Politicians, most often Boris Johnson and Donald Trump at the moment, are often compared to Winston Churchill. In a way it’s nice PR for Sir Winston. Half a century since his death, the Greatest Briton still dominates media. His Google hit count is 100 million. (Franklin Roosevelt, the West’s other great war leader, is at 72 million.)
Rightly or wrongly, every day on the Internet, Churchill is praised, lampooned, quoted and misquoted. But comparisons to modern politicians have worn thin. They may emulate him, but not be compared to him.
Johnson’s Day in the barrel
On 15 June the Wall Street Journal focused on British prime minister in waiting Boris Johnson.…
Prime Ministers are always popular targets. Boris Johnson, Britain’s new PM, wears the bullseye over there now. For everything from domestic squabbling to “insensitivity” in reciting “The Road to Mandalay” on a visit to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). In the immortal words of Richard Nixon, let us say this about that.
* * * * * “I appointed [Lord Roberts] Commander-in-Chief in India when I was Secretary of State. That was the year I annexed Burma. The place was in utter anarchy. They were just butchering one another. We had to step in, and very soon there was an ordered, civilized Government under the vigilant control of the House of Commons.” There was a sort of glare in his eyes as he said “House of Commons.”
—Lord Randolph Churchill to Winston Churchill in The Dream, 1947 Mandalay as Dog Whistle
Generally speaking nowadays, we deem paeans to the British Empire imperialist, racist twaddle.…
My friend Steve Hayward had the wit to paraphrase, in reaction to the arrival of Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, some comments about another incoming PM, eighty years ago next May. “Cambridge Cute,” a friend remarked of Steve’s good piece.
Speaking of Cambridge Cuties, I immediately thought of what Andrew Roberts described as “The Respectable Tendency,” the British establishment, in his great book, Eminent Churchilllians. So I dug into a dozen books to find more of what they said back then. (Lightly paraphrased.)