Anyone believing the meme about the BBC being a hotbed of rotten lefties was disabused of the notion within a few seconds yesterday as Political Editor Nick Robinson went over the top just once too often and let the occasion of the Thatcher funeral get the better of him. Her leadership, he told, had been “forged in war”. Thus he sold the pass and disproved the notion.
St Paul's Cathedral, London
At a time when too many pundits were trowelling on the parallels with Winshton, this ridiculous comparison needs addressing and put into its proper context. For Churchill, war meant the populations of entire cities being unable to move around at night, such was the discipline of the blackout. People lived in fear of air raids, and with good reason: tens of thousands lost their lives.
Precision bombing, for the Luftwaffe as with the RAF, was a contradiction in terms. No residential area was safe. Incendiary bombs were generally mixed in with high explosive ones, just to get a fire going. Transport was routinely disrupted. Out at sea, shipping was constantly under attack. Many convoys were decimated by U-boat attacks. So that meant the onset of rationing.
This lasted until a whole decade after the war ended. Shortages included fuel, any kind of foodstuffs that had to be imported, and many more that were home produced. Even the humble public house was affected, as there were shortages of malted grains to mash the beer. And with more and more menfolk drafted into the armed forces, that meant those left had to put industrial and agricultural production first.
So there was little in the way of leisure time, no respite from long shifts or toil in the fields. Worse, until the USA arrived on the scene in the wake of the ill-judged Japanese intervention at Pearl Harbor, there was no sign that it would ever end. And all the while, Churchill faced the thankless task of holding his Government together, while trying to reassure the people that victory would one day be theirs.
What a difference there was with Margaret Thatcher’s war: as the task force sailed off to the South Atlantic, no petrol station ran out of fuel, no supply ships were disrupted, no transport artery was put out of action, no citizen needed to worry about air attack, there was no blackout, no shortages were reported by any supermarket, and certainly no pub ran out of beer.
Indeed, the population went about its business very much as normal. No holiday charter flights were called off, no ration books were handed out, and with unemployment rocketing, there was no possibility of labour shortages. There were no dark days wondering whether the country would survive. Forged in war? Forged in war?!? Margaret Thatcher and her colleagues didn’t know the half of it.
None of them reached up to Winshton’s ankles. Nick Robinson is just being silly.
Are you sure he wasn't referring to the war against the miners? And the unions? And those dreaded lefties? And Guardian readers? And the BBC? And the Wets in her own party?
For God's sake man - the whole country was at war, with each other!
Thatcher was given a General's funeral even though she was never in the armed forces. (She went to Oxford in 1943 while most 18 year old women were on the buses or in the land army.) She fought a war for some desolate islands in the South Atlantic, and then fought a war against what she saw as an internal enemy. It's as if Churchill had his state funeral because of the Tonypandy riots.
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