dinner party reverted to the rather more important question of bombers and fighters, and Hitler and Goering.