Last night I watched a documentary on the General Election of 1945 which Labour won by a landslide. Over the years I have studied this election in some detail. The normal assembly of anti-Churchill academics, Professors Charmley and Overy gathered as well as a bleached blonde Geordie Trot activist who droned on about Churchill representing and upholding the class divide. Max Hastings provided some balance.
This programme told me nothing I did not know already but it omitted to mention the crucial role of the Daily Mirror under High Cudlipp and the scheming Herbert Morrison as the coalition home secretary. It failed to give sufficient emphasis to Churchill being caught between two stools: the Conservatives were regarded in 1945 as the party of appeasement and Churchill’s lack of popularity within it. Nor was there sufficient reference to the concerns of repeating the unemployment at the end of World World One, 27 years previously. Interestingly the same issue of finishing the job versus a vision for a fairer future, as in the recent Election, were key but then the electorate came out overwhelmingly for the latter.
Much of my information was gleaned from my own dear parents, my father a life-long Conservative voted Labour in this, his first Election. My mother explained to me, when I commented it was strange for the electorate to dump a man who served his country so valiantly, that he was regarded as a war time prime minister. I did not care for Charmley’s assessment that Churchill with his literary output wrote his own place in history. Churchill’s greatness is not just defined by oratory but by deed. Look at the craven way France fell under Laval, Daladier and Petain thus denied a credibility in the reconstruction of Europe? Worse Russia under Stalin sided with the Axis under the Molotov-Ribbebtrop pact . Franklin D Roosevelt and the USA did not want to get involved till Pearl Harbour. Of all the world leaders only Churchill realised what Hitler was about, the futility of any pact and the necessity to fight on. He may have got a lot wrong (India, the Gold standard) but here he was 100% right. The bleached blonde Trot, who would have been an early visitor to Dachau, had the temerity to state that Churchill was pissed when he made his great speeches. Churchill was a prodigious drinker but there is no evidence that this affected his oratory, let alone his boundless energy or distracted him from his task. In his fine biography Roy Jenkins refers to Churchill in Christmas 1944 when he was quite entitled to spend a relaxing Xmas being concerned by the situation in Greece and immediately flying out there. By and large Greece stayed a democracy for the next 70 years. Nor did this partial programme comment that for all the dreams of a new Jerusalem a bankrupt nation had to pay for welfare reform. As ever Labour overspent, the post war economy took years to recover and my father never voted for them again. Churchill was back in power by 1951 by then in his eighties.
Actors were used to play the roles of Churchill and Attlee. This may made me wonder if bleached blonde Geordie Trot was a cartoon character of which I was unaware. I was trying to think who could best play the roles of Charmley and Overy? The late Tommy Cooper and Dick Emery spring to mind.