LESSONS FROM CHURCHILL FOR THE CONTEMPORARY AGE

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EVENT TRANSCRIPT: LESSONS FROM CHURCHILL FOR THE CONTEMPORARY AGE

DATE: 1.00PM-2.00PM 8 JANUARY 2019

VENUE: MILLBANK TOWER, 21-24 MILLBANK, WESTMINSTER, SW1P 4RS

SPEAKER: DR ANDREW ROBERTS

CHAIR: DR ALAN MENDOZA

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Right, is this on? Is this working? Can you hear us at the back? We’ll be loud then, we’ll have to be loud for it to work as well. Well good afternoon, welcome to the Henry Jackson Society, our first meeting of the New Year and what a way to begin frankly as we have one of Britain’s leading historians delivering a lecture on this fine book that you will of course be able to purchase afterwards with a few wise words imparted by the author.

We’re delighted of course to have Andrew Roberts and really a distinguished and old friend at the society having been with us right from the start from the very early days. Andrew’s pedigree is really immense, reaching Churchillian standards we’re getting there Andrew, given the number of fellowships and other things you have picked up but of course he has got a PhD from Cambridge, a Visiting Professor at the War Studies Department at King’s College, London, the Lehrman Institute Distinguished Lecturer at the New York Historical Society. He is the Roger and Martha Mertz Visiting Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and of course he has authored 13 books, a number of which have been on the Churchill topic, a number not. He has long history with the Churchill family and with the organisations to do with Churchill, a trustee at the International Churchill Society for example, and it’s fair to say that even with his pedigree that he was taking a bit of a risk writing a one volume biography on a man who has had a thousand biographies written about before but it’s one if you’ve read any of the reviews or the book if you’ve been lucky enough to buy it already that has paid off handsomely. Literally a best seller all around the world, I’ve never seen so many positive reviews about one book in terms of so many different publications. It’s really an honour for us to have you here Andrew to share your thoughts and we particularly wanted to focus not just on the book itself but also Lessons from Churchill for the Contemporary Age. Without further ado, Andrew Roberts.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Always display the product. Ladies and Gentleman, it’s a great honour to be invited to address you this afternoon and thank you very much indeed for coming and I’d just like to preface my remarks by saying what a great organisation the Henry Jackson Society is. I’m very proud to be connected to it and also the job that Alan Mendoza and his team do I think is very important in contemporary politics that we have today. There are very few voices who were brave enough to say the kind of things that Alan and HJS do so congratulations to them.

In talking about Churchill’s relevance to modern politics, I am constrained by a couple of things. The first thing is the obvious fact that Winston Churchill died over 50 years ago and it is therefore impossible for anyone short of a necromancer to know what he actually thought, would have thought would he be alive today about anything, and I see we’ve got Jenny Churchill in the audience. It was of course her grandmother, Mary, who said that ‘it is absolutely wrong to ever say what Winston would have done under any particular political circumstance’ and so one must always remember that. Having said that, there are of course various areas of politics that we pretty much do know what Churchill would have thought about things. His Zionism, for example, he was a Philo-Semite who believed in the state of Israel as a national homeland for the Jews, somebody who supported the Balfour Declaration, and who had grown up with Jews, who liked Jews, his father had been friendly with Jews, and it was one of the things of course that gave him an early warning system when it came to Hitler and the Nazi’s that an awful lot of his contemporaries, people of his age and class and background simply did not (inaudible) as they were more or less anti-Semitic in those days. So I think we can take it for granted, Winston Churchill, if he were alive today would be a continued supporter of the state of Israel. I think that we can also take it for granted that he would have the same kind of disdain for opinion polls that he had in those days. He was somebody who led from the front, he never had any spin doctors, he never had any need for focus groups. One of the things I have against the movie, The Darkest Hour which I love by the way, a great movie and I thought Gary Oldman was wonderful in it, nonetheless the underground scene implied that he was following public opinion rather than leading it. Ladies and Gentleman that did not happen, it was the other way round, he was leading it rather than following it, and his stance on opinion polls was brilliantly summed up, on page 625, this is literally one sentence don’t worry I’m not about to rant on for a thousand pages, but this in particular I thought was a wonderful line of his in which he said, the speech on the 30th of September 1941, where he joked about politicians who cared too much about public opinion to show proper leadership and he said, this is in the House of Commons, ‘Nothing is more dangerous than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a gallop pole, always feeling ones pulse and taking ones temperature. I see that the Speaker at the weekend said that it was time when leaders should keep their ears to the ground, all I can say is that the British nation will find it very hard to look up to leaders who were detected in that somewhat ungainly posture’.

