London: Planet News Ltd., 23 February 1950. Photograph. This original press photo captures Winston S. Churchill as Leader of the Opposition on the day of the 1950 General Election. The gelatin silver print on glossy photo paper measures 8.125 x 10 in (20.6 x 25.4 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is crisp and clean with only minor edge wear, lightly creased corners, cockling along the right edge, and light scuffing visible only under raking light. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Planet News Ltd.”, a received stamp dated 24 FEB 1950, and a typed caption. The caption is titled “CHURCHILL IN TWO MOODS” and reads “Woodford, Eng: With ‘V; for Victory type rosette and big cigar, Winston Churchill looks in conquering mood as he smiles at the cheering crowds outside the Conservative Club here during his election-day tour of his Woodford (Essex) constituency. The poster behind (left), shows the Conservative Party leader in a more serious vein. 23rd. February, 1950”
Having done so much to win the war, Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell to a landslide victory for Labour in the General Election on 26 July 1945 with 393 seats to Conservative’s 208. Clement Attlee – Churchill’s deputy prime minister during the war – became Prime Minister. Churchill would be relegated to Leader of the Opposition for more than six years. In the 1950 General Election Churchill’s Woodford constituency handed him a decisive victory; his vote tally was double that of his challenger. He also experienced a significant near-victory as Conservative Party leader. The 1950 General Election was the beginning of the end of Clement Attlee’s premiership. Labor’s majority was reduced to five seats. The next General Election – that of October 1951 – saw the Conservatives return to majority and Churchill to 10 Downing street for his second and final premiership (1951-1955).
Woodford, where this image captures Churchill campaigning on 23 February 1950, would prove to be both the longest and last served constituency of Churchill's epic political career. In the 1924 General Election, Churchill stood successfully for Epping. In 1945, Epping was subdivided and Churchill stood for the new (and politically more tenable) Woodford Division. Woodford would subsequently re-elect Churchill in 1955 and 1959 and he would serve Woodford as M.P. until October 1964.
This press photo originated from the Planet News Ltd. press agency. During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, with physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005375