Saturday, 31 January 2015

The unsavoury deification of Winston Churchill

Yesterday made it 50 years since Winston Churchill was buried, the only commoner to be afforded a state funeral in the 20th century. As the casket was ferried down the Thames in 1965, the dockers bowed their cranes in tribute. The mobiliser of the English language had since long been prepared to meet his maker, but admitted uncertainty as to whether his maker was prepared "for the great ordeal" to meet him.

Yesterday’s semi-centennial spelled a deluge of commemorations, obsequious speeches in honour of “the Greatest Briton”, vox pops with members of the public who felt ‘indebted’ to him, servile documentaries on TV and radio. All in all, a cringeworthy outpouring of uncritical sentimentality.

Jan 30th 1965. The cranes genuflect. 

As much as I am fascinated by the person Churchill, and adore his writings, this extreme lionization has become farcical. It’s bordering on apotheosis, an unsavoury process of deification up with which I will not put. 

But he won the second world war, I hear you say. No, he didn't. It was the plebs who bled, toiled, fought and died. They won the war, not a cognac sipping patrician secure in his bunker as the East End proles took the Blitz.

You could’ve had Ed Miliband as prime minister (PM), Britain’s working- and middle classes would have kept on fighting. Just like they did in the previous world war, seemingly able to take even worse losses without caving in to defeatism despite having no swashbuckling "Churchillian" PM around.

Actually, Clement Attlee is worthy of as much if not more veneration than Churchill. Without Attlee's Labour, Churchill might have had to leave politics as a disgraced First Lord of the Admiralty in two world wars – responsible for the disastrous Gallipoli campaign 1915 and the ruinous Norwegian campaign 1940.

It was Labour who forced Neville Chamberlain out and Churchill in due to the latter's anti-appeasement credentials. Churchill was politically weak at this point in time, with no strong support in his own party. It was Labour's indefatigable resolve to never surrender or accept a separate peace settlement – à la the Lord Halifax Tories – that made it possible for Churchill to take, execute and persevere in his "Churchillian” stance.

Yes, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, the Blenheim toff, was certainly an able war PM. But this pro-imperialist daredevil didn't win the war, it was the ordinary peeps of Britain wot won it. 

And they would’ve done it without him. On the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, streets and hills…

Indeed, this was their finest hour.

Attlee and Churchill. After having won the war in Europe 1945, the British voted 
Churchill out and Attlee in. Attlee's government granted India independence and 
introduced the National Health Service. Churchill opposed both.