I have given the speeches about this book a lot in the United States, as you can imagine, I’m constantly asked about what Winston Churchill would have thought about Donald Trump. Again, it’s completely impossible to say for all of the reasons I have given already. One thing I do believe, however, is that Churchill would have been extremely good on Twitter. Many of his brilliant (inaudible), his great putdowns, his defence against hecklers and so on can easily be summed up in 280 characters or fewer. When somebody shouted out against him in a speech in Manchester, all the heckler shouted was the word ‘rot’, Winston Churchill replied immediately replied ‘I thank my friend for telling me what’s in his mind’. He was also able to make great non-political jokes as well when his private secretary, Jock Colville, came to him and said that their cook had been made pregnant as a result of nocturnal assignation with a man in a street in Verona. Winston Churchill immediately replied ‘obviously not one of the two gentleman’.

I think the events yesterday where Mrs. Soubry was attacked aggressively and violently by thugs would have produced a great denunciation from Winston Churchill, entirely regardless of Mrs. Soubry’s political opinion, he was a true believer in tough debate undoubtedly but in bipartisanship of general gentlemanliness in discussions which absolutely went to the heart of his very character. He would have hated and despised what happened yesterday just as anyone who believes in proper democratic debate should do. He was of course somebody who set up the other club in 1911 with F.E. Smith, was capable of saying ‘no rules of this club should interfere with the ranker and disparity of party politics’. He believed in party politics, however, there was a point in which it was unacceptable to go and I’m afraid we saw that yesterday and I hope it isn’t a harbinger of things to come between now and the end of March this year. I think also that we have in Churchill, and I’m sure I’m going to be asked about the European question at some stage so I’ll put that back until it comes because Churchill very clearly did say things about Europe that he did not then follow up with action when he came into power the second time in the Indian Summer Premiership of 1951-55 but I’ll go on about that if I’m asked for it. But I think it is important to remember that he sat on both sides of the House of Commons, he crossed the floor not once but twice, he was many of the great canon of his remarks can be taken by the great political parties to support their own views, and what needs to happen each time is to look at them in the context of when they were spoken, when they were said. For example, we see with his attitude towards Russia a violently aggressive anti-Soviet tone of course the time that the Bolshevik revolution broke out in 1917 then after that in 1941 he promised Britain would become an ally of the Soviet Union overnight when Hitler had unleashed Blitzkrieg in Operation Barbarossa. Then he turned anti-Soviet again in his great Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946. Then in 1949 he changed his mind again towards being a peace monger with the Soviet Union, so much in fact that in angered the Eisenhower administration. So you have him changing, what seems like changing his mind, four times in the course of his political career. But when you look at each of the actual events themselves, you recognise that there was throughout it all one level principle behind it all which was the British national interest, and again and again you do see this in the career of Winston Churchill. It very often is not him that leaves the party so much as the party leaves him.

