STASSEN ON CHURCHILL 


I had a remarkable experience one evening many years ago. While flying from New York to Washington by chance I sat next to former Governor of Minnesota and perennial (eight times!) presidential candidate Harold E. Stassen. It was late at night and he was in a talkative mood. He recounted his various experiences in international affairs including his service in Great Britain. He got to know Winston Churchill pretty well. Here are some of the comments he made about this remarkable man.

He noted for example that he often went to the House of Commons when he knew Churchill would speak. On one occasion just after World War II when Churchill was out of office and critical of the incumbent Labor Party he arose on the House of Commons and noted as follows: “Great Britain is an island of coal surrounded by fish. Under the Labor government the two items that are in short supply our coal and fish.”


The Governor noted that Churchill had a son-in-law that he disliked very much. The unfortunate fellow added to his difficult relationship by calling Churchill “daddy”. One evening at dinner the son-in-law asked Churchill who is the most impressive world leader he had ever met. Churchill responded “Benito Mussolini. He had the courage to execute his son-in-law Count Ciano”.

Stassen also told the story of Churchill receiving a surprise invitation to address the Women’s Christian Temperance League. With his well-known propensity for alcohol he was intrigued and accepted. At the opening of the conference the chairperson in her introduction noted that the League had carefully selected the place for the meeting. She said that, based upon the reports of his daily consumption of Alcohol that Churchill had already consumed enough wine and brandy to half fill this auditorium half way to the ceiling. Churchill arose slowly raised his eyes to the ceiling and in a soft voice said “I am very humbled when in my advanced age I face the challenge of reaching all the way up to the ceiling.”

Stassen also repeated the famous story about the first woman elected to the House of Commons who was American Nancy Astor or Lady Astor. One day in a furious debate with Churchill she turned to him and said angrily “If you were my husband I would give you poison.” To which Churchill responded “Madam if you were my wife I would take it”.

It was another story about the rivalry between Churchville and Anevrin Bevan the Welsh leader of the Labor Party. At a break in the proceedings Churchville went to the restroom and walked right past Bevan who was at the first urinal. Bevan was very annoyed at the slight and snarled” Winston why are you being so uncivilized?” Churchill responded “Anevrin when you laborites see an instrument of production in private hands you want it nationalized.”
Churchill was a famous napping during dull moment and the House of Commons. One afternoon as Churchill was fast asleep Anevrin Bevan pass by and jammed his finger in Churchill's rather large belly and said “Winston what are you going to call the baby?” Churchill in a split second opened his eyes and said, “Anevrin”.

Rev Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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