Gratitude to Churchill not universal

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In his eulogy to the late Sir Winston Churchill, I felt Stephen McGinty could have been more balanced (Perspective, 24 January).

The great war leader did represent a Scottish constituency (Dundee) for more than 14 years. But there were parts of the country, notably in the old coalfields, where he was held in a deep and abiding loathing. The reasons for that were complex but by 1945 he had come to symbolise an attitude of mind – in 
social terms quite reactionary – against which many voters had turned.

Millions of people had cause to celebrate the fact that he and his party were so decisively rejected in that year’s general election.

Perhaps none of that should outweigh the debt of gratitude owed to the man for his stance in 1940.

Leadership is about the ability to inspire others to achieve an objective to which they may not be initially committed.

Churchill was being urged by Lord Halifax and others to sue for peace before the Battle of Britain. Indeed, a rational assessment at the time of the chance of victory against Germany indicates that he could have been excused for doing so.

He chose to fight on, using all the rhetorical and organisational skills at his disposal. He recognised that some unconventional methods in defence – the use of secret agencies – might be necessary to cut through the inertia in part of the armed forces. He did, with difficulty, keep his nerve in the face of reverse after reverse in the first two years of the Second World War.

At the end of that conflict he was to learn that there is no such thing as gratitude in politics. Voters may have been grateful for his resolution but they were still prepared to shove him aside for a future he could never come to terms with.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

Re-watching the television programme commemorating the death of Winston Churchill on BBC2 (24 January, 12:30) I was again struck by the glib way that the landslide of the forces vote which swept the Labour Party into power at the first election after the war is presented.

I started work in the building trade in 1946 among many of those returning soldiers. They had left school at 14 and been conscripted into the army before they were 18, so their knowledge of politics was virtually nil. Towards the end of their military service the Army Education Corps gave them a range of current affairs lectures which many of them described as Communist/Socialist indoctrination classes.

Apparently, the Russian system was the best in the world and that was what our returning soldiers were instructed on. They voted the only way they knew of in that election, and many of them complained of how they felt cheated for the rest of their days.

That propaganda coup of the political left changed the whole course of modern British history, leading to the disastrous nationalisation programme which held our industry back for decades. Not to mention a National Health Service which is a mish-mash of left-wing politics and restrictive practices which dedicated carers have to struggle ever harder to work within.

Are our historians still too afraid of the rabid left to lift the lid on those unsavoury times?

Irvine Inglis

Reston

Berwickshire

Stephen McGinty’s otherwise excellent tribute to Churchill was misleading in two areas.

We certainly owe a debt to all the Soviet troops and civilians who suffered and died (just as they owe ours), many of whom were pressed forward by NKVD (KGB) troops behind them while they faced Hitler’s onslaught ahead. But Stalin and his cohorts did not suffer, other than through fear, as Axis troops almost captured Moscow.

The Soviet people’s sacrifices were aggravated by the effects of Stalin’s murder of so many top military men and civilians from the late 1920s.

His joint rape with Germany of Poland in September 1939, followed by military and industrial assistance to Germany until June 1941, facilitated Hitler’s other invasions throughout Europe and probably lengthened the war.

He did not believe Churchill’s warning of Germany’s impending invasion so was relatively unprepared. We owe Stalin nothing.

The 1915 Gallipoli “fiasco” cannot be laid entirely at Churchill’s door. It was not bound to fail, and had it succeeded, the First World War would probably have ended much earlier, with consequences for the Middle and Near East, Europe, Russia and the world much more favourable than have actually ensued – such as no Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Stalin or Hitler.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews

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