Winston Churchill wins vote of ‘Confidence’

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.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nitpicker October 28, 2018 at 3:31 pm

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

Jimmy Maxton was one of the "Red Clydesiders", and a well-known pacifist and significant figure in Labour Party history. Not exactly difficult to find out about.

Robert October 12, 2017 at 10:33 pm
derrida derider February 8, 2017 at 11:54 am

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.

Stuart Levine January 30, 2017 at 3:23 am

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.

Editor July 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm

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

c Gluckman July 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm

who was the MP who voted against ?

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