Part Three: Second Premiership
Summer 1954: Return to Washington
...The afternoon of June 26 was spent in conference at the White House. ‘Good progress,’ Colville wrote, ‘this time on Egypt. The PM elated by success and in a state of excited good humour. In the middle of the afternoon meeting, while Christopher and I were sipping highballs and reading telegrams in his sitting-room, he suddenly emerged and summoned us to go up to the “Solarium” with him so as to look at a great storm which was raging.’ Colville added: ‘I can’t imagine anybody else interrupting a meeting with the President of the United States, two Secretaries of State and two Ambassadors just for this purpose.’
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...That evening Churchill and Eden were again the guests of the President for dinner. The other Americans present included Dulles, Bedell Smith, and Winthrop Aldrich, the American Ambassador to London. The three other Englishmen were Roger Makins, Christopher Soames and Jock Colville, who wrote in his diary:
Very gay dinner, during which the PM and the President spoke highly of the Germans and in favour of their being allowed to rearm. The President called the French ‘a hopeless, helpless mass of protoplasm’. Eden took the other line, with some support from Dulles, and ended by saying he could not be a member of any Government which acted as Ike and Winston seemed to be recommending.
...One question concerned the tension between Egypt and Israel, and Churchill’s own attitude towards Israel. He replied:
I am a Zionist. Let me make that clear. I was one of the original ones, after the Balfour Declaration, and I have worked faithfully for it.
I think it a most wonderful thing that this community should have established itself so effectively, turning the desert into fertile gardens and thriving townships, and should have afforded a refuge to millions of their co-religionists who had suffered so fearfully under the Hitler, and not only Hitler, persecution. I think it’s a wonderful thing.
Of the Allied intervention against Bolshevik Russia in 1919, Churchill told the assembled journalists: ‘If I had been properly supported in 1919, I think we might have strangled Bolshevism in its cradle, but everybody turned up their hands and said, “How shocking!”.’
Churchill’s answers, noted Colville, were given ‘with his best verve and vigour. Everybody greatly impressed by the skill with which he turned some of the more awkward.’ Churchill was so pleased by his reception, Colville wrote, ‘that when I leant over to collect his notes he shook me warmly by the hand under the impression that I was a Senator or pressman endeavouring to congratulate him’.
‘Press Club was tremendous success,’ Christopher Soames telegraphed to Clementine Churchill that afternoon. ‘He showed great vigour and they showed great affection.’
...Moran’s note continued with Churchill’s reply:
‘A great principle only carries weight when it is associated with the movement of great forces.’
It was important, he said, to keep a sense of proportion.
Raising his voice: ‘I’d never heard of this bloody place Guatemala until I was in my seventy-ninth year.’
‘Come now, Winston,’ Anthony interposed mildly.
The PM took no notice. ‘We ought not,’ he continued, ‘to allow Guatemala to jeopardize our relations with the United States, for on them the safety of the world might depend.’
‘But, Prime Minister, this is a moral issue,’ Bob persisted. ‘It is surely a question of right and wrong.’
The PM gave a great snort. Bob Dixon got very red in the face, but he seemed unable to stop arguing with Winston, though you don’t have to be a diplomatist to sense how unprofitable such an argument can be. Every sentence began ‘But, Prime Minister’.
...At last I said that, without taking sides, I thought there would be general agreement that Guatemala was not sufficiently important to allow it to interfere with the night’s rest. I got up, and Lady Makins, who had joined the party, backed me up.
Winston was wide awake and reluctant to go to bed. Everybody else had risen, but he remained slumped on the couch. At last he levered himself out of his seat, and I took him to his room. ‘You know, Charles,’ he expostulated, ‘I feel very lively; I don’t know whether it is the magnetism of this country or your pills.’
О. Ты знал, ты знал!
...At dinner, Colville noted, Churchill made ‘a moving speech’. He was, wrote Moran ‘full of life and fun and beamed on everyone’.
...However, what he really disliked was Winston’s intention of despatching the telegram without showing it to the Cabinet. Why couldn’t he wait till we were home and let AE deliver the message to Molotov when he saw him at Geneva? Would I tell W that if he insisted, he must do as he wished but that it would be against his, Eden’s, strong advice.
I imparted this to W who said it was all nonsense: this was merely an unofficial enquiry of Molotov. If it were accepted, that was the time to consult the Cabinet, before an official approach was made. I represented, as strongly as I could, that this was putting the Cabinet ‘on the spot’, because if the Russians answered affirmatively, as was probable, it would in practice be too late for the Cabinet to express a contrary opinion.