It seems right to commemorate the death of Winston Churchill fifty years ago this month. A Member of Parliament for the Essex constituencies of Epping (from 1924-45) then the newly created constituency of Woodford carved out of Epping (1945-64), with a prominent political career spanning the whole of the first half of the twentieth century. Churchill came to real prominence on 10 May 1940 as Prime Minister of a Coalition or National Government. Boris Johnson’s book, ‘The Churchill Factor’, is found on the Politics shelf of the local bookshop. He examines not the history of the two World Wars but the impact Churchill made on them and more so on our nation. He sees the drive of a man who was the right person at the right time to lead Great Britain at a pivotal moment in her history. He credits Churchill with being the sole individual who decided to fight on when appeasement with the Nazis seemed the only solution. Johnson spends a while considering what might have happened if Hitler had overrun the country and what sort of European state we might have been in now.
Johnson, subtly styles and aligns himself as a Churchillian politician – the pillar box type cover back and front, the informal and inventive use of words, and the arguments he puts forward on the hot party political issues of today – seeing the man as a hero, glossing over Churchill’s less than creditable personality traits.
Asked to nominate a Great Briton many would say Churchill. The book certainly ‘sizzles’ to use the word from ‘The Times’.
The archives of the Essex Society for Archaeology hold something both odd and intriguing. It’s a copy of ‘Junior and Senior Teachers World and Schoolmistress’ dated 22 May 1940 (S/LIB/9/29/1). The cover page is devoted to the formation of the National Government under Churchill. “We have the immense honour and proud privilege of being the foe whom the Nazis hate and fear the most” it declares. “The debate which followed was brief and subdued, but Mr Lloyd George, who rose in response to calls from all parts of the House, made a short and perfect speech in which, as Father of the House and the great War Minister of twenty-five years ago, he wrapped, as it were, his mantle around the shoulders of his old friend and disciple Winston Churchill. It was as if 1914-18 was handing on a torch to 1940-?”