The Complexities of Winston Churchill

Two quotes from essays by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the New York Review of Books, June 9, 2016

The only thing that worries me in life is – money,” Winston told his brother Jack. “We shall finish up stone broke.” That was in 1898, but he could have gone on saying it for more than forty years to come.

Churchill, Great and Mean, June 8, 2016

• • • • •

ChurchillIn My Early Life, his most engaging book, he writes a romantic reverie about cavalry warfare in the good old days, cast aside in “a greedy, base, opportunist” manner by chemists in spectacles and chauffeurs pulling at the levers of aeroplanes….

War, which used to be cruel and magnificent, has now become cruel and squalid…we now have entire populations, including even women and children, pitted against one another in brutish mutual extermination.

Ten years after writing that, Churchill led the way in cruel, brutish, and exterminatory war-making against women and children, partly thanks to his uncompromising personality, partly thanks to what was seen as the logic of the situation. Three years after he hoped for “devastating, exterminating” attacks on civilians, he was shown blazing German towns filmed from the air, and exclaimed, “Are we beasts? Have we taken this too far?” And two years after that he tried (not very creditably) to dissociate himself from the destruction of Dresden by Bomber Command. He was the same man – the same immensely complex man – in 1930, 1940, 1943 and 1945. He was the same man still when, in his last speech as prime minister before his final retirement in 1955, he wondered sadly, “Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world?”

Churchill and his Myths, May 29, 2008


The Ultimate Guide to Defeating Brexit

Source: Philosopher A.C. Grayling, Master, New College of the Humanities, London, in the New European, January 11


A.C. GraylingThe UK of pre-EU days was “the sick man of Europe,” struggling and declining, with high unemployment and failing industries. After joining Europe the UK became the fifth largest economy in the world. That was until the mere threat of Brexit in the second half of 2016 gave the economy, and the pound, the shocks which have already caused the UK to slip down the economic rankings, until we are now below India. Much worse will follow if Brexit happens.

The outcome of the referendum vote represented only 37% of those who had been granted a vote…and this in turn represents only 26% of the UK population. Add to this the fact that MPs had been told, explicitly and clearly in a briefing document when preparing to debate the 2015 Referendum Bill – that the referendum was advisory only – would not confer a mandate because non-binding on either Parliament or government. It also stated that if it were to be considered binding – perhaps if an amendment to this effect were introduced in debate – it would need a much larger threshold majority of the order of 60% or more to be regarded so.

A system of accountability for false information in a campaign has to be devised, because in essence the kind of distortions, falsehoods and false promises of the pro-Brexit campaign is a fraud on the voters, and should be punished as such. If there are to be any more referendums involving constitutional change, the minimum threshold vote should be 60% of the electorate as a whole (it really should be 66% – two thirds – the same as is required in the House of Commons to trigger an election out of a Parliament’s term, or for an amendment to the US constitution).