Friday, May 13, 2022

Riddled with factual errors

When your work is reviewed by someone who is a scholar on the subject. From Churchill biographer, Andrew Roberts, "What the Marxist Tariq Ali gets wrong about Winston Churchill":
Tariq Ali, the Marxist writer and activist, believes that a ‘Churchill cult’ is ‘drowning all serious debate’ about the wartime leader, and that ‘an alternative was badly needed’. He has therefore written a book that parrots every earlier revisionist slur about Churchill – war criminal, evil imperialist, mass murderer, pro-fascist....

There’s a general rule in biography, as in journalism, that knocking copy ought to be better researched than ordinary writing, but it is not one that Ali observes. He makes so many basic factual errors that Churchill’s reputation emerges unscathed from this onslaught.

The book claims that Churchill ‘had been little more than a clever politician engaged in career building’ before he became prime minister in 1940. Not so. He had already helped create the welfare state, readied the Royal Navy for the Great War and warned the world about the rise of the Nazis, among many other significant achievements. Explaining Churchill’s supposed unpopularity during the second world war, Ali claims it was because ‘the men fleeing Dunkirk knew how unprepared and badly armed they were’. Yet Churchill had been demanding higher defence spending throughout his wilderness years.

Ali further claims that in 1943, a Gallup Poll ‘revealed that only one third of the population expressed satisfaction with the war cabinet, i.e. Churchill’. Yet Churchill was not the war cabinet, and Gallup actually recorded Churchill’s personal popularity remaining above 80 per cent throughout his wartime premiership – dipping briefly for a single month to 78 per cent – and on three occasions reaching 93 per cent. The statement that the Conservatives lost the 1945 election due to ‘anti-Churchill feeling’ is similarly wrong. The Tories would have done much worse if he had not been their leader. They lost because the electorate, while admiring Churchill personally, wanted the welfare state, nationalisation and the ‘New Jerusalem’ offered by Clement Attlee (whose name is consistently misspelt in this book). .... (and much more)
Andrew Roberts, "What the Marxist Tariq Ali gets wrong about Winston Churchill," The Spectator, May 14, 2022.

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