Britain’s Leave Debate: Who’s Churchill? Who’s Stalin?

Britain’s Leave Debate: Who’s Churchill? Who’s Stalin?

Brexit Pals
Odd­est of cou­ples, George Gal­loway and Nigel Farage, 19 Feb­ru­ary 2016. Tele­graph pho­to by REX/Shutterstock (5588867t).

The cam­paign to Leave is heat­ing up. Take Grass­roots Out, a “com­bined oper­a­tion” sup­port­ing Brexit—the cam­paign for Great Britain to exit the Euro­pean Union. G-O field­ed a broad spec­trum of speak­ers in Lon­don Feb­ru­ary 19th. Along with UK Inde­pen­dence Par­ty leader Nigel Farage were Con­ser­v­a­tive Sir William Cash, Labour’s Kate Hoey, econ­o­mist Ruth Lea, and a Lon­don cab driver.

The most unex­pect­ed Leave speak­er was the far-left for­mer Labour MP and head of the social­ist Respect Par­ty. Mr. George Gal­loway was imme­di­ate­ly queried about his new colleagues.

“We are not pals,” Gal­loway replied. “We are allies in one cause. Like Churchill and Stal­in.” He did not say which was which. We report, you decide.

Leave col­leagues? Mr. Farage offered Churchillian col­le­gial­i­ty. “I don’t sus­pect there’s a sin­gle domes­tic pol­i­cy, in many cas­es for­eign pol­i­cy, of which George Gal­loway and I would agree. But, look, some­times in life an issue comes along which is big­ger than tra­di­tion­al dif­fer­ence.” (See “The New Hap­py War­rior.”)

Boris = Lord Randolph?

The Leave cam­paign received more sup­port Feb­ru­ary 21st. London’s then-may­or and Churchill biog­ra­ph­er Boris John­son announced he would cam­paign for Brex­it, invok­ing his admi­ra­tion for Sir Winston.

Anti-Leave Con­ser­v­a­tive MP Sir Kei­th Simp­son retort­ed that Johnson’s deci­sion was “more rem­i­nis­cent of [Lord] Ran­dolph [Churchill] than Win­ston. “Ran­dolph was a more extro­vert char­ac­ter. [He] made the polit­i­cal weath­er then cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly offered his res­ig­na­tion when he was Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer. [It] was accept­ed by the then-Prime Min­is­ter Lord Sal­is­bury.”

Lord Ran­dolph more extro­vert­ed than Win­ston? YGTBK, as they say on Twitter.

Johnson’s prin­ci­pled deci­sion to sup­port Brex­it, defy­ing his prime min­is­ter, is far more rem­i­nis­cent of Win­ston Churchill’s res­ig­na­tion from the shad­ow cab­i­net in 1931. Churchill left over dif­fer­ences on the India Act. That cost Churchill eight years in the polit­i­cal wilder­ness. This might be Johnson’s fate if Prime Min­is­ter Cameron sur­vives the June 23 referendum.

Lord Randolph’s 1886 res­ig­na­tion, by con­trast, was thought to be less deci­sive. He quit over a triv­ial issue, expect­ing to be asked back with more pow­er. Lord Sal­is­bury made no such offer, destroy­ing him polit­i­cal­ly. “Have you ever heard of a man who, hav­ing had a car­bun­cle removed from his neck, ask­ing that it be put back?” Sal­is­bury quipped.

Leave Pied Piper: The True Churchillian

… in this ker­fuf­fle is Mr. Farage—not for rep­re­sent­ing Churchill’s view of Euro­pean uni­ty (a com­pli­cat­ed sub­ject), but for express­ing Churchill’s atti­tude toward polit­i­cal oppo­nents. (See also: “What Would Win­ston Do?“)

Mr. Farage invit­ed Mr. Gal­loway to speak. He intro­duced Gal­loway as “one of the great­est ora­tors in this country…a tow­er­ing fig­ure on the left,”  adding that they would work togeth­er in the Brex­it battle:

On that night, yes, the Respect Par­ty was on the plat­form, so was the Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty [and the Labour Par­ty]. The point about Grass­roots Out is, we’re bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er from across the spectrum….[Mr. Gal­loway] said some very dis­abling things about me but, look, sometimes…etc.

Farage was dis­play­ing Churchill’s famous collegiality—a rare com­mod­i­ty among politi­cians today. Churchill based this on his belief that every­one in pub­lic office deserved respect for serv­ing the coun­try, regard­less of how vio­lent­ly he dis­agreed with their politics.

Churchill and Bevan

Instead of Churchill and Stal­in, Mr. Gal­loway might like to com­pare Mr. Farage and him­self to Churchill and Bevan.

Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), social­ist MP for Ebbw Vale, was a Welsh fire­brand with whom Churchill fre­quent­ly clashed. Bevan would label Churchill a ser­vant of plu­to­crat oppres­sors of the work­ers. Churchill would call Bevan, founder of the Nation­al Health Ser­vice, “the Min­is­ter of Disease.”

Hear­ing that Bevan had died, Churchill launched into a solil­o­quy: “A great man, the founder of the Nation­al Health Ser­vice, a tremen­dous advo­cate for social­ism and his party….”

Then he paused in mid-sen­tence. “Er, are you sure he’s dead?”*


* Quo­ta­tion from Churchill by Him­self, 326.

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