So I just like to sum up before we get on to some questions that Alan is going to ask me and then hand it over to you. To go back to this point about the lack of spin doctors and the lack of, and he way in which he wrote his own speeches always, nobody ever wrote any speeches for Winston Churchill, and so as a result you knew that what you were getting from Winston Churchill was him and himself alone, and I think that’s an extraordinary thing, we don’t see that in modern day politics. I’m not quite sure why we can’t see that again in modern day politics, why politicians can’t write their own speeches but nonetheless they don’t tend to. The great advantage of it was that you knew that it came from his heart and so in the 1930s when you had this pressure, enormous pressure, in favour of the policy of appeasement which Winston Churchill of course stood out against, you found moments where he was shouted down in the House of Commons in the 1930s where the Conservative Party attempted to deselect him from his seat in Epping in 1939, in 1938 and then in early 1939. You have him ridiculed in the press, you have him laughed at, you have him viciously attacked and cartoons drawn of him, people saying he was a has-been and a loser and all of this attack did absolutely, precisely nothing to alter the message that he was telling the British people and the world about Hitler and the Nazi’s. He was, he had a sense of where he was going and who he was and what he was saying. Now partly of course that comes from a phenomenal sense of entitlement being the grandson of a duke and being born in Blenheim Palace, he didn’t by and large care terribly about what other people thought of you when you were at the apex of Victorian society. But nonetheless the way in which he was able to stick to his views in the 1930s was something that I think was so tremendously admirable and something that we desperately need, that kind of, that kind of late leadership ladies and gentleman I would argue, we desperately need in the world today, and so now I’d like to hand over to Alan but this is the one central thing you take away nothing from this talk of mine today, please take away this concept that kind of moral courage shown by Winston Churchill is all too lacking in the world today and something that we could all do with. Thank you very much indeed.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Thank you Andrew for those fascinating, opening comments. I’m going ask a few questions and get your questions ready because we’re going to come to you and I’m going to start on the theme you ended up on, the moral courage. Now Churchill wasn’t shy about, you know, expressing his view on things and part of the reason he was seen as a ‘has been’ in the 1930s was because he had been on the wrong side of certain debates like India and on the abdication issues like that. How do, and arguably in today’s world a politician who makes one mistake is somewhat kicked off the side and that’s the end of it, how did Churchill come back from that? These were pretty major defeats but he came back from it and what are the lessons for politicians today? Should they not be afraid of making mistakes essentially?”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Yes that’s a very good point. I mean he did make mistake after mistake, blunder one could say after blunder, and you’ve mentioned a few. Certainly the Gold Standard, getting Britain onto the Gold Standard at the wrong time at the wrong level in 1925. You’ve mentioned the abdication crisis and supporting the King there. Dardanelle’s campaign that led to killing and wounding of 157,000 people, in that allied soldiers. It was a brilliant concept, a genius concept that could have knocked the Ottoman Empire out of the Central Powers and changed the course of the First World War but the implementation of it and the way in which Churchill then stuck to it through thick and thin all the way to the point when he was forced to resign and then two months later the evacuations took place in the Gallipoli Peninsula shows the lack of judgement that was denounced so much. His opposition to women suffrage can be put down as one of these mistakes. But as Churchill said himself in a letter from the trenches to his wife Clementine ‘I would have made nothing if I had not made mistakes’ and he learnt from them, what we learn of course primarily what he learnt from the Dardanelles catastrophe was that he never once in the Second World War overruled the Chiefs of Staff and he would have General Sir Alan Brooks sitting across the green bay’s table from him in Churchill War Rooms saying ‘No I disagree with you, Prime Minister’, cracking pencils in half in his face when he did it and the result, therefore, was this grand strategy that we got came result of the creative tension between these two figures but he never overruled the Chiefs of Staff when all three Chiefs of Staff agreed on something, and he was a politician therefore he learnt from his mistakes which is something that is admirable. With regard to your question about whether or not modern politics would allow anyone to make even two of those kind of mistakes, let alone four or five that I’ve, you and I have just numbered, I think says more about modern politics than it does about Winston Churchill. But I think you’re probably right in that the answer would be no because you would have not just of course on social media but also with the sheer aggression of the questioning on radio and television, the constant referring back. I mean Churchill, even in the 1930s, had people shouting out, heckling his speeches shouting ‘what about the Dardanelles?’ and that was 15 years or more earlier, but today the way in which the incisive questioning again and again of politicians about mistakes that are very much less than any of the ones Churchill made, it does make me wonder whether or not they, he could have possibly have survived.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Now you very kindly left the Brexit question here. Of course we’re not, we’re going to take heed of your argument that it is impossible to say of course what Churchill would have done in the situation but you did elude to the fact that Churchill had views on Europe. Those were known views and I wonder what his approach here would have been in the current, sort of, set of circumstances?”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Well, I’m grabbing again for my book just owing to the fact that one has to of course remember, it’s vital I think to remember, that Churchill was the primary statesman behind the European movement. He did not want to see again, as he had already seen twice in his lifetime, in his words ‘(inaudible)’, and he recognised that in that struggle between France and Germany lay ultimately the destruction of so much that he believed in and by the late 1940s that was to include the beginning of the end of the British Empire, and so he made these great speeches at The Hague and Strasbourg and Zurich and elsewhere and in all of them he was saying as he actually said in Zurich ‘let your Europe arise’ and he wanted the Germans brought into the system.

