Churchill inspires D66 fightback against Trumpism and Farage’s people-expulsing “Hard Brexit”

This past week, both the Guardian and the Sun  had articles about the deputy ALDE liberal group leader Sophie in’t Veld  in the European Parliament getting involved in the mistreatment of ordinary EU citizens, living and working in the UK and being married to Britons, by the May government and its over-enthusiastic Brexiteer ministers. Both newspapers only failed to mention which party Mrs In’t Veld belongs to: none other than D66, the social-liberal inheritors of the pre-War VDB.

As one of three parties at the origins of Dutch abortion legislation (very similar to David Steel’s brilliant Liberal inheritance on that point in Britain), D66 fully supports the initiative by our Trade & Development minister Mrs Ploumen to try to compensate family planning advice and abortion services in the Third World, scrapped by Mr. Trump and his Christian-fundamentalist Vice President Pence. We’ll support continuing that compensatory policy in the next Dutch coalition government formed in the coming summer.

People who know about the career of Winston Churchill will be outraged by the fact that president Trump, who cosies up to jingoist-Russian, NATO-threatening and EU-subverting president Putin, put up a bust of Churchill in his Oval Office. You only have to look up Churchill’s Wikipedia item to see that from 1934 onwards (Hitler walking out of the League of Nations and abandoning his Versailles restrictions), Churchill sought and got data about German re-armament (Luftwaffe) and harried the appeasing Tory governments to re-arm Britain. An enormous contrast; Trump is behaving more like the self-seeking, protectionist European governments, not paying attention to foreign policy, which proved such easy pickings for Hitler and (in Poland and the Baltic) Stalin.

After the nightmarish year 2016, so brilliantly depicted in the latest Liberal Democrat TV spot, it will be heartening to you that D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold has a bust of Winston in his parliamentary office; and it helps inspire him:

  • to keep fighting for European unity and co-operation (see the recent book about how Churchill worked for that from the 1920’s onwards, by a D66 party member) and NATO solidarity;
  • to keep fighting for Women’s and LGTB Rights (a Dutch social-liberal tradition from the 1870’s);
  • to fight anti-EU populists like Farage and Geert Wilders, who called the Dutch parliament a “Fake Parliament” and the judges condemning him for his racist electioneering remarks as “Fake justice”; not even Hitler did that in his “Bierkeller Putsch” trial in 1923.

Trump probably knows very little about Churchill’s complex political personality (he is too absorbed in his own superiority in everything); but Pechtold knows his history, and D66 stands solidly behind him and thus the Liberal Democrats.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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11 Comments

  • It’s a puzzle why people continue to extol Churchill as a paradigm example of British values.

    When he was a Liberal he was a disaster as Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. Several times he was on the verge of being sacked by Asquith. He threatened to get the Navy to shell Belfast in 1914 and threw lives away at Antwerp and Gallipoli,. He told Mrs Asquith that ‘War is delicious’. He believed in eugenics (sterilise ‘the feeble minded’) and supported the forced feeding of suffragettes. Appropriately he lost his Dundee seat in 1922 to someone he had helped to imprison for being a conscientious objector.

    As a Tory (again), as Chancellor he supported the gold standard helping to crash the economy. He denied Indian independence in a particularly offensive way. He nearly started a civil war against the miners in 1926 and tried to use the BBC for Government propaganda purposes.

    In the Second War he nearly lost it for us in Norway. He sacked Dowding who saved us in the Battle of Britain . His wife even had to tell him to stop being unpleasant to people after he’d had a drinky or two. He distanced himself from the Dresden bombing after ordering it.

    The people who really won the Second World War were the millions of ordinary people of my parents generation who put their lives and families on the line – and voted to get rid of him in July, 1945

    His bust clearly fits in well in the current White House.

  • David Raw.
    I asked the same question on another post.

  • Bernard Aris 1st Feb '17 - 8:13pm

    @ Glenn & @ David Raw

    I totally agree with your points about the blunders, reactionary pig-headedness (Gold Standard) and so forth, of Churchill, but if your maximum is 500 words you cann’t put those in. And, topically, Tory prime minister May didn’t mention Churchill in her statements about the meeting or the “Special “Relationship” he and FDR started, missing a shot before a Brexiteers open goal.

