By Jason Michael


Putting Winston on the fiver is a sure sign that Little England hasn’t grown out of its toy soldiers, and wants to make sure it parts company with Scotland and Europe on the most childish of terms.

At a time when the very existence of the United Kingdom is under threat; as the breakup from the European Union sends the British economy into a tailspin, and as Scotland prepares for another referendum on leaving the UK, some absolute genius in the Bank of England thought it would be a super idea to put Winston Churchill – the blood auld warmonger himself – on the arse end of the five pound note. We have to assume that the brain behind this move wanted neither a united Europe nor a United Kingdom, because few figures of English history can annoy Europeans and Scots quite the way that this man can.

If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.
– Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 11 May 1953

As a political pragmatist, Churchill was happy – after the 1939-45 war – to work towards peace in Europe and against Soviet expansion in fostering greater links between the European states, yet he always held to his pre-war belief that “We are with Europe, but not of it.  We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed.” He did not see himself as a European or indeed his little England as a European state. He was, at heart a John Bull English isolationist; a symbol of pig-headedness that is not lost on our European neighbours.


Scotland too has a fair bit of beef with Winston. We don’t like to advertise the fact so much these days, but back in 1908 – after losing his Manchester seat – he was elected MP for Dundee. In the beginning he was a hit with the working class population of the city. He was charismatic, witty, and opinionated – that is to say that he had a great deal in common with the Dundonians. That veneer of commonality was short lived, however. During the miners’ strike of 1910 he sent in the British Army to lay down the law, and did the same the following year against the transport workers. Opinion was so low of him in the end that the folk of Dundee ousted him in favour of the prohibitionist Edwin Scrymgeour.

Churchill was reasonably popular with “the thousands who came from Ireland to work in our shipyards and in our factories (Nicola Sturgeon)” until he put boots on the ground in Ireland, demolishing the city of Dublin and unleashing a reign of terror across the island that led to the Irish War of Independence. He loved his soldiers. We have been taught to think that his never-to-be-budged martial brutality was reserved for Mr. Hitler, but by the time he locked horns with the Reich his dagger was already wet from the blood of the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish.

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…and he kept his word.

Scotland, Ireland, and Wales are miles ahead of our English neighbours when it comes to the representation of women and minorities in our politics. Yet for Churchill, even to his death rattle, women were represented enough by their “fathers, brothers, and husbands.” Winston Churchill is indeed a symbol of Britain. He is the symbol of a Britain that is long dead, and not much missed. Auld Winston is the Alf Garnett of Britain’s political memory. We remember him, sometimes with a grudging fondness, but we never air reruns.

There’s something wrong with a certain constituency of Englishness, and as we drift into the bullshit of poppy season again we’re going to see that in sharper focus. It’s a has-been nation that between 1914 and 1918 sent lions to be led by donkeys into machine gun fire in the trenches, and uses that catalogue of stupidity as a recruiting tool for modern oil wars, and expects the sale of paper poppies to pay for the care of broken bodies. It’s a load of silly nationalistic crap, and putting Churchill on the fiver is just another reminder that they refuse to grow up.


Boris Johnson explains how to speak like Winston Churchill


Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)

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