However, when he provided, therefore, the most fabulous, genius quotations for this movement to start up and to really start to alter the map of Europe, however ladies and gentleman, he was in power of course between 1951 and 1955 and in that time 1955 was of course only two years before the Treaty of Rome was signed and created the European Economic Community, the precursor of the present-day EU, and by 1951 it was clear that if you look very carefully at all of those great speeches of The Hague and Zurich and so on he never says that Britain should become a member of this community, he prevented Britain from joining the Iron and Steel trade, sorry the Iron and Steel community, beforehand Robert Schumann’s precursor to the European Union and he also kept us out of the idea of the European army, and in November 1951, just going to give you a very quick quote of his to be found on page 925 of the book that you’re all yearning to buy, he said ‘our attitude towards further economic development on the Schumann’s lines resembles that which we adopt about the European army. We help, we dedicate, we play a part but we’re not merged with and do not forfeit our insular or Commonwealth character. Our first object is the unity and consolidation of the British Commonwealth, our second the fraternal association of the English speaking world and third’, by which of course he meant the special relationship with the United States as well as the Commonwealth, ‘our third the United Europe to which we are a separate, closely and specially related ally and friend. It is only when plans for uniting Europe take a federal form that we ourselves cannot take part because we cannot subordinate ourselves or the control of British policy to federal authorities. Where do we stand?’. He then said in a speech in the House of Commons 18 months later, ‘we are not members of the European Defence Community nor do we intend to be merged in the federal European system. We feel we have a special relationship to both, this can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition with but not of. We are with them but not of them’, he goes on. So it seems pretty clear if you look very closely at those three speeches that he made in the late 1940s and then at the minutes he as writing the speech he made in the House of Commons he made in the early 1950s that he very much wanted what has become the European Union to succeed and to become a great force in the world but he also didn’t want Britain to become a part of.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Now my final question before I open it up is about the, sort of, sense of decline. Now we look out today and a lot of people think Britain is in decline, actually you’ll have seen last week our own geopolitical capability audit put Britain still at number two in the world if you look at the indices we use to calculate that.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “That we use.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “That we use, exactly, but you know 33 scientifically done, scientifically done, it’s not a sort of talking heads game. But of course Churchill dealt with decline a lot through his career, I mean in the 30s people were saying ‘we can’t do this rearmament business, we’re not able to stand up to Hitler’ and all that, ‘we need to come to solution’. (Inaudible), you know, he’d seen Britain slip off saying from a number one spot, he had to deal with that and yet we always of course associate Churchill with an indomitable spirit and the sense of Britain could do great. What’s the message for that, for today?”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Well, you’re right of course and it hurts in late 1943-44 when it became very clear that the United States had taken Britain’s place as the head of the West and world. He of course didn’t mention this publicly and he couldn’t mention this publicly and he certainly couldn’t do so in negative tone. However, it was always part of his sense of Britain and it’s empire that it should be the leading power in the world and when it was clear by 1940, certainly by the early part of 1944 that that was not the case, after John Curtin made his speech in 1942 saying that Australia looked to America rather than Britain for its defence for example.

In the calendar year 1944 when Britain produced 28,000 warplanes and the Russians and Germans produced 40,000 each, America produced 90,000 warplanes. So very clearly by that stage Britain was not going to be top dog power any longer and he had to get used to it, and by the time he was slipping into his dotage in the late 1950s and early 1960s he told his private secretary, his last private secretary, Sir Anthony Montague Brown, that he considered his career to have been a failure and because of course the thing that he had dedicated himself to back in the late 1890s of (inaudible) in the northwest frontier of India protection of the British Empire was no more and the British Empire, those parts that hadn’t already been given away, were being given away in that period, and so this man who we considered to be one of the greats success stories of the 20th Century, rightly I believe, believed himself to have been a failure because of this concept of decline that you’ve mentioned.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Great. OK, let’s open up to questions. Could you give your name and any affiliation. I’m going to take three at a time because there’s so many. I’m going to start over there and then here and we’ll move over that way.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “I can’t guarantee I’ll remember three at a time.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “You’ve got a pad there Andrew, you’ve got a pad.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: “David Paxton, I’m a partner at the law firm (inaudible). My question is what would Churchill’s view have been about Britain’s interventionist policies and actions in the Middle East in the last 15 years?”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “OK, question over here, coming here.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: “Yes, please forgive my question is not specifically about Churchill”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Name?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: “Was it me you want?”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Yes, name?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: “Edward Ben Nathan, no specific affiliation forgive me. I was flabbergasted to learn about Chamberlain ceding the Irish Treaty Ports, an act that seems to me to be verging on treason and yet it doesn’t seem to known how come?”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “And over here.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 3: “Thank you. My name is John Lawson from The Sunday Guardian. Churchill lived in a structured society, structured with structures which are now breaking down to populism. How would Churchill have reacted to populism?”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Great, well I will take the easiest ones first obviously. No I won’t, I’ll go with David to begin with. Interventionism in the Middle East, well, you could of course, it was he who said at the time of the Suez Crisis that, he’s reputed to have said, I found it very difficult to track down contemporaneous reference to prove this nonetheless and very often when Churchill had clever remarks attributed to him he didn’t officiously go out in the way to deny having said them. Who does? But it was he who said that he wouldn’t have had the bravery to have gone into Suez then after he wouldn’t have had the bravery to come out of Suez in the way that we did as well. So I think overall he was perfectly much in favour of interventions like the Mossadegh overthrowing, Iran in 1953 which the CIA was supportive of the local Iranians on the ground over that and of course MI6 was as well. But in terms of full scale invasions he was very good at cutting his cloth and Britain by the, certainly by the time of the Suez Crisis was not really, you know, position to engage in any full scale attacks on our own without the United States, which is why at the time of his resignation in April 1955 he told the Cabinet ‘never be split from the Americans. Never, never, never’.

