On a BBC programme last night enquiring into why Winston Churchill lost the first post-war election, Max Hastings opined that if Churchill had not been available as Prime Minister before war was declared in 1939 then almost certainly anybody else at the very top of British politics at that time . . . would have appeased Hitler. We would not have not gone to war, entering some sort of treaty of cooperation with Germany.
None of the other experts on the programme said anything that would have disputed that view. Most of them were of the opinion that although Churchill had an amazing ability to gird up the nation’s courage and resolve together at the beginning of the war, he was a disaster to all those who had to work with him closely from then onwards during the war. Much of the time, he was half-sozzled anyway — as we are now discovering. We won the war despite Churchill, not because of him. At the time of the election in 1945, he was largely deluded in thinking that the electorate wanted to continue under his leadership. So they elected mild-mannered Clement Atlee instead (although, as always, the product of an expensive private school).
In retrospect, there can be little doubt that, apart from British Jews, who might well have been delivered up by a different British government on request by the Germans, a strongly pro-Nazi establishment would have lost no time in revealing itself. But despite the new political coloration at the top, the country as a whole would be in a better economic shape now if we had appeased Germany instead of declaring war when it invaded Poland. More historians than not agreed with this view in a major BBC debate of about three years ago.
True, our imperial assets would have been delivered up to start with and large numbers of our establishment — including Churchill no doubt — would have migrated to America for a more comfortable life but, more than likely, the bulk of the working population and our present manufacturing capabilities — and thus exports — would be in far better shape than now. It is also more likely than not, that German influence would have totally transformed our civil service into something that was not so anti-science, or at least indifferent towards science, as is the one we have now.
We would now be far less British and much more English, and thus Scotland would probably have become independent 20 years ago instead of still being frustrated. Almost certainly we would never have succeeded in giving in to the Protestant bigots of Northen Ireland in the 1970s, and the province would already have become re-united with Eire as a united Ireland. Also, the British government and occupation forces would not have sullied their reputation by having resorted to violence and torture.
Winston Churchill had exceptional gifts as a journalist and writer and, had he remained so instead of entering politics, he would have been a sort of Rudyard Kipling plus (though he never ventured into poetry!). Above all, he was one of the few, very rare, super-ambitious individuals whose testosterone was almost fully sublimated into raw personal power and who have been able to delay history for a while, In our case it postponed what might have otherwise been a quicker mature development of a nation coming to terms with needing to lose the trappings of a vast British Empire at the time of his birth and youth. This was largely the product of the previous profits of fantastic cotton spinning and weaving, and coal mining industries — the workers of which Churchill knew not of having never even travelled on a London omnibus.
Even now, those pretensions still linger in perhaps a third of our Conservative MPs, but these are highly likely to disappear in the present administration before its five-years are up. This would be particularly so if the world-wide trade recession continues to deepen and we are thrown back to basic questions of whether we still intend heading downwards towards a new category of low-skill, failed-advanced-nation-state or whether we are to totally transform our state-schools. Best of all to scrap them and allow parents to start deciding what schools they want for their children — they, knowing how the job market is changing, far better than civil servants in Whitehall will ever know.