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Boris Johnson nothing like Churchill: Grandson

‘PM peerless entertainer’

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 8.09.19, 12:50 AM
  • Updated 8.09.19, 12:50 AM
  • 4 mins read
  •  
Boris Johnson during a speech on domestic priorities at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, England, on July 27, 2019. (AP)

Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, has rubbished alleged attempts by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to project himself as the modern equivalent of the great wartime leader.

“Boris Johnson is nothing like Winston Churchill,” said Soames, whose mother Mary was Churchill’s daughter.

Soames, who is among 21 Tory MPs expelled from the Conservative Party for voting with the opposition Labour Party in important votes in the Commons this week, admitted he cried when he was told he was no longer a Tory member of parliament.

Soames, 71, has announced he will stand down as an MP at the next general election after representing mid-Sussex for 37 years.

In Indian eyes, not being seen as the new Churchill is not necessarily a bad thing since he is held responsible by some Indian historians for aggravating the Bengal Famine of 1943 in which millions died. He was also against granting independence to India and was notoriously insulting in his references to Mahatma Gandhi.

But Churchill’s national standing as the man who led his nation to victory against Nazi Germany was confirmed as the greatest Briton of all time in a BBC poll in 2002.

Boris is genuinely sympathetic to India. But something of his “bulldog” spirit in insisting the UK will leave the EU on October 31 — “no ifs or buts” and that he would rather be “dead in ditch” — has encouraged comparisons with Churchill, about whom Boris has written two popular books, incidentally.

Dismissing any similarly between Boris and his grandfather, Soames told The Times: “Winston Churchill was like Winston Churchill because of his experiences in life.

Boris Johnson’s experience in life is telling a lot of porkies about the European Union in Brussels and then becoming Prime Minister.

“I don’t think anyone has called Boris a diplomat or statesman. He doesn’t like the House of Commons. He is engaged on this great Brexit obsession: get us out, deal or no deal, do or die.

“That is not Winston Churchill,” added Soames who, like Boris, also went to Eton.

He said: “I think Churchill would have thought it extraordinary that we would have thought ourselves so successful, so powerful, so well thought of in the world that we could afford to give up this extraordinary relationship we have in this great European Union.”

Soames has revealed he once asked his grandfather: “Is it true, grandpapa, that you are the greatest man in the world?”

“Yes I am,” replied Churchill, who was in bed. “Now bugger off.”

The comparison with Churchill also drew derision from journalist and military historian Sir Max Hastings, who made his contempt clear in the “Big Read” — “Boris, Churchill and the implosion of the Tories” — in the weekend Financial Times.

“In 1986, I became editor of the Daily Telegraph. I spent a decade striving to convert it from the ‘Torygraph’, the house organ of the Right, into a moderate, modern centre-right newspaper. I was successful in expelling the advocates of South African apartheid and of capital punishment.”

Speaking of Boris, Hastings continued: “The contributions of our Brussels correspondent, rooted in a sharp if hyperbolic eye for the EC bureaucracy’s regulatory absurdities, undoubtedly fuelled Euroscepticism.

“Nonetheless, I included Mr Johnson in my roll-call of ‘favourite colleagues’ in Editor, my 2003 memoir of the Telegraph years, because he was a peerless entertainer. Never in my wildest moment did I anticipate that this anarchic, supremely narcissistic figure might seek to enter government.”

“The Labour party has often in its history suffered ideological nervous breakdowns. Now it is the turn of the Conservatives. Mr Johnson is laying waste to the Tory party as we have known it, leaving no place even for his own brother. He offers the British people a budget of falsehoods and unfulfillable promises, likely to precipitate a new surge of public rage when they are seen to be broken.

“Grotesquely, the prime minister yearns to see himself in Churchillian terms. Despite the jokes, Churchill was a profoundly serious human being.

“Our society has lapsed into a period of madness which we should recognise as such — as do most foreign commentators viewing our affairs — wherein dangerous forces are in play. We shall be fortunate if we prove able to escape from it with only the implosion of one traditional political party, rather than with a collapse of confidence in our entire system of democracy.”

The comments by Soames came as Boris and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds returned to London on Saturday after spending Friday night in Balmoral Castle in Scotland where the Queen is in residence.

She is due to give her royal assent to a Bill which will make it mandatory for Boris to seek an extension to the Brexit process by three months if a deal, acceptable to the Commons, cannot be reached by October 17.

No such deal is in prospect. However, Boris has indicated he will ignore the law, which, according to several newspapers on Saturday, could see him even being sent to prison.

Asked if he would obey the new law’s demand for him to write to EU leaders requesting more time, Boris said during his Scotland trip: “I will not. I don’t want a delay.”

Asked whether he would resign rather than seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process, Boris said: “That’s not a hypothesis I will contemplate. I want to get a deal done.”

Boris, who is to seek an early election in the Commons on Monday, has written to Tory MPs with the message: “They (opposition) just passed a law that would force me to beg Brussels for an extension to the Brexit deadline. This is something I will never do.”

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who supports a no deal exit if necessary from the EU, encouraged Boris to break the law, saying the Prime Minister would be seen as a Brexit “martyr” if judges opted to put him jail for breaching parliament’s terms.

Duncan Smith told the Daily Telegraph: “This is about parliament versus the people. Boris Johnson is on the side of the people, who voted to leave the EU. The people are sovereign because they elect parliament. But parliament wants to stop the will of the people.”

Relations between Boris and David Cameron will not be improved by the disclosure that he described his Eton and Oxford contemporary as a “girly swot” in one paper – this was apparently because the latter got a First while former managed a 2:1 in his degree.