    I just wanted to shine a spotlight on two foreign policy issues Churchill was right about (although I also agree that his vision of European co-operation was more Gaullist, intergovernmental, than federalist; he remained an Edwardian).

    Being a historian, I know all too well that nobody is perfect amongst people considered big statesmen. For example: talking of admired American presidents, Woodrow Wilson out of personal conviction reinforced racial segregation and the start of the Red Scare (and J. Edgar Hoovers paranoid career); FDR interned milions of Japanese (some of whom fought bravely in Europe); Kennedy consorted with the mafia and followed Trumps rule about grabbing women; and Obama missed the boat on evenhanded government in Iraq AND Syrian gas attacks.

    Chuchill was wrong to intervene in the Russian civil war, but absolutely right in calling for a European Common market, pointing in 1929 (before Briand did) to the example of the USA (whose second constitution enabled internal free trade), and about the danger of Hitlers rearming. See the book by Felix Klos on Churchills interbellum Europeanism. And about Norway: who ordered the 1941 SOE operation against the “heavy water” nuclear plant?

    Keynes actively believed in eugenics; was he a bad man?

  • @ Bernard Aris “Keynes actively believed in eugenics; was he a bad man?”

    On that issue, yes.

    Another famous European Leader (next door to the Netherlands between 1933 and 1945) was a vegetarian and a dog lover ; was he a good man ?.

  • David Raw
    Said man was not a vegetarian. It’s a popular myth. There is quite a lot of evidence of his favoured menus especially during meetings with various heads of state.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Feb '17 - 12:47pm

    “People who know about the career of Winston Churchill will be outraged by the fact that president Trump, who cosies up to jingoist-Russian, NATO-threatening and EU-subverting president Putin, put up a bust of Churchill in his Oval Office.
    You only have to look up Churchill’s Wikipedia item to see that from 1934 onwards (Hitler walking out of the League of Nations and abandoning his Versailles restrictions), Churchill sought and got data about German re-armament (Luftwaffe) and harried the appeasing Tory governments to re-arm Britain.”
    I lived in Sir Winston Churchill’s constituency as a child and a teenager. Because of the Official Secrets Act the former Prime Minister was in a unique position to write opinions in his memoirs that others were unable to challenge at the time in the UK. He was re-elected as an MP in the 1959 general election. My history teacher said that Sir Winston Churchill “is not a historian’s historian”. Roy Jenkins has written a biography using his combined experiences as a top-level politician, an historian and a biographer.
    ‘The’ bust of Winston Churchill should be ‘a’ bust of Winston Churchill. Barack Obama said that “… he had moved the Churchill bust from the Oval Office because he wanted to replace it with one of Martin Luther King ‘… as the first African-American president’. He revealed that he had another Churchill bust outside his private study in the White House residence – ‘I see it every day’.
    “All Out War, Tim Shipman, 2016, page 231, back of the queue”

  • @ Geoffrey, ‘Churchill made one decision that made him great…. he stopped the appeasement and went to war with Germany.’ I’m sorry Geoffrey, but I’m afraid that’s not so.

    It was Neville Chamberlain who eventually “stopped the appeasement and went to war with Germany”. Churchill opposed appeasement but was out of government. Chamberlain appointed him First Lord of The Admiralty in September, 1939.

    On eugenics, Churchill submitted papers to Asquith (who ignored them) in 1910 (not the 1930’s). In February 1911, Churchill spoke in the House about the need to introduce compulsory labour camps for “mental defectives.” As for “tramps and wastrels,” he said, “there ought to be proper Labour Colonies where they could be sent for considerable periods and made to realise their duty to the State.” Convicted criminals would be sent to these labour colonies if they were judged “feeble-minded” on medical grounds. (Hansard) . He also advocated compulsory sterilisation. “The improvement of the British breed is my aim in life,”

    The real Churchill is a bit different to his ‘popular’ iconic status.

  • @ Geoffrey. A gracious response, thank you.

  • @ Glenn “Said man was not a vegetarian. It’s a popular myth.” I’m afraid your comment is a more recent ‘popular myth’.

    Certainly in his later years he was a veggie. Evidence ? Albert Speer’s memoirs, Anthony Eden, Sir John Simon………… and if he wasn’t, Goebbels claimed he was – tho’ one can never claim that little man as a reliable witness. Goebbels certainly wanted him to be.

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