Connect with us

Thai Life

Books: The Johnson factor

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

PHUKET: On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death appears The Churchill Factor (Johnson, Riverhead Books, New York, 2014, 390pp). I picked it not for the subject matter, having read William Manchester’s trilogy, one of several multi-volume biographies of the great man, but for the author, Boris Johnson.

Someday it is conceivable that two roommates at Eton, Boris Johnson and Abhisit Vejjajiva, will serve as the prime ministers of Great Britain and Thailand. Johnson became a journalist, author of nine books, editor of The Spectator, member of Parliament and current mayor of London. Subtitled “How One Man Made History”, his appreciation of Winston Churchill is a labor of love.

The author shares with his subject a deep love of the English language and an irrepressible, puckish sense of humor. One of many delightful stories, told by his grandson to Johnson, is that Prime Minister Churchill was informed that one of his Tory ministers “was caught rogering a Guardsman on a bench in Hyde Park at three in the morning – and it was February, by the way”. After a close interrogation about the particulars, Churchill concludes, “In this weather! Good God, man, it makes you proud to be British!”

But the serious theme to the book is how Winston Churchill changed world history – that without him Adolf Hitler would have almost certainly won World War II.

“We need to remember it today, and we need to remember the ways in which this British Prime Minister helped to make the world we still live in. Across the globe – from Europe to Russia to Africa to the Middle East – we see traces of his shaping mind. Churchill matters today because he saved our civilization. And the important point is that only he could have done it.”

At the fall of France, when “the French were possessed of an origami army: they just kept folding with almost magical speed”, Britain stood alone, with “no sign of the US cavalry coming tootling over the brow of the hill”.

At a Cabinet meeting on May 28, 1940, British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax argued that Britain ought to open negotiations with Hitler and Mussolini. Churchill’s reply put backbone into the Cabinet:”And I am convinced that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”

After his career as a soldier on four continents and prolific journalist – he published more words than Shakespeare and Dickens combined – Churchill’s political career saw him converting the British fleet from coal to oil before the First World War, mobilizing tanks on the Western Front, taking the blame for the Gallipoli campaign, arranging the founding of Israel, Jordan and Iraq and, with Lloyd George, launching the British welfare state. Along the way, he had plenty of detractors.

“His enemies detected in him a titanic egotism, a desire to find whatever wave or wavelet he could, and surf it long after it had dissolved into spume on the beach,” Johnson observes. Time and time again, he gives voice to Churchill’s opponents before launching his own cogent rebuttal.

After a long survey of his life, Johnson concludes: “He did possess a titanic ego, but one that was tempered by humor, and irony, and by deep humanity and sympathy for other people, and by a commitment to public service and a belief in the democratic right of people to kick him out – as they did – at elections.”

Of all books about Winston Churchill, this is the most entertaining. Johnson nimbly leaps from scene to scene: young Churchill speaking in Parliament, flying an early airplane, proposing to Clementine, posing with a tommy gun at the height of the Blitz, and delivering his pivotal “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946.

Churchill emerges as the embodiment of British character: “broadly humorous but occasionally bellicose, irreverent but traditionalist, steadfast but sentimental, rejoicing in language and wordplay of all kinds, keen to a fault on drink and food.”

— James Eckardt

 

Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

Health Department warns: Avoid Covid-19, don’t have sex

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

PM Prayut announces Thailand will fully reopen within 120 days

Transport10 hours ago

Thai Airways rehabilitation plan accepted by Bankruptcy Court

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Sponsored by image

Thailand10 hours ago

Thailand News Today | PM apologises, vaccine delays, Pattaya sandbox? and sharks | June 16

Coronavirus (Covid-19)10 hours ago

Restaurants request easing of Covid-19 rules and financial aid

Thailand10 hours ago

Isaan farmer and son electrocuted and killed by wire fence in rice field

Thailand11 hours ago

Another data breach: Info leaked on Bangkok Immigration website

Crime12 hours ago

Krabi men arrested after TikTok video of a shark shot and killed goes viral

Thailand13 hours ago

Thailand’s FDA doesn’t approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, cites missing data

Best of13 hours ago

Top 8 Things to do in Krabi

Thailand13 hours ago

Thai government apologises for data leak, blames “temporary glitch”

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

6 school closed after infections are found

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 2,331 new cases; provincial totals

Best of15 hours ago

Top 5 Meditation Centres and Retreats in Thailand

Phuket15 hours ago

Thai police chief donates 100,000 baht to Phuket man shot by a drunk officer

Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending