Sunday, January 28, 2018

What rot.

I just pre-ordered the Blu-ray of Darkest Hour. Those who know a great deal about this time and Churchill's role in it give mixed reviews of the film. One who liked the film very much was Andrew Roberts, historian and Churchill biographer. But he disliked the scene in the Underground. He explains in “Have no doubt — this was Churchill’s most certain hour.”:
Even the ludicrous scene in which Churchill goes down into the London Underground to try to ascertain the will of the people over the question of whether to fight on against Hitler was acceptable, on the grounds that Hollywood needed to include diversity in a movie that was otherwise going to be dominated by white, middle-class, middle-aged males. ....

.... Churchill has not been doing well at the movies recently….That’s why it is such a relief to watch Churchill depicted in Darkest Hour as lovable, decent and brave. However, now that McCarten has stated that the scene on the Tube is “in some ways the most truthful scene in the whole movie”, he must be challenged.

“We are very proud of that scene,” he goes on, ”because we thought it brought together all the ways and reasons in which Churchill finally made up his mind that he would not transact with the Nazis. People forget that he was full of doubt about this, but it was when he spoke to the people that all the other factors in his mind came together. It was the working class that convinced him. He was a working-class hero. And it was very characteristic of him to go off and disappear and then pop up somewhere else, so this is why we did it this way.”

What rot. Churchill was not in any doubt whatsoever about the need to fight. He did not “finally make up his mind that he would not transact with the Nazis” in May 1940; he was utterly opposed to making peace with them, and for a decade had been their most vigorous opponent in Britain. Over four fraught days of war cabinet meetings in 1940, from May 25 to 28 inclusive, he used every means to avoid having to go down the route of negotiating with Hitler.

Although Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, wanted to find out via the Italians what Hitler’s peace terms might be, Churchill repeatedly said that he was opposed to the idea. Churchill made two statements that, if wrenched out of context — which McCarten does on both occasions — sound as if he would consider Hitler’s terms if they were reasonable. When read in context, however, it is clear he was attempting to keep his fellow war cabinet members — Clement Attlee, Neville Chamberlain and Arthur Greenwood — onside by sounding as reasonable as possible, thus outmanoeuvring Halifax. No serious historian believes anything else, and the war cabinet minutes have now been in the public domain for nearly half a century.

Nor was Churchill in any way influenced by the views of the working class, except insofar as its political leaders, Attlee and Greenwood, supported him in not seeking terms (something the film does not make clear). Otherwise, the working class was not consulted, any more than any other class was. If the public had been, they might not have given the full-throated cry that McCarten assumes. No fewer than 11.6m Britons signed the Peace Ballot in 1935, and huge pacifist meetings drew thousands throughout the Phoney War.

The British Union of Fascists and the Communist Party opposed the war, and there were plenty of working-class members of both. The strikes in the factories producing Hurricanes and Spitfires in 1940 and 1941 also suggest that solidarity among the working class for Churchill’s vision was no more to be trusted than it was among any other class.

Churchill did not follow anyone in his opposition to the Nazis. He led it. The Underground scene belittles him by implying that he was so doubtful that he could not give his inspiring speeches without confirmation from others….
Via Power Line.

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