Churchill and His Money

That is the subtitle, the proper title of David Lough’s new book is No More Champagne.  I had not known the extent of the story here, namely that Churchill had appalling standards for money management and exercised extremely poor judgment over most of his adult life.  Here is one bit from the opening:

…Churchill had recently inherited his great-grandmother’s Irish estate, transforming the erstwhile entrepreneur into a propertied landlord for the first time in his life — a rentier, as his wife Clementine put it.

To her intense disappointment, Churchill consumed the entire inheritance within a decade — by underestimating the cost of converting his new country home at Chartwell, by gambling more than he ever let on and by losing heavily in the Wall Street Crash of 1929…

In fact Churchill resigned from the Conservative front bench in the 1930s so he could earn more money as a writer and to some extent make up for these losses; that was one reason why he developed such a vivid writing style.  He ended up borrowing about $3.75 million in current dollars.  And there is this:

…during the decade, he gambled heavily enough on his holidays to lose an average of £40,000 each year in today’s money.

I enjoyed this sentence from the book:

Churchill was conscious that as chancellor of the exchequer his financial habits would have to change.

And this:

After the war, when taxes on income reached an eye-watering 97.5 per cent, Churchill rarely considered any business proposition unless his advisers assured him that he could present it to the Inland Revenue as a capital receipt, which would escape tax, rather than as income.

During the war, Churchill in fact challenged tax rulings from Inland Revenue on his various filings, and typically the rulings were in his favor.  Over time, Inland Revenue stopped bothering his claims and assessments.  Churchill had ongoing skirmishes with the tax collectors for over forty years and, believe it or not, he won most of them.

Recommended, an interesting book.  The topic of politicians with money problems could indeed use more study.


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