The spirit of Winston Churchill must be exhausted given how often the poor soul is invoked. Second only to George Orwell on the list of people newspaper columnists like to imagine rolling in their graves, or doing things differently, were they in any way able to influence the events of today, Churchill is the man all other prime ministers must be compared to. From the Falklands to Iraq, the poll tax riots to Brexit, ‘what would Churchill have done?’ is the dreaded refrain politicians can sense coming before it has even entered the airwaves or column inches.
So how do today’s leadership hopefuls compare to Churchill? And what would they have done in 1939?
There are of course many similarities between the great man and the great mop. While Churchill fought in the Boer War, Boris once knocked over a Japanese child in a game of touch rugby. Both said choice things about Africans, and whilst Churchill oversaw the disaster at Gallipoli, Boris was responsible for green-lighting the garden bridge. But they both had their triumphs, of course: Churchill was the man who stood tall and proud to lead the capital through the horror of the blitz, whilst Bojo cancelled his holiday to parade around the streets with a broom in the aftermath of the London riots. But how would he have prosecuted the war itself?
The pair were also, curiously, both into models. Churchill was famed for his collection of toy soldiers, which no doubt could have doubled up as airborne units and panzer divisions on one of those giant scale maps of Europe war-time generals always seem to have on hand. Boris, though, would have made a far more practical leader, as he could have used his spare time to fashion landing craft for Operation Overlord out of old wine crates, complete with paintings of soldiers at the windows enjoying their trip. Really, this is something Churchill should have done; he hardly lacked the wine-crate resources.
Boris would have thrown the Axis forces off-balance by daubing misleading slogans on the sides of Allied tanks (you can almost imagine the Downfall parody of Hitler in his bunker shouting “Aber wo SIND die 350 millionen fur den NHS?! Was IST das?!”) and his inability to read his briefs, meanwhile, would play to his advantage — Germans are a famously rational and methodical people, after all, and would have been baffled by his erratic, bordering on suicidal, lack of strategy.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the gallant outsider in the race to be PM. Having dealt with the junior doctors’ strike, we know at the very least that Hunt is used to coping with a hostile enemy.
However, the revelation that he enjoys watching football, but doesn’t support a team, just as long as protagonists stick to the rules, doesn’t bode well if you’re Poland. Hunt strikes you as the sort of man who would want to wait for the match report before coming to a decision on whether to go to war; not in itself a bad thing, but hardly decisive leadership.
Hunt has said his talents lie in mediation and listening to all opinions, and in order to emerge victorious, he would have to rely on the skills of his War Cabinet — no easy task when Boris is busying himself with his models and Rory Stewart is wandering through Persia high as a kite.
The conclusion of the war, one imagines, would probably happen completely by accident. Air Chief Marshall Sir Chris Grayling (because, who else?) would organize a bombing run on Hamburg that missed its target by 700km, hitting the German atomic facility at Haigerloch instead, blowing the third Reich into the third century and covering the continent in deadly radiation, becoming both a hero of the nation, and preventing the future formation of the EU by rendering the land it would be built on uninhabitable. Genius.