Barry Singer, proprietor of the world’s only bookstore specialising in books by and about Winston Churchill describes David Lough’s No More Champagne: Churchill and His a Money as “a deftly researched, encyclopaedic chronicle of Churchill’s lifelong struggles with solvency. Truly fascinating.”
The Daily Telegraph 7 November 2015
Reviews What to read Non fiction
The truth behind Churchill’s debts and reckless gambling
7 NOVEMBER 2015 • 12:00PM
On his first day at school, Winston Churchill asked his mother for more cash. She groused: “You do get through it in the most rapid manner… and the more you have the more you want to spend.” He was 13, and already he was spending more than a family “of six or seven have to live upon”.
The grandson of a Duke, Churchill had ducal tastes, but lacked the land to finance them. When he first entered Parliament in 1900, he did not possess an acre. Fifty years later, the Queen offered him a dukedom, but he declined. It would have been embarrassing without a great estate like Blenheim, his birthplace.
Blenheim in its vast estate had been granted in 1704 to his ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, by a grateful Queen Anne. Like “Duke John”, as he called him, Churchill was obsessed with money. It was, he wrote to his brother Jack, also his stockbroker, “the only thing that worries me in life”.
This is the first biography to focus on Churchill’s business affairs. To view someone from just one angle is usually to deform them, but David Lough, drawing on compelling material including Churchill’s tax records, more than justifies his audit. Lough previously worked in the financial markets, so he knows what he’s dealing with. None the less, he is surprised by what the accounts turn up. “I have never encountered risk-taking on Churchill’s scale during my career… he gambled or traded shares and currencies with such intensity that he appeared to be on a ‘high’.”
Churchill once wrote to his mother: “The pinch of the whole matter is that we are damned poor.” What spelt poverty to Churchill was unbounded wealth to most people. Although he railed against her “ghastly and persistent extravagances”, Churchill’s own behaviour differed little from that of his mother, who, “in money matters”, in the words of her second husband, “was without any sense of proportion”. In one of his economy drives at Chartwell – where he maintained a staff of three gardeners and secretaries, a valet, a lady’s maid and a chauffeur – he instructed: “Cigars must be reduced to four a day.”
He earned most of his money through writing. In his early days, Churchill’s mother arranged terms for his assignments, ensuring that he was given the highest payment then conceded to a war correspondent – the equivalent of £100,000 a month, according to the helpful inflation chart with which Lough begins each chapter. In 1921, his future looked settled when he inherited a valuable estate in Wales, after two trains collided near Newport, killing his cousin and benefactor. His wife, Clementine, whom to his credit he had not married for money, breathed a colossal sigh of relief “that we need never, never be worried about money again… it’s like floating in a bath of cream”. Yet her husband yanked out the plug soon enough. Lough understandably wallows in the discovery that one of our most successful politicians “ran up huge personal debts, gambled heavily, lost large amounts on the stock exchange, avoided tax with great success and paid his bills late”.
Not revealed until now is the extent of Churchill’s losses in the Wall Street crash, which would have exceeded £8.9 million in today’s money. Then there were his (routinely) unlucky streaks in Monte Carlo. “Beware casino,” Clementine adjured on more than one occasion. In 1922, for instance, he lost more than the equivalent of £90,000. His excuse: “It excited me so much to play – foolish moth.”
In March 1938, Churchill had “simply come to the end of the road” and would have tumbled into bankruptcy but for a loan from Sir Henry Strakosch, one of several millionaires who admired Churchill and were agreeable to bailing him out. Neither man ever spoke about the rescue, which was kept secret.
Writes Lough: “Clearly some of his actions or omissions would not survive scrutiny by the standards of transparency expected of today’s politicians.” Of particular interest is the occasion when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he summoned the head of the Inland Revenue for free tax advice. But though Churchill took gigantic steps to minimise his tax liability, no evidence exists that he lined his pockets with public funds.
What is astonishing to learn, aside from the sheer amount of time Churchill devoted to his financial affairs, is that he did so at critical periods in the nation’s history. Even as he grappled with the threat of a Nazi invasion in June 1940, he was scrabbling to find money to pay his shirt makers. The newspaper headlines of May 1942, before the debate on the conduct of the war, “Why wasn’t Churchill in the House today?”, are now explained: he was talking to his tax adviser.
No More Champagne by David Lough
480pp, Head of Zeus, £25, ebook £6.99
The Times reviewed No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money in its edition of 19 September 2015. Lawrence James writes:
‘David Lough, an Oxford historian now in the world of finance, has charted the little known and sometimes heroic saga of the Churchills’ struggle to achieve liquidity. he is a courteous guide, whose knowledge of the arcane world of investment enables him to explain what went wrong and how Churchill managed to scrape through.
The result is a fascinating read, although an unnerving one for anyone who has the tastes and appetites of mr Toad and the income of Mr Rat.’
The full review can be found at: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/books/non-fiction/article4560854.ece
FT Weekend reviewed No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money in its edition of 18 October 2015, under the headline Blood, toil tears and debt
The FT’s reviewer comments:
‘Previous reviewers have noted the poor finances of Churchill’s household. Probably noe, though, has examined every available bank account and merchant’s invoice with singular, forensic purpose of David Lough in No More Champagne. His dispassionate analysis tots up spending versus income, and he even helpfully provides currency exchange rates and inflation adjustments to provide a modern context.
Lough writes from experience. Formerly an investment banker, he founded a successful wealth-management firm. He can understand the vicissitudes of family fortunes.
… Churchill buffs and economic historians will find valuable insights in the light Lough sheds upon the man and his times.’
Read the full review at http://on.ft.com/1jHuRiF
PROSPECT magazine’s reviewer Vicky Price calls No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money ‘an excellent and entertaining work’ in her review published int he magazine’s November 2015 edition. http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/arts-and-books/book-review-no-more-champagne-by-david-lough