On 14 May 1940, the Evening Standard published a cartoon with the caption ‘All Behind You, Winston’. It showed Churchill, the freshly installed prime minister, rolling up his sleeves to confront the oncoming menace of Nazi Germany. In his wake, leading the endless ranks of the British people, marched the most prominent figures of his new coalition government.
It was a potent expression of a moment when Britons of every class were truly all in it together.
Now Roger Hermiston tells the story of the men – and women – who steered Britain through its darkest hour, showing how they helped to win the Second World War, and how they laid the foundations of the ‘New Jerusalem’ that followed. Hermiston also considers the achievements of more junior ministers, including the only two women in Churchill’s government: the left-wing firebrand Ellen Wilkinson, and the Conservative Florence Horsbrugh, who played a pivotal role alleviating the suffering inflicted by the Blitz.
Five years after that cartoon, Churchill predicted that history would shine a light on ‘every helmet’ of his ‘great coalition’. As it was, many were forgotten. This book seeks to recover their memory, and to celebrate a generation of politicians who rose above party to put their country first.