Next question is Edward’s about the Irish Treaty Ports and why we don’t know more about them. I think the primary reason is that not enough people have read chapter 33 of my book in which the whole horrible, ghastly, painful story is laid out as well I can lay it out. Well, basically the story, ladies and gentleman, is that in 1939 the year before the Second World War broke out and the time when any sentient being must have noticed that Germany was a dangerous power only likely to become more dangerous. The Chamberlain government completely, unilaterally and for nothing in return but goodwill gave three of the treaty ports i.e. the ports that Britain was allowed to keep under the Treaty of 1922 that founded (inaudible), that founded the Irish Free State and just hand them back even though they were, they would have proved invaluable in order to have helped us track U-Boats in the Atlantic and the Admiral team at the end of the war did a pretty scientific analysis and they worked out that tens of thousands of tons of shipping had also, if not hundreds of thousands, the number is in the book but also at least five thousand British sailors lives would have been saved if we managed to operate out of those three ports. So as you say yes, amongst the many reasons that Neville Chamberlain proved an incubus by 1939, that was certainly 1938-39, that was certainly one of them.

John. Populism. Well you know Winston Churchill he could play the populist card himself pretty effectively. The time I would look at most to demonstrate that would be his period before the First World War and at the time of the People’s Budget, and the speeches that he gave attacking aristocracy and the hereditary element of the House of Lords which of course was entirely hereditary at that time, and which was blocking the People’s Budget. The various speeches, as I say the most incendiary ones are in this book, attacking the establishment effectively and they drew blood. They had the King complaining to his Private Secretary who then wrote to The Times. They had members of his own family, of course, coming from an aristocratic family himself, he was effectively 6 of his cousins who were sitting on the Tory bench in the House of Lords, and he was capable of, I’m not going to say rabble rousing because he wasn’t a rabble rouser but boy the rabble could be roused by some of the remarks he made. So, I don’t think we can hold him up necessarily all the way through his life as an anti-populist figure. However, however, what he tended not to do was to encourage the rabble to do anything more than vote. That was all he ever asked from anybody was for a vote in peacetime, and so I think it’s slightly different from some of the rabble rousing we get in politics today where people are very clearly being whipped up to do more than just put an x in the box.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Great, let’s take another round. One, go back there, two there, three (inaudible).”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: “Nick (inaudible) from Imperial College, I already own the signed copy.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Good for you”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Always buy a second one”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “You must have a friend though?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: “(Inaudible) but we’ll come to that later. But it is one great obstacle is contemporary relevance in that after what you rightly mentioned the speeches on free trade, the backing of the insurance bills and so on, he had absolutely no contribution of his own domestic policy, economic or social at all, and made a complete mess of getting an agreed agenda or agreed construction, even though the first war experience (inaudible) at the end of the second war, and what’s more he become extremely reactionary on certain (inaudible). I mean one of the worst episodes under the Indian Summer was not mentioned in the book was the persecution of gay people by (inaudible) where he revived legislation which had been quite (inaudible) so he became culturally much more reactionary with time.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “OK, gentleman over there with blue, yes”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: “Me?”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Yes, you”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: “Graham Perry, my link is I studied at Churchill College so Churchill was part of my upbringing. Just briefly my family were very much of the left and disliked Churchill for the reasons you mentioned but they were second to none in respecting the role that he played as the leader in terms of his speeches. They said nothing else saved Britain as much as his voice crackling over the airwaves. My question is an unusual one but in a radio programme I listened to recently, a link was made between Churchill speeches and his love of music. Is there anything in that that you know about?”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “OK”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Is that the radio programme that I made a couple of years ago?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 5: “I heard it 6 months ago but I’m pretty sure you were prominent in it”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Right, OK, now I know exactly what you mean. Good, OK”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Third”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 6: “Michael (inaudible), Henry Jackson Society, I’m a member.  Many years ago as a youngster, (inaudible) younger than I am now I spent several hours down the road queuing up to see the gentleman lying in state. The question I’d like to ask you without breaching any biographers etiquette is what do you believe that your book gives us that Martin Gilbert’s tones might not?”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Well actually, I’m going to answer the last one first if that’s OK? Because it’s an extraordinary, cornucopia or new information that’s come out in the last 10 years since Martin’s, well Martin’s single volume biography was published in 1992 which is quarter of a century ago now. But even in the last 10 years, there has been an enormous amount, the gentleman who worked at Churchill College might know that we have since the last major biography of Churchill had 41 sets of papers delivered to deposit it with archives which are of the papers of people like Mary Soames and there’s the whole of the Randolph Churchill papers that are there now. Many other people who worked with Churchill, Valentine Lawford for example, it’s a very impressive new set of sources there. On top of that, the Queen allowed me to be the first Churchill biographer to use her father’s diaries and Churchill met King George VI every Tuesday on the Second World War and Churchill trusted the King with every major secret of the war, ultra-decrypts, the nuclear secret for example and very much else and then wrote down everything that Churchill said. We’ve got the Maisky Diaries, diaries of the Russian ambassador Ivan Maisky 1932-43 who met Churchill a lot during the period in the run-up to the Nazi-Soviet pact. I, myself, found the verbatim accounts of the War Cabinet when I was writing my book ‘Masters and Commanders’ and I’ve used things from that that are also in this. I was very fortunate also to have access to Pamela Harriman’s love letters so all in all it really is an avalanche of new material and I think, certainly the second half of this book, there will be something on every page that will not have appeared on any Winston Churchill biography before.

