Winston Churchill wins vote of ‘Confidence’

29th January 1942: Winston Churchill wins vote of ‘Confidence’ in British Parliament

On behalf of His Majesty’s Government, I make no complaint of the Debate, I offer no apologies, I offer no excuses, I make no promises. In no way have I mitigated the sense of danger and impending misfortunes of a minor character and of a severe character which still hang over us, but at the same time I avow my confidence, never stronger than at this moment, that we shall bring this conflict to and end in a manner agreeable to the interests of our country, and in a manner agreeable to the future of the world.

Winston Churchill, pictured later in 1942, makes a radio address from his desk at 10 Downing Street wearing his 'siren suit'.

Winston Churchill wound up the three day debate in the House of Commons on the ‘Motion of Confidence in the Government’. He had opened the debate with a survey of the war situation. Members of Parliament had then explored a wide range of issues relating to all aspects of the war. Now he agreed that that it had been a very valuable debate but he made the observation that:

Sir, in no country in the world at the present time could a Government conducting a war be exposed to such a stress. No dictator country fighting for its life would dare allow such a discussion. They do not even allow the free transmission of news to their peoples, or even the reception of foreign broadcasts, to which we are all now so hardily inured.

Even in the great democracy of the United States the Executive does not stand in the same direct, immediate, day-to-day relation to the Legislative body as we do. The President, in many vital respects independent of the Legislature, Commander-in-Chief of all the Forces of the Republic, has a fixed term of office, during which his authority can scarcely be impugned.

But here in this country the House of Commons is master all the time of the life of the Administration. Against its decisions there is only one appeal, the appeal to the nation, an appeal it is very difficult to make under the conditions of a war like this, with a register like this, with air raids and invasion always hanging over us.

He concluded the debate:

On behalf of His Majesty’s Government, I make no complaint of the Debate, I offer no apologies, I offer no excuses, I make no promises. In no way have I mitigated the sense of danger and impending misfortunes of a minor character and of a severe character which still hang over us, but at the same time I avow my confidence, never stronger than at this moment, that we shall bring this conflict to and end in a manner agreeable to the interests of our country, and in a manner agreeable to the future of the world.

I have finished. Let every man act now in accordance with what he thinks is his duty in harmony with his heart and conscience.

Eventually the House supported the resolution:

That this House has confidence in His Majesty’s Government and will aid it to the utmost in the vigorous prosecution of the War.

by 464 votes to 1.

The whole debate can be read at Hansard.

9 thoughts on “Winston Churchill wins vote of ‘Confidence’”

  1. First of all, this was a vote of confidence rather than one of no confidence; Clement Attlee (Deputy PM to Churchill) moved the relevant motion, so this was a Government motion to test the view of the House. Whereas the June debate was one of no confidence.

    Second, each division in the House needs two tellers on each side who are not counted as voting. So the noes were Maxton, plus the two tellers McGovern and Stephen. These three were the entire Independent Labour Party caucus in Parliament who all represented Glasgow seats.

  2. The motion will have been formally seconded by someone – possibly a member of the government – who fully intended voting it down. It is not uncommon in parliamentary procedure – including in America – for an opponent of a motion to second it to enable a debate or to test the numbers on the floor of the house.

  3. Not knowing much about British Parliamentary procedure, how did the no-confidence vote even come to the floor given the broad support the final vote indicates.

  4. Hansard lists him as “Maxton, J.” but I know little more about him.

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