Friday, 26 April 2013 INDEX

Message on a fiver
From 2016 you will get the chance to spend Sir Winston Churchill. The war time Prime Minister is to get the distinction of having his picture on the fiver because he is recognised throughout the world, according to the Bank of England

Recognised perhaps but not revered. I have an ambivalent attitude towards Winnie, as he was called by some of those who were close to him. On the one hand it gives me joy that Sir Winston was the minister who brought into public ownership the national grid (subsequently
privatised by his successor at number 10, Margaret Thatcher). On the other, I remember the many who blamed him for the Gallipoli disaster which cost the lives of so many young men from Australia and New Zealand. Some have said Winnie wasn't really to blame, though he was technically the minister in charge of the operation. Perhaps, I don't know. But he certainly seemed to take responsibility, resigning from Parliament and resuming his army career.

Then there was the little matter of his direction of the authorities heavy handed treatment of trade unionists and left wingers.

Although half American (he is the only British PM to have an American battleship named after him a distinction reserved for Americans), he was also a thorough going aristocrat.

A political turncoat (moving from the Liberal to the Tory Party), he was a thorough going capetbagger, representing half a dozen or more different constituencies.

But many would say, at least he won the Second World War for Britain. Who knows if he did? Does a good speech and the ability to wave a cigar in a regal manner, really win wars? Perhaps it does, and don't knock it. If it works, it's certainly worth doing it. But perhaps it was the national government (particularly Ernie Bevin who kept British industry working even doing things like sending the children of toffs down the mines) that really made the difference in Britain.

In any case, it was probably Stalin's Russia that defeated Hitler in the world's biggest ever tank battle.

And immediately after the Second World War, when the people had the chance to thank a great old war horse for his stirling work, did they leap at it by voting him in for a term as peace time Prime Minister?

They certainly did not. He made his first campaign speech just up the road from where I am now, at Walthamstow Dog Stadium. He was roundly booed. He then went on to lose the election by a landslide.

But in some ways it's highly appropriate to have Winnie's face on the currency. You see the last time we had a great depression (in the 1920s and 30s) Winnie managed to lose most of his considerable fortune gambling on the American Stock Market in the Great Crash. A stark reminder, if ever there was one, of the folly of running a casino style economy, on every single fiver.

Posted by Jonathan Brind at 06:37
Friday, 26 April 2013 INDEX