The mistakes of Winston Churchill, 1966 | Life and style

The Reputation of Winston Churchill has always been controversial and subject to revisions. In the Observer Magazine of 4 September 1966, his biographer Robert Rhodes James looked at ‘his Mistakes, his Odd friendships and his eventual triumph’ (‘Churchill the outsider’).

After the Disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns he was demoted and resigned from the government. ‘The Ghosts of the Gallipoli dead will always rise up to damn him anew in times of national emergency,’ wrote a critical biographer in 1931.

As a Tory and a Liberal, they had a Reputation for Inconsistency, wrote Rhodes James, which was ‘increased by the fact that, for a brief period in 1919, he had seeded to be flirting with Socialism’. He even enthused over the proposal for theover nationalization of the Railways proposals.

Churchill edited the British Gazette, the state propaganda sheet published during the general Strike of 1926, and ‘made no pretence to impartiality’. He had some memorable rows with the proprietors of other Newspapers and loved running a newspaper. It was, he said, ‘the combination of a first-class Battleship and a first-class general election’.

‘His insensitivity on the problems of the working classes and the often awful circumstances of their lives, remains a baffling part of his character,’ said Rhodes James. ‘Perhaps it had something to do with his almost American dislike of – and even Contempt for – failure. He could not see – and would not see – the strength of the argument that the State had a responsibility. ‘

In 1918, his 15,000 majority at Dundee was converted into a deficit of over 10,000. ‘In the blink of an eye I found myself without an office, without a seat, without a party, and even without an appendix,’ said Churchill.

‘Few people were able to put their finger on exactly what it was that so dismayed and alarmed them about Churchill,’ wrote Rhodes James. ‘All they knew was that there was, as Lloyd George had put it, some tragic flaw in the metal.’

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