The Independent newspaper, a little read beacon of the London liberal elitists, hopes that we enjoy the film "The Darkest Hour" but urges its few readers to remember that its lead figure, Winston Churchill, was a racist with a string of unacceptable views. Otherwise it loves the film. Where to start?
My grandfather was actually in Churchill's war rooms although only, at the time, as a relatively middle ranking civil servant. But he reported to Bridges the head of the Civil Service who appears in this movie which was enjoyable enough. What the Independent should have been alerting its readers to is the fact that it is not very historically accurate. Since most folks will not bother reading any source material the lies of this film will now become accepted as truths, as part of history. It is not history, this film is fiction based on some facts.
The movie makes great play of how the Labour opposition was united in supporting Churchill when he took over from a discredited Chamberlain. That is largely true. But the film suggests that the Tories were united in disliking Winnie either through personal animosity or because they were appeasers like Chamberlain, Men of Munich as they were then known, or in a few cases folks who wanted to cut a deal with Hitler as they thought he was not all bad. That is simply not the case.
By the time Churchill was in charge Chamberlain was discredited and also dying and so carried very little weight. Moreover there was always a sizeable faction within the Tory/National Liberal Government that agreed with Churchill from the outset. The film suggests that only Eden was a loyalist and in his case a timid one but that is just not the case. By the time Churchill gives his "we shall fight them" speech in Parliament even most of the Men of Munich were already onside. So the film is just factually wrong although one can imagine that the liberal luvvies who made it can't have objected to heroic socialists standing with Churchill against the Nazis while the Tories en masse equivocated or worse.
There is also a major, and clearly utterly fictional, scene in the film where Churchill goes into a tube carriage to do a sort of impromptu focus group on how the ordinary folks thought. They were naturally, as one, wanting to fight on the beaches although, even by 1940, that is not how all Britons felt. So awful were the memories of World War 1 that some folks wanted to avoid a second such conflict at all costs. But Churchill's bogus focus group was united. Message to audience: Gosh, even then those fucking Tory bastards were just so out of touch with ordinary folks. Nothing changes does it?
Natch, to reflect the London of today it also had a prominent Afro-Caribbean figure with his white girlfriend. That might just have been possible but it is extraordinarily unlikely. In 1940 there were fewer than 20,000 black folks in Britain. That is one in 25,000 of the population. And as for mixed relationships? My wife is of colour and today no-one bats an eye-lid as we walk down the street but in the 1930s it just did not happen. That is except in films made in 2017 by liberal luvvies imposing today's values and reality on yesterday. Sure go ahead and do that but then do not have the cheek to term this a historical drama. It is fiction.
And that brings us to the Indy. Churchill was a man of his time. We all are. So that meant Churchill taking part in cavalry charges against folk in Africa, thinking we should fight all out wars against the Boers (who did capture him & intern him you may remember?) etc etc. So he had attitudes of his time. It would have been extraordinary if he did not and was instead demanding equal rights for trans folks and that the BEF be offered Gluten free rations as a basic civil right. The Indy talks of Boer "concentration camps" which makes you think of Auschwitz. They were tented camps with barbed wire on the outside. It is not quite the same thing. So the paper rewrites history and slams Churchill for holding the same views as everyone else.
Churchill may not have been PC in today's terms but even the Indy might agree that Hitler was far, far worse. That Adolf did not prevail is, at least, partially down to Churchill and surely that is they key point here?
I say partly because one matter this very week in terms of fact, film overlooks, in the name of drama, is that Britain should have lost despite the efforts of Churchill. Had the German armies pushed on into Dunkirk instead of stopping to allow the Luftwaffe to "finish the job" the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), our professional army, would not have escaped at all. Instead 330,000 men made it back to Blighty. Had the Luftwaffe pushed on against RAF's fighter command for a few more days instead of turning to bombing London it would have won control of the skies. By Christmas 1940 it would almost certainly have been all over.
And I might not be here. Recording my father's memoirs on Monday we touched many times on what would have happened to his father had Germany invaded. Simple: because of where he worked he was on a list of those to be shot. It is far from certain that his family would have been spared.