Boris Johnson is like Winston Churchill? Close, but no cigar – Vladimir McTavish

As the international crisis in Afghanistan continues, has Boris Johnson finally arrived at his Churchillian moment?

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:55 am
Boris Johnson gazes at a bust of Winston Churchill in the US House of Representatives in Washington DC in 2015 (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Throughout his political career, the current Prime Minister has always yearned to be compared in history to his hero.

Superficially, there are a number of similarities. Churchill came from a hugely privileged background, was a pathological liar, had a very quick temper and had little regard for human life. However, the comparisons with Johnson end there.

There are two basic differences. The first is that Churchill seems to have had very good speechwriters, and could remember his lines, despite spending most of the Second World War in an alcoholic haze.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills,” are words that resonate through nearly 80 years of history. Similarly, the assertion that "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. That’s a much better use of language than Boris could manage sober.

I strongly doubt that 80 years from now, people will be quoting “get Brexit done” or, from March last year, “we can send coronavirus packing in this country" and “turn the tide within the next 12 weeks”.

Read More

Read More
Why Boris Johnson really is like Winston Churchill – Joyce McMillan

In fact, the one line from Johnson which most are likely to remember is “I’d rather be dead in a ditch” than postpone Brexit.

I must admit that I did find that last quote very inspiring. It inspired me to support the campaign for a second referendum on Europe – mainly because I thought that should have been the choice on the ballot paper: “Please tick either Box A to postpone Brexit or Box B for Boris Johnson to die in a ditch.”

As the withdrawal from Afghanistan began to resemble Dunkirk without boats, the PM had to face an emergency session in Parliament, where he was roasted by Theresa May for his shambolic reaction to events. Being denounced as a shambles by Theresa May, now that really is like being accused of being “a bit creepy” by Stuart Hall.

Of course, it wasn’t only the PM who was in trouble. The Foreign Secretary, when questioned this week, refused to consider resigning, as he believed was doing the job he thought he was employed to do, ie being abroad. The only problem was that he was not abroad on work but sunning himself in the Greek islands on holiday.

And thereby lies the second major difference between Johnson and Churchill. Churchill had a Cabinet of political big-hitters who knew what they were doing, unlike the current crop of faceless nonentities who owe their portfolios to pro-Brexit zealotry.

I don’t trust politicians who don’t look like politicians. Dominic Raab does not resemble a Foreign Secretary. He looks like he should be managing a branch of Carphone Warehouse in Slough.

Grant Shapps, a man whose name sounds like a very unpleasant bowel disorder, doesn’t look like a member of the government. He looks more like a seedy used-car salesman who is one of those parents of kids in the school football team whose hobby is shouting abuse at the referee on Saturday mornings.

Boris the new Churchill? Close, but no cigar.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.