March 15, 2015

Finest Hour 160, Autumn 2013

Page 05

Lord Lexden writes to correct his and our friend, novelist Lord (Michael) Dobbs, who said Neville Chamberlain’s gout contributed to his “disastrous months in Downing Street.” The gout, says Lexden, was severe only once in 1937, and did not interfere with Chamberlain’s “courageous quest to preserve peace, which involved taking defence spending to record levels.” He cites a note in Chamberlain’s diaries: “I can never forget that the ultimate decision, the Yes or No which may decide the fate not only of all this generation, but of the British empire itself, rests with me.” Quite accurate in every respect. Churchill couldn’t have won the Battle of Britain without the aircraft commissioned under Chamberlain.


Allie Jones in The Atlantic Wire reports: “Liz Cheney [running for Wyoming Senator] compared herself to ‘Churchill standing up to Hitler’ on September 2nd, when declaring her stand against American air strikes in Syria—the latest in a series of Liz-Cheney-thinking-rather-highly-of-Liz-Cheney moments.” The latter comparison strikes us as a mouse standing up to a piece of cheese. Where do these speeches come from?


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A new book makes headlines with the sophomoric notion that Churchill’s war speeches inspired few and annoyed many—based on colorful but unquantified exclamations in a wartime speak-your-mind register, Mass Observation.This will gather zzzs among the knowledgeable, since the same material was published back in 1994 (see “The Myth of the Blitz,” page 8).

This author’s first book concluded that Churchill was an anti-Semite, based on the “discovery” of a hack manuscript Churchill never wrote and rejected—first reported by Martin Gilbert in 1981 (FH 135: 40). His next book used selective quotes to conclude that Churchill hated Indians—a charge dating to 1944; claimed that Churchill tortured President Obama’s grandfather in Kenya—who had left prison, as was already known, before Churchill regained power (FH 150: 9); and that the Jews rejected the 1948 UN plan for the partition of Palestine (FH 153: 5)—the opposite of reality, as Martin Gilbert reported back in 2008.

We will objectively review this book, expecting it to distinguish between Churchill’s speeches in the Commons and those over the radio, which he frequently found tiresome, and which even supporters like Jock Colville said lacked the original fire. Of course the measure of Churchill’s standing during the war is not the cranks and “truthers” of Mass Observation but the broader indicators—like his unwavering 85% Gallup rating, the affection with which he was almost always received in public, his support in Parliament, and the two votes of confidence, which he won by 464-1 and 475-25. Then there is the testimony we’ve recorded over the years, from those at the other end of the wireless in those days, from London to Latvia, about what those speeches meant to them.  —RML

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