“Very often the eagles have been squalled down by the parrots.” —Churchill, House of Commons, 18 January 1945
Some seasoned students of the man were of two minds about the January 2015 Winston Churchill death celebrations: gratified that people still remember; shock at the ill-considered assertions.
This is such a rote performance, and sadly typical. First, you tee up Churchill as the savior of 1940. Then you tear him down with the familiar litany of charges. I do wish they’d come up with some new ones; the old chestnuts are getting shopworn.
One doesn’t mind the BBC addressing popular urban legends—many of us do it all the time. But to offer his supposed racist views, the rude things he said about Gandhi (but not the nice things, or what Gandhi said about him), or the Sidney Street episode as examples of the “top ten” is at best intellectually misleading.
The real controversies of Churchill’s career include the Dardanelles, intervention in Russia, Versailles, the Middle East, the Gold Standard, Disarmament, the Rhineland, Munich (download all), Singapore, strategic bombing, Hiroshima, and postwar summits with the Russians, among others. (I have supplied links to certain articles on these topics.)
Perhaps the BBC is catering to its perceived audience, which dotes on popular canards. They seem to try to be “fair and balanced,” but I don’t think Churchill gets a fair shake in some of their explanations.
“We shall fight them on the BBC” 23 January 15
This mock interview of Churchill aims to answer some of his detractors, and is more amusing than the usual fare. Sadly, though, Churchill never said he could only deal with one s*** at a time….And “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war” was said by Harold Macmillan, not Churchill. It was amusing read the quote, “an Iron Curtain has fallen across the continent,” and then to be told he means the European Union.
One misses the company of eagles, Sir Martin Gilbert and Lady Soames in confronting some of these stories. But no one has the energy to tackle them all. I am however comforted and guided by a wise and balanced historian, Prof. Paul Addison, whose books on Churchill remain standard works:
Don’t worry about attacks on Churchill. He is alive and kicking and haunts the British imagination like no other 20th century politician. He will always be caricatured as he was in his lifetime. But freedom of speech and expression was one of the things he fought for, and in his time he gave as good as he got. The more provocative comments about him are a backhanded tribute, as they work on the assumption that most people admire him. My own personal view is that he was even greater as a human being than he was as a politician, a role in which he did make mistakes, as we all do.