Sunday, 5 April 2015

Would Sir Winston have survived the tabloid mob?

A few weeks ago we were honoured to welcome Sir Nicholas Soames MP to Tonbridge & Malling. During the course of his presentation he spoke of his grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, and the events around his death. I was particularly moved when he recalled the words of his grandmother, Clementine, who said, "he belongs to the nation now."

Today I found myself driving through Woodstock and made a small detour to St Martin's Church in Bladon, to visit Sir Winston's grave. It seemed the right thing to do, even though I have visited previously. On the grave visitors had left tributes and small bunches of flowers, but attached to one pot was a simple handwritten note commemorating Clementine Churchill's birthday; she was born on 1st April. The note was from "your grandchildren" and of course included Sir Nicholas. He may well "belong to the nation" but Sir Winston and Clementine Churchill were also parents and grandparents who made enormous sacrifices for public life and in service to their country.

Nobody who has visited Sir Winston's grave in a simple churchyard of an unpretentious church in a typical English village could fail to be moved. Here is the final resting place of the greatest of men; his place in history so secure that he requires no great mausoleum to remind us of his work. Yet today, surrounded by hope in the form of spring flowers and Easter renewal, and reading a loving note from his grandchildren; I was unashamedly overcome by humility. 

This weekend, for reasons not of my choosing, I have spent too much time reading a certain tabloid newspaper, and in particular the nasty and spiteful comments of that newspaper's readers (or at least the section of them who comment online). The instant condemnations by people who have never met the targets of their anger, let alone sought to verify the truth of what is written, is sickening. 

What will the pig-faced, ranting mob do when they have razed politics to the ground only to find the scorched earth they leave behind is too sour to attract any new growth?  Had Sir Winston been in politics today would the tabloid lynch-mob have finished him off post Gallipoli? If not, they would have done so after Norway - but his finest hour was still to come. And those who exploit free speech to attack and sneer and destroy from the safety of anonymous comments have perhaps more reasons than most to celebrate what he was subsequently allowed to achieve.  

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