Is Churchill the greatest Briton of all time?

Many may argue that Winston Spencer Churchill is (and perhaps will forever be) the greatest Briton to have ever lived. However, there are many exploits that Churchill was involved in that people forget when arguing whether Churchill truly is the greatest Briton. These range from his well known involvement in the Gallipoli campaign to the lesser known affair at Sidney Street.

Most will remember Churchill for his famous wartime role in which he lead a coalition government and Britain to a victory over Adolf Hitler and Germany. Some would even argue that for this feat alone (and, I should add is an incredibly impressive one) Churchill must be the greatest. With this belief I would agree to an extent and I would also further argue that Churchill was absolutely pivotal in holding together the coalition government. However, his time before coming to office as Prime Minister is varied and in most cases controversial.

There are many examples of Churchill rushing into things and completely misjudging public opinion in his early years. These range from his attitude to Bolshevism and striking to his firm belief in the necessity to keep fighting the Gallipoli campaign. All of these acts of extreme beliefs and actions would lend towards the fact that Churchill is actually a slightly immature, egoistic man who doesn’t consider the needs of the many in comparison to the needs of his name. Furthermore, his lack of understanding of public opinion left him disregarded and disliked by many governments and politicians. Whilst Churchill was a definitive force in the House of Commons, this force was not always used to bring good, rather it often sowed the seeds of despair. An example of this excessive political activity was his extreme article posted in the British Gazette on 4th May 1926 at the start of the General Strike, which stated that there was a “threat to the constitution.”

Some will look at the previous argument and suggest that while Churchill did have a extreme views and was often seen as a negative force there isn’t anyone else to replace him and, in the end ‘he did come good’. This is of course a respectable viewpoint and one that I am inclined to believe. You could argue any numbers of people were great Britons from Nelson to Wellington to Isambard Kingdom Brunel but none of these people led Britain through the toughest years she has ever faced and none led quite as emphatically as Churchill. I’m sure the majority of people will know of his legendary speech in which he stated “we will fight them on the beaches…” and many more will remember the iconic figure with the Cuban cigar in his mouth.

So, where do we conclude? I would argue that Churchill’s early career (that is before he became PM in 1940) is to some extent a failure. He presided over many budgets as Chancellor of the Exchequer yet was dropped by all parties until 1940; he was not exactly loved by the lower class following his actions against all industrial progress (although he did introduce several welfare reforms when he was Chancellor) and many of his decisions were stubborn, excessive and inappropriate. But isn’t that what defines a Brit; someone who is stubborn and excessive and inappropriate all at the same time and no matter what he did before can we not forgive and forget and simply marvel at his career from 1940 to his death in 1965. So, I conclude that Churchill is like a film that is slightly dull and doesn’t seem to go anywhere for the first hour and a half, yet the last half hour is electrifying, exciting and thrilling all at the same time and that is what we remember it for (and yes, Churchill is the greatest Briton of all time).

Contributed by Hamish Brechin

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