Wednesday, November 22, 2006

But... people like Churchill...

Good post from one of this blog's good friends, Gracchi over at Westminster Wisdom, about how Churchill was actually a pioneer of attempts by the Conservative Party to attack poverty, switched parties over the rise of protectionism which increased the price of bread and was a "strong [partisan] of national compulsory insurance for all classes for all purposes from the cradle to the grave" (at the time still a novel cause).

I think Gracchi is correct that this is an attempt by Clark to identify with emotional Polly over the old patrician Churchill but I would add that it seems desperately misguided. Whereas distancing yourself from the deeply divisive Thatcher and associating yourself with cuddly Mandela clearly puts you on the popular side of the fence Churchill has a massive hold on the popular imagination as not just a good but a great Briton. When someone is placed first on a list of the Greatest Britons (followed by Brunel with the emotive, caring Diana in third) they make a poor candidate for old Tory bogeyman.

Cameron may want to come across fuzzy when the comparison is with the decidedly unfuzzy, cold public personas of a Tebbit or a Thatcher but this time the comparison is with a man the British idolize as a personification of their favourite aspect of their national character; the phlegmatic courage which beat the Nazis. Emphasising how different you are from a man remembered so fondly is a deeply bad idea.

To test how bad an idea I propose the following survey, if YouGov would be so kind:

Q. If there were an election tomorrow, with both these hypothetical parties standing for election, would you vote for a) The Conservative Party with Winston Churchill as leader or b) The Conservative Party with Polly Toynbee as leader?

If a) wins by less than 30% consider me shocked.


Gracchi said...

Thanks Matt- yeah the Toynbee Churchill runoff would be something to see. One of the best moments of Allan Clarke's old series about the history of the Tory party was when he went round interviewing Tory grandees and they told him that in 45 all the voters they met said could we ahve a Labour government with Churchill in charge. Shows you how popular he was even at the peak moment of Labour popularity- somehow I think she would lose.

Anyway I knew there was an angle I'd missed- I'm the arsenal of bloggers- passing around in front of an empty net in order to score the perfect historiographical goal and often missing an open one. This is great.

Chris Palmer said...

It's all a front though, isn't it. Greg Clarke has said to shock and infuriate rather than engage in any meaningful debate.