Wednesday, 7 September 2011

It was our wedding anniversary yesterday, so we decided to have a day out in Cambridge. In the evening, we went to the theatre to see Three Days in May, a play about Winston Churchill's struggles with his war cabinet in 1940. It wasn't much of a theatrical piece, more of a series of diary entries strung together, but Warren Clarke as Churchill was a suitably commanding presence. The play centres on Lord Halifax's attempts to persuade Churchill to negotiate with Hitler, and to engage in appeasing him, but Churchill wasn't having any of it, and with the support of the two Labour members of the committee - Attlee and Arthur Greenwood - he made the most crucial decision that a British politician has had to make since the Norman invasion.
Churchill wasn't the universally-liked figure that some history books like to show him as; some of the old guys I used to drink with in the Working Men's Clubs back home in Durham in the 1980s and who'd fought in the Second World War couldn't stand him, and couldn't wait for the chance to vote him out when it was all over. His career was littered with mistakes, his judgement was dubious, and he certainly didn't care a great deal for the working-man. However, this was a decision that he got right. If he'd listened to Halifax, and many others in his own party that had sympathies with Hitler, and saw the Nazis as a bulwark against the Communists, then God knows where we'd be now.
It's too early to ascertain how history will judge David Cameron over his decision to push for military intervention in Libya, but I think history has already judged Tony Blair over Iraq. It would be interesting to see, in perhaps forty years time, a play about the three days in March  2003, when Blair succeeded in persuading Parliament that it would be a good idea to wage war on a regime that we had previously supported.
I'll look forward to that, maybe as a golden-wedding anniversary treat.

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