“We shall keep pushing back the end. We shall cower in our homes, we shall shut down the seas and oceans, we shall cower with reducing confidence and reducing strength, fearing the air, we shall shut down our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall close down the beaches, we shall quarantine the landing grounds, we shall send police into the fields and into the streets, we shall close down the hills; we shall surrender”
This edited version a section of one of the greatest and most famous orations, first delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on the 4th June 1940, is my attempt to sum up where we are, several months into the great ‘lockdown’ of 2020. It seems apt to borrow a speech delivered by a man claimed as a hero to many, not just in Britain but around the world, to make this point. I do so because our current Prime Minister, Alexander Johnson, has not just spent his own life idolising the wartime leader, but has apparently had delusions of being his successor.
He has written a book about him, he attempts to speak like him, he is compared to him by his cheerleaders. And yet, dropped into a worldwide crisis just months into his premiership, these comparisons have come shattering down. Perhaps history will judge him differently, and who can really know at this point what the right course of action was (I have my doubts), but in the midst of the pandemic, he has demonstrably panicked. He has, in an alarmingly short amount of time, turned his back on everything he has always appeared to believe (if one can even suggest that Mr Johnson has ever believed in anything concrete).
I confess I have never had the same loathing and outright contempt for him that I am, apparently, societally obliged to. Sure he’s a sneaky, slippery character, but I see very little difference between him and his contemporaries in that regard. But those around him have at least felt they knew some definitive things about him.
He is apparently a lover of freedom, a believer in the rights of the individual, in minimal state intervention into the personal lives of citizens, a cool, calm head in a crisis, if not into the detail then at least able to inspire a team that is. How exactly does one square that with what is happening under his fledgling stewardship?
He has locked us all into our homes with minimum basic freedoms and confusing directives that make little sense, increased the powers of the state to quite incredible levels, asked the police to interfere with people going about their private business, developed technology that will spy on us all and essentially turned the economy into a socialist state. He implores us to use common sense, yet imposes stringent rules that leave little room to exercise it. Principles abandoned left, right and centre in an instant.
I have no doubt that Mr Johnson’s personal run in with the virus has had an impact on him. How could it not? On a personal level, I sympathise enormously. And I’m sure there will be cries of “well what else was he supposed to do? He’s only doing what must be done”. But this is simply not true. He isn’t the only world leader to have done what he did, but there were certainly other options, ones that would have aligned much more closely with his apparent ‘beliefs’.
But he has been frightened. He is now terrified about what is to come, may soon be coming to realise that he made a grave error and now cannot inspire confidence in the country. This is the job he has always wanted and he is realising far too late what it really means to lead Great Britain in times of peril.
Whatever you think of Johnson, and whatever you think of Churchill, one thing is for sure; on the current evidence, there is simply no comparison.