TWO ELITE GROUPINGS: “THE OTHER CLUB” AND “LE CERCLE”

April 10, 2011 at 7:03 am | Posted in Financial, Globalization, History, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

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Two Elite Groupings:

I. 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.)

References

  1. 1. Rules of The Other Club at The Churchill Centre
  2. 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

II. Le Cercle

Le Cercle is a foreign policy think-tank specialising in international security. Set up after World War II, the group has members from twenty-five countries and meets at least bi-annually, in Washington, D.C.

The group’s current chairman is Norman Lamont, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lamont worked at Rothschild‘s.

History

At some point in the 1950s, Le Cercle was established by former French prime minister Antoine Pinay and French intelligence agent Jean Violet under the name ‘Cercle Pinay’.

In later years, the British took over the chairmanship of Le Cercle.

Le Cercle has operated in almost complete anonymity since its creation with only a handful of articles having been written about it. As of this writing, no American sources have been identified. The Cercle was mentioned in the early 1980s by Der Spiegel in Germany as a result of the controversy surrounding Franz Josef Strauß, one of the regular attendants of the Cercle. In the late 1990s, the Cercle received some attention after a scandal had broken out involving Jonathan Aitken, at the time chairman of Le Cercle.[1] Members that were contacted by newspapers refused to answer any questions about the group and sometimes simply put down the phone.

Funding

In 1971, Shell contributed a lump sum of £30,000. The Ford Foundation also donated £20,000 over three years.

References

  1. 1. http://www.caat.org.uk/publications/countries/saudi-arabia.php

Two Elite Groupings

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