SO John McDonnell has made the front pages, but once again it is absolutely nothing to do with his nominal job opposing the government’s economic policies.
What is surprising to me, and I hope a lot of other people, is that this is treated as a surprise.
It rankles with the Left that none of their politicians, from the palest of pink to full-on blood-red, has anything approaching the stature of Churchill in British and global politics. So they have for decades tried to tarnish Churchill’s reputation. What McDonnell is doing is nothing new. It is actually the Left’s default position.
The reason it is newsworthy is because McDonnell is the Shadow Chancellor, and nothing more. He is the most senior Labour politician to go on record denouncing Churchill since Churchill left office sixty-four years ago. Were he not in the job he is in, he would have been ignored.
It has to be borne in mind that British Communists opposed fighting the war from the start until 22 June 1941, during which time Stalin was the most supportive ally of Hitler and was invading European countries at a similar rate to his Teutonic buddy. Curiously, no one from the Left ever seems to raise this.
Churchill’s career was extraordinary not only for its variety, but also for its length. He was at the top of British politics, including a decade of wilderness, for nearly half a century. It is a testament to his ability that he was First Lord of the Admiralty when the Kaiser invaded Belgium and was really the only choice for the same job when the Bohemian Corporal’s tribute band went on tour to Poland.
Attacking Churchill is a staple for the Hard Left, over issues such as Tonypandy, the use of gas warfare to pacify Iraq, and returning to a Gold Standard abandoned as a temporary emergency measure in 1914. They also accuse Churchill of responsibility for the 1943 Bengal famine, ignoring the fact that there was a major global war on, Bengal was on the front line, the local food crop had failed, and that the Indian Ocean was swarming with Axis submarines that were more than willing to sink any Allied relief ships. This was a natural disaster amplified by war conditions.
McDonnell and the rest of the Hard Left never acknowledge Churchill as a Liberal Home Secretary strengthening mining safety regulations the year before Tonypandy and his introduction of collective bargaining for wages. No mention is made of his championing of the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Pensions Act while a Conservative Chancellor.
This smearing of Churchill is not an attempt by the Left to rewrite history, but to dial up selected portions of history while ignoring other truths inconvenient to their perverted narrative. The people doing this hatchet job are the same Left who tried to deflect responsibility for Russia’s second use of a weapon of mass destruction on British soil away from the Kremlin. They are the same people who support Assad’s use of chemical warfare in the Syrian Civil War or who try to make us believe it never happened. They are the same people who support Maduro’s illegal regime that is performing a kind of slow-motion genocide in Venezuela.
The problem is what while the USSR existed, these people could be ignored as their moral bankruptcy was as concrete as the Berlin Wall. Somehow a blocked highway at the Venezuela-Colombia border preventing food and medical aid from reaching the starving and the sick does not have the same resonance. The absence of machine-gun towers, land-mines and barbed wire means that people might fail to notice that an entire South American country has become like the death-strip that separated the two Berlins.
So why is a defunct political tradition that plays fast and loose with the truth causing so much concern? It is because Churchill-bashing is becoming increasingly mainstream as living memory declines and we have to depend on historians, and more importantly their opinions, for our information. Afua Hirsch pulled the same stunt when facing our own Laura Perrins on Channel 4 News last year when she brought up the Bengal Famine while debating her attack on Nelson in the pages of The Guardian. Hirsch also regularly appears on Sky News’s debate programme The Pledge, where she seems to be able to peddle similar opinions without much of a serious challenge.
Churchill’s official biography runs to eight volumes and was completed in 1988. There are numerous companion volumes of his official papers. The late Sir Martin Gilbert, who wrote six of the eight volumes, dedicated his life to preserving Churchill’s place in history, warts and all. But there are also detractors, such as Holocaust denier David Irving, maverick former civil servant Clive Ponting and contrarian John Charmley, all of whom have written books setting out to blacken Churchill and British policy in World War II. These authors have been outliers, whose testing of facts validate Churchill’s greatness. But their rhetoric does provide a foundation that challenges not only the greatest Briton, but also the traditions and culture that laid the path to his greatness. Their books can be used to alter the opinions of people who do not read books.
With the loss of Sir Martin, we do not now have someone who could be Churchill’s greatest defender, although Andrew Roberts could step into the fray. A few words from Boris Johnson would also help.
Socialists, despite preaching solidarity, believe in dividing and conquering their opponents. A people that loses its common history is malleable into disturbing shapes. This is what the Left want. This is why they attack Churchill.
Churchill embodied Britain and Britain embodied Churchill. He was the strongest critic of Nazism and brought the country, and eventually the world, along with him to deliver a better future for the human race away from the threat of a ‘new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science’. The nit-pickers are driven by ideology to try to destroy a national institution as a cynical path to a dark age of their own invention.