Tuesday, December 15, 2015

David Lough's "No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money"

David Lough studied history at Oxford under Richard Cobb and Theodore Zeldin. After a career in financial markets, he founded a business that advises families on looking after their investments, tax affairs and estates.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, his first book, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s page 99 test inevitably homes in on the one page that I added to No More Champagne after delivering it to its publishers!

I did not add the page lightly. A corner of the archive suddenly solved a puzzle of Churchill’s finances that I had thought was destined to remain a dark mystery. Why did Churchill open a special ‘C’ account at his bank in 1910? Why did he add a ‘D’ account in 1912? Why did he deposit today’s equivalent of $5 million in them? Who sent it? And why did Churchill ignore the $5 million when claiming at the time to be too poor to move into the official residence of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the ministerial post he assumed in 1912?

The answer lay in a letter from James Caird, one of Churchill’s constituents in the city of Dundee. Caird had earned his fortune in the jute trade. He was unmarried and wanted to spend some money on political lobbying. He favored free trade and home rule for Scotland.

He therefore sent a series of checks made out directly to Churchill himself, explaining quite simply that Churchill, as a ‘statesman’, would spend it better than Caird himself could. Remarkably he imposed no conditions on how Churchill should spend the money.

Page 99 recites how Churchill nevertheless separated the money scrupulously from his own and reported diligently to Caird on how he had spent it. He did so despite a gaping hole in his own finances and despite widespread political corruption in British politics. The episode suggests a fundamental honesty in Churchill that I had begun to question when my researches elsewhere uncovered evidence of half a lifetime of tax avoidance, abetted by what lawyers euphemistically call ‘economies with the truth’. Page 99 restores some balance.
Visit David Lough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue