Winston Churchill’s granddaughter has dismissed suggestions that he would fail as a politician today.
Emma Soames was talking to RadioTimes.com after an event announcing plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death.
She was responding to articles in today’s Radio Times in which both Jeremy Paxman and Jonathan Dimbleby doubted his suitability for modern political life.
Paxman said: “Any rounded assessment of Winston Churchill’s life has to acknowledge that he was a ruthless egotist, a chancer, and a charlatan at times. Would he be electable now? I fear not.”
Soames said she hadn’t seen Paxman’s comments but disputed his view that her grandfather wouldn’t win favour with voters.
“I hate the ‘what if’ questions and won’t answer them. What would his view on Europe today be, for instance. It’s wrong to speculate. But I do believe his connection with ordinary people would make him electable. He was a plain speaker and people like that. Yes, he probably was a maverick, but people like mavericks. There are not nearly enough of them.”
Sir David Cannadine, historian and chairman of the Churchill 2015 executive committee, was asked what he thought of Paxman’s description of Churchill as an “egotist, a chancer, and a charlatan”.
He replied, very curtly “It is interesting for Paxman to criticise someone for that. I will stop there.”
Cannadine had earlier made reference to today’s calibre of politicians by recalling Roy Jenkins’ description of Churchill as the most remarkable man ever to have occupied 10 Downing Street. “Whatever the outcome of the election in May we probably won’t have to modify that view,” he said.
And he insisted that Churchill’s belief in “negotiation and conversation” was something that today’s politicians would do well to heed.
“That is an aspect of Churchill’s leadership that is often overlooked. He is someone whose views we should try to engage with today. “
Emma Soames, the daughter of Churchill’s youngster daughter Mary, who died last year, spoke warmly of her grandfather whom she described as a “genius and a giant of a man.”
When he was told after her birth of the intention to name her Emma she said he replied: “Very good, very good. If there had been more Emmas there would have been more Nelsons”.
And she revealed the inscription her mother wrote in his 90th birthday card, two months before his death. “I owe you what every man, woman and child does – liberty itself.”
The commemorative events begin on the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s funeral, Friday 30th January. A special remembrance service and wreath laying will be held in Parliament in the morning followed by a re-creation of his final journey down the River Thames. The boat that carried the coffin in 1965, the Havengore, will be part of a small flotilla that will pass under Tower Bridge on its way to Parliament. A wreath will then be cast into the water. In the evening a special ceremony will be staged at Westminster Abbey.
A number of other events around the country and overseas are planned to recognise the anniversary. Full details can be found at www.churchillcentral.com.
Read Jeremy Paxman and others’ take on Winston Churchill in the new issue of Radio Times, on sale now