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On both sides of the Atlantic, the memory of Winston Churchill is always kept bright. What would Churchill be advising us today? Though he never even studied at a university, let alone wrote a work of political thought, Churchill had very definite ideas about the principles for which the West should stand. His biographer, the late Sir Martin Gilbert, distilled these ideas into a series of lectures at the British Academy in 1980, later published as Churchill’s Political Philosophy. Gilbert summarised this “supremely simple” philosophy thus: “It was based on the preservation and protection of individual freedom and a decent way of life, if necessary by State aid and power; on the protection of the individual against the misuse of State power; on the pursuit of political compromise and the middle way, in order both to maintain and to improve the framework of Parliamentary democracy; on the protection of small States against the aggression of more powerful States; and on the linking together of all democratic States to protect themselves from the curse and calamity of war.”



(Illustration by Michael Daley)

I propose to examine how well the West today is upholding these Churchillian principles. First, are we doing enough to protect individual freedom and prosperity, not only in our own countries, but across the globe? Second, how well are we preserving parliamentary democracy against its enemies, at home and abroad? Third, are we vigorous in defending small states and stateless minorities against the aggression of tyranny and ideology? Fourth, are we keeping our international organisations, especially the Atlantic alliance, in good repair, so that the free world may not only deter any possible attack but inspire hope among the hopeless? Finally, is the West weakening in its resolve to do these things? If so, why is this happening — and what can be done about it?

The liberty of the individual has been and ought to be at the heart of Western civilisation from its Biblical and classical inception. “Ladies of the Empire, I stand for Liberty,” declared Churchill in his very first public speech, given at the age of 19 while he was an officer cadet at Sandhurst. The “ladies of the Empire” were in fact prostitutes and young Winston was defending their freedom to solicit theatregoers in the lobby of the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, against the Vigilante Societies, or “prudes on the prowl”, as he called them. They had erected barricades outside the theatre, leading to a riot. The prudes wanted to close the Empire and “abolish sin by Act of Parliament”, whereas Churchill and the “anti-prudes” refused to “sacrifice the liberty of the subject” and preferred “a less coercive and more moderate procedure”, namely “educating the mind of the individual and improving the social conditions under which he lives”. Unaware that his father Lord Randolph Churchill, who had first introduced him to the dramatic pleasures of the Empire, was already suffering from the syphilis that would kill him, Churchill observed that “Nature metes out great and terrible punishments to the ‘roué and libertine’ — far greater punishments than it is in the power of any civilised State to award.” He lost the battle for the Empire, but in the war between libertarian and authoritarian ideas, Churchill was almost always on the side of the individual against the state.

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amcdonald
September 15th, 2017
12:09 PM
Freedom Day June 24 2016 The glorious chaotic dawn of our Brexit victory Julie Burchill Kate Hoey Gilbert & George John Lydon Ringo Starr ("Don`t tell Bob Geldof") Morrissey Brexitannia not Remainia We scored 17.4 million goals Remainia scored 16.1 million goals A clear win by Brexitannia The Toeies are still the Nasty Party,the gruel- propaganda party reduced to delusions of adequacy. It`s Julie Burchill not Winston Churchill . It`s Camille Paglia not Hilary Clinton in the USA. I'm popular culture it`s Ringo Starr not Bob Geldof. The Lady of Burma is being compared to Hitler by the Left for not barking for Islam .

Lawrence James
September 4th, 2017
12:09 PM
'Democracies do not fight one another ?'The Confederate States of America v the United States of America . . . Britain against the Boer republics . . . the North German Confederation against France in 1870 ?

Stephen Blendell
August 30th, 2017
7:08 PM
For those who might be interested, there is now one authoritative treatise on liberty, its history and the various types of liberty."Liberty's Progress?" by Prof Gerard Casey has just been published - coincidentally to coincide with this edition of Standpoint!

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