CHURCHILL AND THE POLITICAL DINING SOCIETY KNOWN AS “THE OTHER CLUB”

June 12, 2010 at 9:04 am | Posted in History, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

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“The Other Club”

The Other Club is a British political dining society founded in 1911 by Winston Churchill and F. E. Smith. It meets to dine fortnightly while parliament is in session. Its members over the years have included many leading British political and non-political people.

Churchill, who in 1910 was Liberal Home Secretary, and barrister and Conservative MP F. E. Smith had not been invited to join the venerable political dining club known just as The Club. Although both had friends in it, the members thought Churchill and Smith too controversial. So they established their own club, to be called by contrast “The Other Club”.

The initial membership was 12 Liberals, 12 Conservatives, and 12 “distinguished outsiders” who were not in politics. With the help of David Lloyd George (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) another non-member of The Club, they put together such a list and the first dinner was on 18 May 1911. The Chief Whips of the two parties were co-secretaries of the club, so that pairs could be arranged, meaning members dinner would not be interrupted by divisions in the parliament.

Twelve rules were written for the club, mostly by F. E. Smith, and they were, and are still, read aloud at each dinner. Churchill said he had contributed the last,

12. Nothing in the rules or intercourse of the Club shall interfere with the rancour or asperity of party politics.[1]

The so-called Birkenhead school ascribes this to Smith. In any case debate was indeed vigorous, and Churchill insisted on attending even at the height of The Blitz in 1940/41.

Election to the club depended on Smith and Churchill believing members to be “men with whom it was agreeable to dine”. After Smith’s death in 1930, Churchill became practically the sole arbiter and election was the greatest honour he could confer on those he considered both estimable and entertaining. Both those characteristics were required, so that many he considered estimable, but not entertaining, were not elected. That included Lord Woolton, Clement Attlee, John Anderson and Lord Halifax.

Anthony Eden was invited to join, but declined since he disliked dining clubs.

Charles Wilson, created Lord Moran, was Churchill’s physician for many years and in the late 1950s asked outright to be elected. This was surprisingly forthright, and Churchill couldn’t hurt his feelings by refusing. After Churchill’s death, Moran published a controversial book Winston Churchill, the Struggle for Survival which offended Churchill’s friends for discussing matters normally confidential between a doctor and patient. The members of the club thus asked him to resign, though he himself saw no reason to.

Churchill met Aristotle Onassis in the South of France and became such friends as to elect him to the club, to the astonishment of other members.

The club continued after Churchill’s death, but there has been no Executive Committee since 1970.

Members

The members over the years, as John Colville put it, reads like an index to contemporary English history. They included,

(This list is incomplete.)

· F.E. Smith

· Lord Kitchener

· Lord Jellicoe

· Lord Trenchard

· Lord Alexander

· Lord Montgomery

· Lord Gort

· Lord Alanbrooke

· Charles Portal

· Lord Moyne

· H. G. Wells

· Arnold Bennett

· A. E. W. Mason

· P. G. Wodehouse

· Brendan Bracken

· Walter Elliot

· William Orpen

· Alfred Munnings

· John Lavery

· Edwin Lutyens

· Bob Boothby

· Herbert Beerbohm Tree

· Lawrence Olivier

· Lewis Douglas

· Duff Cooper

· Lloyd George

· Jan Smuts

· Robert Menzies

· R. B. Bennett

· Lord Camrose

· Lord Beaverbrook

· Lord Rothermere

· Edward Marsh

· Leslie Rowan

· Harcourt Johnstone

· Lord Normanbrook

· Aristotle Onassis

· Roy Jenkins[2]

References

· John Colville, The Churchillians, 1981, ISBN 0-297-77909-5, chapter 1.

· Derek Wilson, “Dark and Light”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1998, ISBN 0-297-81718-3, p.227.

1. Rules of The Other Club at The Churchill Centre

2. Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography, 2001, ISBN 0-374-12354-3, p. xiii.

Further reading

· The Other Club, Colin Coote, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1971. (Quite rare.)

“The Other Club”

The Other Club is a British political dining society founded in 1911 by Winston Churchill and F. E. Smith. It meets to dine fortnightly while parliament is in session. Its members over the years have included many leading British political and non-political people.

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