Debunking Chamberlain myths

Bruce Anderson, for many years a well-known political commentator, now writes a column about drink for The Spectator magazine. On 31 August he repeated the familiar criticisms of Neville Chamberlain. Alistair Lexden responded to them in a letter printed in the next issue of the magazine on 7 September.

Sir: Bruce Anderson refers to Neville Chamberlain’s taste for Chateau Margaux (Drink, 31 August). But Chamberlain came nowhere near Mr Anderson’s remarkable consumption. Natural abstemiousness and recurrent gout confined him to an occasional glass, often to accompany his voracious reading of Shakespeare, Conrad, George Eliot and a host of other authors. He was also a fine writer, but his death just two months after resigning as Churchill’s right-hand man in September 1940 deprived the world of his account of his quest for peace.

Instead Churchill’s post-war memoirs became the authorised version, and Tim Bouverie, to whom Anderson refers, has reprised the familiar themes. The story will eventually be told in a responsible historical manner that does Chamberlain justice, and pays proper regard to his huge spending on defence. As Professor David Dilks, the leading authority on Chamberlain has shown, rearmament consumed some 50 per cent of GNP in his premiership. Eighty years ago this week Chamberlain took a united, re-armed nation to war in alliance with the self-governing Dominions, ensuring that during the years ahead Britain never stood alone, as it would have done if no agreement had been reached at Munich.

Alistair Lexden
(Author of Neville Chamberlain: Redressing the Balance, 2018))
House of Lords