“‘Seldom can a prime minister have taken office with the Establishment . so dubious of the choice and so prepared to find its doubts justified,’ wrote Jock Colville of Winston Churchill, adding ‘within a fortnight all was changed’.
This has since become the accepted version of history, convenient both to Churchill and to the Establishment. It has been presented as the story of the Conservative Party swiftly recognizing him as a national saviour and, as the Battle of Britain and the Blitz raged, quickly falling in behind him in a spirit of defiant solidarity. The truth could not have been more different.
Old men forget, but old politicians forget selectively. Many are the self-serving memoirs of Conservative MPs who prefer not to remember both the depth of mistrust they felt for Churchill and the length of time that they continued to feel it. Such was the post-war deification of Churchill for his sublime leadership in 1940-41 that it would have been a brave Tory who told the truth about the undeclared guerrilla warfare which was fought between the new prime minister and the conservative hierarchy over those fateful months.
Extract from: ‘Patriotism: The Last Refuge of Sir Arthur Bryant’
On 19th February 1979 London’s literary, political and historical world came together in the Vintners Hall for a dinner to pay tribute to Sir Arthur Bryant CH, CBE, LLD, FRHist.S, FRSL on his eightieth birthday. The author of over forty books, a columnist on theIllustrated London News for more than four decades, and knighted by Churchill, Bryant sat between Harold Macmillan and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other guests included the then prime minister, James Callaghan, a brace of field marshals, the chairman of Times Newspapers, half a dozen knights and over two dozen peers and peeresses. It was, as one of those present put it, ‘Bryant’s apotheosis as the Grand Old Man of British historical writing’.
Yet those distinguished guests in the Vintners Hall could not have known what the expiry of the Fifty Year Rule and the subsequent opening of Bryant’ s private papers can now tell us; that far from being the patriot he so long and loudly proclaimed himself, Bryant was in fact a Nazi sympathiser and fascist fellow-traveller, who only narrowly escaped internment as a potential traitor in 1940. He was also, incidentally, a supreme toady, fraudulent scholar and humbug.”