Graham. The speeches. Your parents really knocked on the head, the way in which his eloquence and his command of the English language, using the English tongue in words that were so sublime that they will live for as long as our language does, was undoubtedly instrumental in fighting demoralisation of the British people during the Second World War and the Western world, indeed, during the Second World War. Now that is not just to say that was, that might have been his primary contribution, but it certainly wasn’t his sole contribution. I think it’s very important to remember the input that he did have, the positive input that he did have on strategy, on grand strategy I’ll go into that in some detail, but no of course you’re right those speeches that many of us can remember the phraseology are things that will live forever and when you look at how he wrote those speeches, he actually started not through endless practice, although the number of pages of his collected speeches runs to 8000 pages, nonetheless when he started he did it from the idea of theory rather than just endless practice. He worked out exactly the way in which he wanted to be a public speaker in ways that I go into in the early part of this book.

With regard to Nick and the domestic policy. I mean he was responsible for large areas of the creation of the welfare state along with David Lloyd George, the (inaudible), the children, bank holidays, ladies not having to work with full 9-5 without sitting down in shops and so on. There is a progressive domestic agenda, he didn’t oppose things like the National Health Service when he was leader of the opposition, I think it’s very difficult to denounce him as a reactionary when he was leader of the opposition and with regard to gay rights, of course you are correct. He himself had lots of gay friends, he had absolutely no prejudice against, I think listed a footnote at least ten close friends of his who were active on the sexuals and at no point in the whole Churchillian canon have I found anything derogatory about them. However, the law did not change to reflect that until I think the late 1960s so I don’t think Winston Churchill can be solely or even primarily blamed for that terrible thing that happened to gay people for half a century.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Another sweep of the room. There and there, start here, yep three here.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 7: “Thank you, Jeremy (inaudible), no affiliation but author of one of the one thousand and one books. My question is about Churchill’s political philosophy, do you think that Churchill was a primarily a conservative with a few liberalist links or primarily a liberal with a few conservative links?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 8: “Barry Cameron, I’m a member of the International Churchill Society. Being in power, particularly in the war, must have been very lonely, not in terms of (inaudible) of his wife and family but the fact that he bought them a house in (inaudible) being cheered by Labour more than Conservatives originally. Have the death of F.E. Smith, his close friend, and later on the accidental death of Lawrence of Arabia affected him that he needed more confidantes he had, that there were not enough men around him that he could trust politically.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “In the window”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 9: “James (inaudible), I work for a technology called Improbable. My father guarded Churchill at Chequers during the war, he’d been a medical student before he joined up and he talked about the terror of this frail, drunken old man slipping about in his bedroom and his slippers with a glass of whisky in one hand and very well polished stairs behind him. My question, I want to bring up the B-word and I don’t mean Blenheim or the Bolsheviks or even Brexit, I want to raise the question of Boris. What’s your assessment of Boris Johnson’s short biography or short book on Churchill?”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Well starting with the first one about whether he was a liberal or a conservative or liberal with conservative instincts and so on. Actually he was a conservative but a specific type of conservative, he took from his father, along with many other things from his father, his father who despised him and showed him nothing really but contempt in his life. He followed his father’s political principles which were those of Disraelian Tory democracy and he considered himself a Tory democrat, whether he was in a Tory government or a liberal one and it was the thing that set him very much against his wife could never have joined a Labour government for example. He considered that the creation of the welfare state that I mentioned earlier that undertook with Lloyd George was actually conducive to Tory democrat principles and they were pretty wide principles. In fact, Randolph Churchill said that when asked about what Tory democracy was, he answered ‘opportunism mostly’. But I think there’s much more to it than that, it did have broad principles and if you look closely at them he didn’t diverge from them whichever party he was in.

