Finest Hour 113, Winter 2001-02
Winston Churchill was named “the most popular Prime Minister of all time” in a an internet poll (www.xrefer.com), with 43% of the vote. Second was Lady Thatcher at 23%. Tony Blair was fifth behind Attlee and Lloyd George. But a Mori poll for the “most influential” leader had Thatcher at 28% against only 1% for WSC …. In February, Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker attacked the BBC for a radio programme, “Europe and Us,” in which they allegedly contrived to make Churchill a Europhile: “In four postwar speeches between 1946 and 1949, in Zurich, London, The Hague and Strasbourg, Churchill, proposed the setting up of a ‘United States of Europe.’ But, as he repeatedly made clear, he did not see Britain as part of this great project.” However, Booker erred in claiming that Churchill’s famous phrase, “we are with Europe but not of it,” originated in 1953. In fact, that line originated with Churchill’s article, “The United States of Europe,” in The Saturday Evening Post of 15 February 1930, Woods C147, reprinted in the Collected Essays, 1975 …. In promoting the “Europe and Us” programme, Sue Gaisford of the Radio Times said “History may regard Winston Churchill as the architect of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign or the maker of xenophobic speeches, but tonight we consider him in philanthropic old age.” A cadre of historians piled on to denounce this absurdity. Norman Stone of Oxford said: “They probably don’t know what xenophobic means and are trying to find some way of saying ‘patriotic without saying it. It’s tosh. You just throw this sort of thing away.” The Mail on Sunday, refused an interview with Ms. Gais- ford, wrote that the comments of “some scurrilous Trotskyite” were not expected from the august Radio Times. “Once, Sir Winston’s reputation seemed secure. But the modern history syllabus barely mentions him, and the broadcasting media are full of resentful pygmies who dislike the Britain that Churchill saved and despise the decent patriotism of the majority who revere him….it is easy to see that such people should not be working for the BBC, which would not exist if Winston Churchill had not saved the world’s liberty” …. In an early 2001 survey, one in six British schoolchildren could not identify Churchill as Britain’s wartime prime minister; an astonishing four percent named Adolf Hitler.