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On October 26, 1951 the counting of the votes cast in the parliamentary election resumed and by mid-afternoon it was clear that the Conservative party led by Winston Churchill had won. Despite losing by a slight margin in the popular vote, the Conservatives emerged from the election with a majority of 16 in the House of Commons. Churchill, who had been at his London home Hyde Park Gate to start the day, went to St. Barnabas School, Woodford to hear the announcement of the results in his own constituency by the returning officer. The crowd of 300 greeted Churchill’s reelection by 18,000 votes with both cheers and boos. In his short speech, he said, “We have all, I feel, a great deal in common, and now, perhaps there will be a lull in our party strife which will enable us to understand more what is good in our opponents and not to be so very clever at finding all their shortcomings.” While Churchill and his two son-in-laws, Duncan Sandys and Christopher Soames, were returned to parliament, Randolph Churchill was unsuccessful at the polls. Churchill’s son was defeated at Devonport by Labour’s Michael Foot.

Churchill later visited the home of Sir James Hawkey, chairman of the Woodford Conservative Association, where he thanked the party officials in the constituency who had assembled. Later he spoke to the crowd that had gathered outside the home, including a tribute to the efforts of his wife Clementine in the election. Churchill also went to the Conservative party headquarters and made another short speech to thank the party workers and supporters. With tears in his eyes he said, “We shall do our very best to be of service to all interests, which the Conservative party has always served, which is far above the rights and interests of any party.”

At five o’clock that afternoon Prime Minister Clement Attlee went to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation, returning to Downing Street 30 minutes later. At six o’clock Churchill arrived at the palace for an audience with King George where he was formally requested to form a government. He accepted the offer and kissed hands on his appointment. The 76 year-old Churchill thus became the oldest man to take the office since Gladstone had become prime minister at the age of 82 in 1892. From the palace Churchill returned to Hyde Park Gate where he had dinner with Anthony Eden. He also had discussions about his new government with Sir Edward Bridges, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, and Sir Norman Brook, Secretary to the cabinet. That day world capitals reacted to the news of the return of Churchill as prime minister, with President Harry Truman cabling his congratulations. Of her husband’s return as prime minister, Clementine wrote a friend, “It will be up-hill work, but he has a willing eager heart.”

British Pathe’s recap of the election is available below.

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