Churchill and Thatcher not welcome in today’s Tory Party?
Sir, I have been studying the history of the Conservative Party and its attitude to the European Union and it is fascinating.
In 1946, Winston Churchill made a speech in Zurich in which he was one of the first people to propose a “United States of Europe”. He also went on to say: “Men will be proud to say ‘I am a European’. We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being European as belonging to their native land.”
The European Union includes Winston Churchill as one of the 11 “founding fathers”.
In 1961, during the premiership of Harold Macmillan (Conservative), Britain first applied to join the European Union; and in 1973, during the premiership of Edward Heath (Conservative), Britain succeeded in joining the European Communities, or Common Market.
A referendum was held in 1975 in which voters were asked to confirm Britain’s membership — 67 per cent voted “yes” to Europe and only 33 per cent voted “no”.
Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative leader at the time, was a leading campaigner for a “yes” vote and she was supported by the vast majority of Conservative MPs.
As Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher often clashed with other European leaders, but she also proposed creating the single market and never suggested that Britain should leave. In 1988 she said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”
All Conservative leaders from Churchill’s day to 2016 (apart from Sir Anthony Eden, who was leader from 1955 to 1957) have supported Britain’s membership of the European Union.
It is therefore interesting that it is a Conservative government which is taking Britain out of the European Union, and that some Conservatives describe people who want to remain in the European Union as extremists.
Presumably, if Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were alive today, they would be described as extremists and would not be welcome in the Conservative Party. How things have changed. Yours etc,