It is a privilege of which I am fully conscious to join in the tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), voiced so eloquently by the right hon. Gentlemen and the hon. Member who have preceded me. However, I must freely confess that there were occasions in the past, way back to the year 1906 when the Parliamentary Labour Party was first formed, and onward during the years, the 'twenties and the 'thirties, when it would have been regarded as a heresy to have heaped praise on the right hon. Gentleman. That would undoubtedly have incurred the displeasure of my Labour colleagues. Indeed, it might have led, if not to expulsion, to the withdrawal of the Whip.
In those days the right hon. Gentleman attacked the Labour Party with remarkable severity. Whether it was justified is a matter upon which, on this occasion, I dare not comment, but with the passage of time all the ascerbities, the acrimony, the aversions and dislike have vanished and are replaced by admiration for the varied and brilliant qualities of the right hon. Gentleman, and even by our affection.
I have had the fortune to have experienced association with many distinguished Parliamentarians. I recall the scintillating oratory of Lloyd George, which could electrify the House. I recall the shrewdness of Stanley Baldwin, the rare debating quality of Bonar Law and Lord Hugh Cecil, and the dignified utterances of Mr. Asquith, and, coming nearer to the years in which we live, the un-flappability of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Mac-millan). But, distinguished as those Parliamentarians were, none of them—I say this with the utmost respect—could transcend the brilliance, the courage, the forthrightness and the remarkable qualities of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford.
Sir, I had the opportunity—if the House will forgive my referring to the matter—of sharing in a broadcast on television last night. I ventured to make a remark which, perhaps, will bear repetition. I said that the right hon. Gentleman is no ordinary Member, but is one of our greatest institutions: the Throne, the Church, Parliament, the Press, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford.
I recall him in times of peace when, I must admit, he acted according to his temperament, his training and environment—according to his fashion, about which, perhaps, we had better not comment on this occasion. But I also recall how, during the Second World War, he crystallised, in majestic phrases, the resolution of the whole nation; and that will remain as a memory in the hearts and minds of those who were associated with him at that time.
In his impending retirement, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will enjoy peace and contentment—that, I believe, is the wish of all of us—in which he may reflect on his past glories and the appreciation and devotion of his countrymen.