Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Winstone's Czech Mate

Interesting article in the Spectator (somewhat old) on Churchill's financial dealings:

Consider those sleaze allegations that would have dogged Churchill if he had been forced to admit the truth about his financial affairs in his Register of Members’ Interests form (which in fact only came into operation in 1975, ten years after his death). He would have had to admit that in March 1938, a week before his £18,000 debts to his stockbrokers Vickers da Costa were about to force him to sell his country house, Chartwell, for £20,000, an Anglo-South African businessman called Sir Henry Strakosch, the chairman of Union Corporation Ltd, had taken on his debts and guaranteed all his investments against further losses for the next three years.

The Moravian-born Strakosch’s cheque to Vickers of £18,162/1/10 — about £450,000 in today’s money — would have taken some explaining to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, along with his letter (quoted in Churchill’s official biography by Sir Martin Gilbert) saying, ‘My dear Winston, As agreed between us I shall carry this position for three years, you giving me full discretion to sell or vary the holdings at any time, but on the understanding that you incur no further liability.’ On receipt of the letter, Churchill promptly took Chartwell off the market, even though the Times had already announced it was up for sale.

Although, today, only ex-historians of the extremist kind, like David Irving, claim that because Strakosch was Jewish, Churchill was the ‘hired help’ of the anti-Nazi lobby, one can only guess what today’s press would make of the Strakosch deal. Imagine their reaction if it were discovered that Tony Blair was having his stock-market losses ‘carried’ in such a way by such a person.

Being Jewish sounds like a dead end, but the fact that Strakosch was Czech does not.

Historical note: the Munich summit started in March 1938 and was signed on 29 September 1939.


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