As the oldest of the very few Members of this House who served in both Administrations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) t ask the indulgence of the House to say a few words in support of the Motion now before us.
In a sense, there is little more that can or that need be said. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) have paid eloquent and moving tribute to the greatest Member of Parliament of this or any other age.
As they have reminded us, there is no parallel for the extraordinary career of the colleague and friend whom we are honouring today. There have been great administrators in times of peace, with long records of power, like Walpole. There have been great leaders of the nation in the hour of peril and the hour of glory—Chatham, Pitt, Lloyd George. There have been others who have nearly equalled—though none has actually surpassed—this immense span of parliamentary and public service—Palmerston, Disraeli, Gladstone.
There have, no doubt, been debaters and orators of equal resource and power, though few with that gift of puckish, rather mischievous, humour which so endears him to us all. Yet, looking back on the long history of the House of Commons, we can recall no man who has combined, in his single person, these qualities and these achievements.
The life of the man we are today honouring is, in this sense, unique. The oldest amongst us can recall nothing to compare with it. The younger ones among you, however long you live, will never see the like again.
All those who have spoken have rightly emphasised, among my right hon. Friend's characteristic loyalties, his affection for the House of Commons. Through so many years, through so many elections, through so many turns of Fortune's wheel, through so many Parliaments, he has stayed with us in the House of Commons and we love him for that.
I would only add a few words on a personal note. I have shared with my right hon. Friend some 40 of the 60 years of his membership of the House. For many years I have had the privilege of his friendship and worked with him in one way or another in many different circumstances, in office and out of office, in good times and in bad. I served in both his great Administrations in war and in peace, for a period of nearly 10 years. I have enjoyed, during the years of his retirement and my responsibilities, his generous encouragement and wise counsel. I have, therefore, seen my right hon. Friend for many years at very close quarters, at moments of frustration and disappointment as well as at those of satisfaction and achievement.
Failure and success are, in their different ways, equal tests of a man's character. My right hon. Friend has overcome both triumphantly. These twists and changes of political fortune were not mere accidents. They were the very fabric of his life. Like the prophets of old, he saw into the future with uncanny prescience both before, during and after the war.
So we honour the whole man—what he has done, what he has tried to do and what he is. If I were to try to sum up his true character I can think of no words more appropriate than those which he has himself written on the fly-leaf of each volume of his "History of the Second World War".