Guy Halsall I received my lovely BNP election leaflet today, with Griffin’s horrifying mug juxtaposed with [for any BNP supporters reading this, that means ‘placed next to’] the only-slightly-less-frightening face of Winston himself. This makes me very angry. As an old socialist I don’t have much time for Churchill, outside his ‘finest hour’ in 1940-43 (which forgives a lot of sins) but still, as a professional, academic historian it makes me furious to see his image abused and history distorted in this way.
Why? Because in 1940, after the fall of France it would have been easy to make peace with Hitler. Hitler was very keen to make peace with Britain. And most of the Conservative Party (for all that they claimed Churchill as their patriotic poster boy in the 80s) and especially Lord Halifax, Churchill???s main rival for the leadership of the party, were against continuing the war. Many of them were on what is known as the ???white list??? that the Nazis had of British politicians whom they could get to work with them. Only a month or two before the German invasions of Norway and France, many had been in favour of sending an armed force to help Finland against the Soviets, even while in the middle of the war against Nazi Germany! They???d have been overjoyed to let Hitler get on with his campaign against the Bolsheviks. There are modern right-wing historians to this day who actually say that this is what Britain should have done (and to hell with the Jews etc., presumably). So, when Churchill was making his classic speeches in the House in the darkest days of 1940 the loudest cheers were on the Labour benches ??? after all, if the Nazis won they???d be up against a wall, so it???s hardly surprising even if it is forgotten. More bizarrely still, perhaps, at this point Churchill???s strongest ally on the (coalition, remember) War Cabinet was the labour legend, Aneurin Bevan.
Basically, then, Churchill in his finest hour was not ???defending Britain against Europe??? as the BNP (and UKIP, and the Tories) like to say; he was keeping Britain in War IN Europe, FOR Europe, FOR the principle that there were larger issues at stake in confronting the Nazis than petty nationalism. What Churchill was doing in the Battle of Britain and in the years afterwards was PRECISELY the OPPOSITE of what the BNP claim he was doing. They have NO claim to the mantle of Winston Churchill.
This matters to me immensely for many reasons. Please help get this message out there. Thank you.
I hope you don’t need any encouragement to despise the BNP – but this might help you to spread doubts about their election campaign if you ever need to.