It really will not do for William Hague to claim that we should not look too closely as the financial honesty of political leaders. I have just heard him on the wireless saying that if you had done so you would not have approved of William Pitt the Younger (well how many of the population will understand that reference?) or Winston Churchill “the greatest British Prime Minister of the 20th Century”. Well, Churchill was as it turned out an effective war Prime Minister who led the British People through most of WW2. The British public however had the very good sense to reject him and the Tories in a general election just before the end of that war – perceiving perhaps that Churchill favoured a return not just to pre-war conditions but a return to something more like Edwardian or Victorian social conditions.
As a politician and as a man he was all of his life a chancer, a liar, and a throwback to the Victorian age. That he lied and evaded tax in a scandalous manner with the connivance of The Inland Revenue is a well established fact. Indeed as William Hague pointed out his personal financial affairs were chaotic to say the least. Even though virtually bankrupt before the War, and against he wife’s instructions, he continued to order cases of vintage Champagne which he drank everyday.
Crucially, in relation to William Hague’s claim that this “great leader” may not have organised his own finances very well but that he handled the finances of the country brilliantly hardly bears serious consideration, his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer was disastrous for the country. here is an extract from his wikipedia entry about that time …….
Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924–29)
He formally rejoined the Conservative Party, commenting wryly that “anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat.” Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer oversaw Britain’s disastrous return to the Gold Standard, which resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners’ strike that led to the General Strike of 1926. His decision, announced in the 1924 Budget, came after long consultation with various economists including John Maynard Keynes, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Otto Niemeyer and the board of the Bank of England. This decision prompted Keynes to write The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill, arguing that the return to the gold standard at the pre-war parity in 1925 (£1=$4.86) would lead to a world depression. ……. it was opposed by Lord Beaverbrook and the Federation of British Industries.
Churchill later regarded this as the greatest mistake of his life; in discussions at the time with former Chancellor Reginald McKenna, Churchill acknowledged that the return to the gold standard and the resulting ‘dear money’ policy was economically bad. In those discussions he maintained the policy as fundamentally political—a return to the pre-war conditions in which he believed. In his speech on the Bill he said “I will tell you what it [the return to the Gold Standard] will shackle us to. It will shackle us to reality.”
The return to the pre-war exchange rate and to the Gold Standard depressed industries. The most affected was the coal industry, already suffering from declining output as shipping switched to oil. As basic British industries like cotton came under more competition in export markets, the return to the pre-war exchange was estimated to add up to 10% in costs to the industry. In July 1925, a Commission of Inquiry reported generally favouring the miners rather than the mine owners’ position.
Baldwin, with Churchill’s support proposed a subsidy to the industry while a Royal Commission prepared a further report. That Commission solved nothing and the miners’ dispute led to the General Strike of 1926. Churchill edited the Government’s newspaper, the British Gazette. Churchill was one of the more hawkish members of the Cabinet and recommended that the route of food convoys from the docks into London should be guarded by tanks, armoured cars and hidden machine guns.
Later economists, as well as people at the time, also criticised Churchill’s budget measures. These were seen as assisting the generally prosperous rentier banking and salaried classes (to which Churchill and his associates generally belonged) at the expense of manufacturers and exporters which were known then to be suffering from imports and from competition in traditional export markets, and as paring the Armed Forces too heavily”
END OF WIKIPEDIA EXCERPT
And on other issues one must question his judgment – he was until 1937 an admirer and supporter of Mussolini, he said that he understood and therefore supported the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, he campaigned against the abdication of Edward VIII, he oppposed Indian Independence and Ghandi. He was largely responsible for the disaster of Gallipoli and so on and so on.
David Lloyd George summed his character up rather nicely when he commented to Churchill, “You will one day discover that the state of mind revealed in (your) letter is the reason why you do not win trust even where you command admiration. In every line of it, national interests are completely overshadowed by your personal concern.”