Thanks, Andrew Roberts
The London Daily Telegraph is sponsoring a series of podcasts featuring conversations with historians about attacks on national heroes. On September 1st, Steve Edginton engaged with Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts on the Woke Movement’s number one bogeyman: Winston Spencer Churchill….
“To many,” writes the Telegraph,
Winston Churchill is the man who saved not only Britain but the world from Nazi tyranny. But to some, Churchill represents the evils of the British Empire: racism, colonization and violence. The wartime prime minister’s statue in Parliament Square was tarred with the words “racist” after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. So, hero or villain?
I appreciate Andrew Roberts’ very kind mention (minute 22) of my book, Churchill by Himself, a cornucopia of 4000 notable Churchill quotations. It also includes close to 200 “Red Herrings,” which WSC never said: listed here and frequently updated. So, full disclosure: I am highly biased. I consider Andrew Roberts one of the good guys.
Honesty as best policy
Mr. Edginton has done his homework, and confronts Roberts with a cornucopia of charges. As in his Churchill biography, Walking with Destiny, Andrew honestly acknowledges where Churchill went wrong. (Yes, of course, in a political life from the cavalry charge at Omdurman to space travel, he went wrong—sometimes embarrassingly wrong.)
So what about the Black and Tans in Ireland? Edginton asks our historian. Are the charges true? Andrew Roberts answers in one word: “yes.” Churchill did not create the paramilitary constabulary which wrecked violence in Ireland in 1920-21. But he defended them long after their activities were indefensible. For more on the subject scroll to “Ireland and the Jews” in “Defcon 1: The Battle for Churchill’s Memory.”
A shade of difference
I differ with Andrew Roberts over Churchill’s view of the women’s vote. We agree that in the 19th century, young Winston was adamantly, if privately, against it. (So too, was his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. Many women in those days fancied politics a vulgar game for rowdy men and drunks. Not until government began to grow and affect their own daily lives did they decide they needed to take a hand.)
At any rate, we slightly differ on Churchill’s 20th century views. A.R. says he followed the Liberal Party’s general line against suffrage. Prime Minister H.H. Asquith was definitely against it. I’ve never found a Churchill a statement opposing votes for women in the 20th century. True, he equivocated, and on occasion seemed to hold back in the face of clamor. But his wife Clementine was a major influence on his attitude. His daughter Mary always said, “Papa grew in favour of votes for women when he realized how many women would vote for him.” (In the 1945 election that turned him out, it was the male vote that went against him; women voters were evenly divided.)
Don’t miss this video
As a capsule defense of Churchill from libel and slander, this 30 minutes is well worth viewing. Mr. Edginton is sharp and precise, and ably represents that cases made against the man. Dr. Roberts is at his best, in a stalwart defense, giving way only when the facts show that Churchill had something wrong.