Next question, Barry. The loneliness after the death of F.E. Yes, what a, I think the whole appeasement debate would have been different if he had F.E and actually Lawrence of Arabia you never know how he would have dealt with it as well. If you had a few more voices rather than Churchill’s lone (inaudible) voice, Churchill being considered to have had such a problem with his judgement over his lifetime and it wasn’t just them, he lost 5 or 6 in fact in the 1950s, sorry 1930s. Ralph Wigram, of course, also Foreign Office being another who had been helpful to him in that period. But what he did, I think, was to, one might be able in fact to draw a line between that and his use of the King as confidante in his weekly audiences, his Tuesday audiences because he did use him as a confidante knowing that of course the King is one of the very few people in Westminster who wasn’t after his job. He also, and, but he did develop friends as well, he had an extraordinary capacity for friendship and you see this very much with the membership of the other club that I mentioned earlier. So yes I think that’s a good point to make.

And James, with regards to your father, just because Winston Churchill drank whisky did not mean he was drunk. He actually had an extraordinary capacity for alcohol, the journalist C.P. Scott who knew Churchill well said that Winston Churchill couldn’t have been an alcoholic because no alcoholic could drink that much and you see again and again the way in which he was in the 2194 days of the Second World War he was not actually seen by those around to have been drunk except on one occasion in March 1944 when everybody agreed he was undoubtedly drunk, and what they did was simply to pretend the next morning that the meeting hadn’t happened and they had the entire meeting all over again as though the drunken one had not taken place so no decisions were taken as a result of Winston Churchill being drunk. Your question about Boris and Boris’s book, I love that book. It had 14 excellent anecdotes in it about Churchill, two of which were true.

