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  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: October 2009

4 - The princes and the Diehards

Summary

Over here, we who know the position realise the pressure that is brought upon you, but I beg of you and the Princes to stand firm and reject publicly and emphatically the Federal Scheme. I am quite convinced that if you do so, your order will be saved.

H. A. Gwynne to the maharaja of Dewas Junior, 8 February 1934

The courtship Of Nawanagar

Winston Churchill's resignation from the Conservative Party shadow cabinet in January 1931 owed more than a little to his contempt for the party leader Stanley Baldwin, whose job he coveted. As the newspaper baron Lord Rothermere noted in a congratulatory letter, ‘you have really got your foot this time on the ladder that quite soon leads to the Premiership’. However, while conveniently paving the way for a future leadership challenge, Churchill's retreat to the back-bench was not just about improving his own political prospects; it was also about policy. Churchill, like Rothermere, resented what he saw as the Baldwinite Conservative Party's downgrading of empire commitments in favour of an insular, Britain-first strategy. In particular he deplored Baldwin's decision, at the RTC, to associate the party with Labour's policy of Indian reform.

Of course, Churchill's attitudes on India were extreme and in many ways outdated, more reflective of the 1890s (when he had gone there as a young war correspondent) than of the 1930s. Yet they were by no means unique.