Churchill row: Political correctness has gone too far
Author of 43 books, escaped prisoner of war, journalist, decorated military officer, artist, orator, introducer of the first minimum wage, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and last but not least, the greatest British prime minister. Sir Winston Churchill was by all accounts a titan of history, but increasingly his broad achievements have been grossly overlooked by a liberal elite only too keen to score short-term political points.
This week, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly was trolled on social media after tweeting a three-word quote of Churchill’s: “In victory, magnanimity.” The post triggered hundreds of replies blaming the late prime minister for colonial mismanagement and bigotry, and comparing him to Adolf Hitler, in whose defeat Churchill was instrumental.
The pressure from the liberati was so great that Kelly, UN ambassador for space, felt eventually forced to state that Churchill was a racist responsible for “atrocities,” and to apologize for quoting him.
To add to the ridiculousness of such controversies, also this week the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) voted down a motion to promote Remembrance Sunday, amid fears about the “glorification” of conflict. The motion called on the university, its colleges and faculties to be “more proactive in promoting the cause of Remembrance.”
In vilifying an event that has hitherto celebrated the armistice of 1918 and honored the sacrifice of the many millions who died, the CUSU has drawn a hugely poignant annual occasion into doubt. In singling out the humble poppy, the red flower that for a century has symbolized the blood-soaked Flanders fields where horrific fighting took place, student activists have shown a disrespect to those who gave their lives for their respective countries.
The mayor of Cambridgeshire, James Palmer, said the decision brought “great shame” to the university city, and shows “disdain” for the military in the centenary year of the end of World War I.
Churchill is a man to admire, and to whom the bleating liberals of today owe a debt. Without him, they would not enjoy the freedom that they do today.
Zaid M. Belbagi
The episode, much like the Churchill controversy, highlights how unchecked political correctness is inculcating a disrespect for widely held norms and traditions. It seems that any event in history that offends the Californian sensitivities of today’s liberals must be first vilified and then struck from the historical record.
There is no doubt that Churchill, born in 1874, was a product of the Victorian Age. Though his views may not be in keeping with those of many today, his achievements outstrip criticisms of him. No historical figures are without flaws, especially given that in the lead up to World War II, many in Europe were seduced by Hitler and the Nazis.
Churchill warned of the impending horror when much of Europe’s political elite chose to pursue appeasement with Hitler. In almost singlehandedly refusing to cower to Nazism, Churchill menaced Hitler. The former was the only political figure that the latter categorically refused to meet.
In warning that the world was passing through “a dark and deadly valley,” and that Hitler was the very “manspiring of evil,” Churchill stood out as one of very few unwilling to court the Nazis. In an age when politicians are caught up in endless scandals regarding their personal conduct, driven by cosmetic and financial concerns, we can only learn from the stoic leadership of the likes of Churchill.
To have participated in the British Army’s last great cavalry charge at Omdurman in 1898, yet to have the foresight to warn of the dangers of the atomic age half a century later, illustrates Churchill’s political genius.
By all accounts, he was a politician who knew the horrors of war, and showed great strength of character and diplomatic genius in seeing the Nazi defeat through to completion. There are very few politicians today who would have taken the personal risks that Churchill did, for example repeatedly flying to occupied France in complete darkness to rally the French government not to capitulate.
As for his questionable views on race and religion, it is absolutely true that he was not the most enlightened of men. But there is a world of difference between his paltry, grumbling bigotry and the horrors unleashed by the likes of Hitler.
When touring Berlin shortly after the German defeat, many people gathered in front of the charred remains of the chancellery. As Churchill passed through the crowd, he was astonished to hear the Germans celebrate him as a hero. His response was to shake his head disapprovingly.
There is no contemporary politician who has achieved such a victory, let alone shown such humility. Churchill is a man to admire, and to whom the bleating liberals of today owe a debt. Without him, they would not enjoy the freedom that they do today.
• Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator and adviser to private clients from London to the Gulf Cooperation Council.