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Very good! And on we move. Alright we’ll come here. One, two, three, yes finally a lady. Great.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 10: “Michael McClean, no known links with Churchill. Andrew you’ve had one another great hero in Napoleon. Are there any parallels you would draw in terms of moral courage or strategic sweep or opportunism as you mentioned just now. You once wrote a compare and contrast on Churchill and Hitler as I recall.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “More contrast than compare I hasten to add”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 10: “Are these two heroes of yours, are they in entirely different silos or does though your (inaudible) fixation with them but your way in which you’ve written so extensively and excitedly about each of them, does it say more about them or more about you?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 11: “Yes, my name is Hugh Edwards, I’m a chartered accountant. Just to say that I’m old enough to have heard Winston Churchill make a couple of speeches in public in the 1959 election and it was still a very powerful, coherent speech. The one thing I thought was ‘Thank God’ Winston Churchill was not surrounded by yes men during the war, He had Alan Brook who was not and (inaudible) was Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill, weren’t they in some respects the odd couple as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister? And people often smear Clement Attlee but I suspect Churchill had very great respect for him and called him a great patriot, and a nice story of when he came back to power in 51 and found that he, plans for a nuclear deterrent by Britain were far advanced, he was absolutely astonished and you know his jaw drop which didn’t happen very often.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Very good, thank you”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 12: “Sandra (inaudible) with a niece currently at Churchill College. You mentioned before that Churchill pursued certain actions even though they were wrong but he stuck at it. What do you think he would say of the current leadership and the shambles that are going on in Parliament where there is no deviation between Prime Minister’s plan.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Michael. Yes, he, Winston Churchill admired Napoleon enormously. He had his bust on his desk for most of his life, almost all his working life. There was one at Chartwell, he collected, Churchill, books about Napoleon and had a fine Napoleonic library which you can see at Churchill College. He had a belief that Napoleon was driven by destiny as well as ambition and you can see of course very much the overlaps there with himself, and he at one stage wanted to write Napoleon’s biography which I think would have been one of the greatest books of the 20th Century if done that. Possibly less great and artistic achievement might have been his other great plan which was to have Charlie Chaplin play Napoleon. We don’t know how that would have worked out. But no, very, very clearly it has been, there was very good argument, somebody mentioned Allen Packwood here, Allen has written very good article in Finest Hour, the magazine of the International Churchill Society, which any of you are not members here I do recommend that you join, it’s a wonderful organisation, that you see in that essay the amount of overlaps between Churchill and Napoleon and you see that he was therefore one of heroes against which he measured himself, the others, of course, being Clemenceau during the First World War, his own great ancestor the First Duke of Marlborough, William Pitt the Younger and very few others. Those are the, sort of, key figures I think.

The next question from Hugh. Yes, his personal, I mean of course he had to be critical of Attlee in public, especially as he was leader of the opposition, and late also when he was, before when he was Prime Minister when the great coalition had broken up in May 1945 but his personal fondness for Attlee and his admiration for Attlee which had undoubtedly had both of those things stem from two things. The first being that Attlee was the last man of Gallipoli, he was in charge of the last unit to leave the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1916 and he always thought the Gallipoli was brilliant idea badly executed, and so Churchill, you know, would have, did in fact admire him for that. He also admired him for his incredibly patriotic actions on the 10th of the 13th of May 1940 in which he did not demand any number, any particular number of Cabinet posts and War Cabinet posts when Churchill was setting up his first Cabinet. It was of course that day, we talked about destiny earlier, that Churchill said I felt as I were walking with destiny and all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial, and when Attlee came to enter the national government he didn’t set preconditions, which he could have done and Churchill for the rest of his life saw that as one of the great patriotic moments and what fits in very well with what you also said about how he came back and found a nuclear bomb had been progressing as fast as it could be, of course Attlee did that without telling the Cabinet and hiding the financing of the nuclear bomb which was a huge outlay as you can imagine, entirely in the secret service funds. So Churchill thought of Attlee, rightly in my view, as a patriot.

And the last question was about, I don’t think I did say that Churchill carried on regardless even though he knew something was wrong.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 12: “He might not have known it was (inaudible), but you said something at the very beginning of your speech that”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Anyhow”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 12: “Correct me if I’m wrong, he carried on with things”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Oh he carried on saying the same thing”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 12: “Yes”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Yes, absolutely. Even though everybody said he was wrong”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 12: “Yes”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “Yes. Now absolutely, that’s the, but he himself thought he was right, clearly. Sorry, it would have been nerve-wracking if you come away with that message.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER 12: “So it’s exactly what’s going on today.”

DR ANDREW ROBERTS: “It’s not precisely what’s going on today, I think, because again each of the people who are the great players in this Brexit drama also believe that they are right and what I’m more concerned about is the people that jab and weave, that alter their stances, that are swayed much more by opinion polls and who’s likely to win the next election than saying what they believe is right for the country. I think there’s a huge difference between the two and Winston Churchill would undoubtedly, undoubtedly, had been one of the latter. Ladies and Gentleman, thank you very much indeed.”

DR ALAN MENDOZA: “Can I just add, can I just add the formal thanks to Andrew who brilliantly brought, he’s written a brilliant one volume biography, he managed to finish the section in one hour on the dot without any prompting. I want to, you know, the two things I want to point out obviously the moral fortitude and courage that Churchill had shown, Andrew brought that out and also the leading public opinion not following it, clearly the points there. If you are interested more in Churchill, please do join the International Churchill Society, we’ve got Jenny Churchill and Laurence Geller who represent the society, you can have a chat with them, and Andrew of course is going to be outside now where you can pick up a copy of this fine book at a very reasonable rate and he will even sign it for you and leave a comment, so thank you Andrew.

HJS



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