Baby Step Towards Coordinated Defence Policy

Friday February 27th 1936

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin took a small step towards recognizing that Britain's rearmament programme needed to be taken more seriously than it had been. He announced in the House of commons that he would be creating a new post of Minister for the Coordination of Defence. The exact duties of the new minister were not spelled out and remained extremely vague. Britain's rearmament programme had created extra work for the Prime Minister which was unlikely to diminish so the new minister would relieve him of part of this burden The responsibility of the individual service ministers would not be weakened and the Prime Minister would remain as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, the country's highest military planning body.

The crucial question of who would be given the post was left open. It was already known that the Chancellor the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, had declined such a role. Few existing Cabinet ministers approached Chamberlain's standing so the new minister's effective power would be limited from the outset. Chamberlain detested spending on the armed forces.The only politician who might have been able to use the job to drive rearmament forward was Winston Churchill. Even though he was still firmly in the political wilderness be began to entertain hopes that this might be his avenue back into government. Baldwin had taken a step towards keeping the rearmers happy by creating the job, but the acid test would be who was chosen to take it.

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