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Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill (Conservative, 1940-45, 1951-55)

Repeatedly voted the greatest Briton of all time, Churchill is Britain’s most iconic PM. Born in 1874 in one of the great English stately homes, Blenheim Palace, his father was Lord Randolph Churchill, son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and his mother the daughter of a wealthy New Yorker. Before entering politics in the Conservative Party, Churchill combined a military career — he served in India and the Sudan — with writing. Once in politics, he switched from the Conservative Party to the Liberals and then back to the Conservatives again. In 1940, during the worst days of the Second World War, with the Nazis racing through Europe and British defeat seeming inevitable, Winston Churchill was appointed Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. He will be remembered as the man who stiffened the resolve of the British people and held the country together, helping to lead the Allies to victory. Two weeks after Germany surrendered on 5 May 1945, he resigned as Prime Minister. To the surprise of many, he and his party were defeated by the Labour Party at the general election in July 1945. Although he continued in politics as leader of the opposition and even became Prime Minister again in the 1950s, his finest hour had come and gone. He would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 in recognition of his “mastery of historical and biographical description”, as well as for his oratorial output. However, he was also deeply racist, fought against independence for India, and opposed trade unions and workers’ rights — he even used the army against strikers in Wales on one occasion.