Tribute overdue

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I was pleased to see recently that Winston Churchill was to have his portrait on our £5 note: a long overdue tribute to a man who not only inspired the people of Britain, but a good many others beyond our shores.

A brave (often reckless) man who never asked us to face dangers he would not have been prepared to face himself, as his record as a journalist in the Boer War made clear.

More recently, with my 90th birthday just months away, it occurred to me that post war generations must find it puzzling that such a man - universally admired - was never elected, on a head count, to be our Prime Minister. His election in 1951 was solely attributable to the vagaries of our ‘first past the post’ system. This system, which today favours the Labour Party, in the Fifties, was even more heavily weighted in favour of the Conservatives. In fact, but for that, there would never have been a 1951 election. Labour had won the 1950 election even more comfortably, but could muster a parliamentary majority of only six. Then it was that staunch old democrat, Winston, told Attlee: “I’m not going to let you govern.”

Pairing was ended and the world was treated to the spectacle of the Mother of Parliaments being governed by people carried into the voting chamber on hospital stretchers.

The public knew, you see, that Churchill believed that the right to govern was enshrined in the address on your birth certificate.

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During the war he asked the BBC to call halt to JB Priestley’s post scripts after the 9pm news.

I heard all those talks. The message running through them all was: “When this war is won, and it must be won, don’t make the mistake your parents’ generation made. Don’t lose the peace.”

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Winston’s excellent six-volume account of the war makes it quite clear that he believed the top post war aim should be a reduction in income tax. Beveridge would have to get his priorities right.

Harry Sparks


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