It was another, and perhaps the last, great set piece of the House of Commons. An innocuous debate on the surface, on the question of adjourning the House, it turned, due to circumstances beyond almost anyone's control - the Germans had just shattered the British-French lines, and the French were running screaming about betrayal, while the Brits were running for the Channel port of Dunquerque - into a question of Parliamentary confidence in the government. All the key players were lining up - would the king ask Churchill or, his own choice, Lord Halifax (who ended up being fobbed off as Ambassador to the United States)? Would Chamberlain even accept the rebuke of the House and step aside?
Churchill's role in the situation was difficult, as he was a member of the Chamberlain government, First Lord of the Admiralty, and he had to defend a government that had lost the confidence of Parliament and the people in the wake of the unmitigated disaster in France. The real hero, rhetorically speaking, was a mutual friend of Chamberlain and Churchill, Leo Amery, MP from Birmingham. During the course of the debate, amery said the following (all quotes are from pp. 654-655 of Alone: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1932-1940 by William Manchester; the entire debate is covered on pp. 652 ff.):
Somehow or other we must get into the Government men who can match our enemies in fighting spirit, in daring, in resolution and in thirst for victory. . . .We are fighting today for our life, for our liberty, for our all. We cannot go one being led as we are. . . I have quoted certain words of Oliver Cromwell. I will quote certain other words. . . . that are applicable to the present situation. This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation:"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."
I offer this as my sentiment to the Bush Administration.