Churchill’s message for those in ivory towers – no substitute for listening to common folk

By Alec Hogg

French philosopher and TV personality Bernard-Henri Levy has decamped to London’s Cadogan Hall to host a one man show called Last Exit Before Brexit. It’s his way of trying to get the British to change their minds about abandoning Europe because, as he told the Financial Times: “My generation was told as a child, ‘You exist thanks to Churchill and the pilots of the Royal Air Force.”

Winston Churchill

The excellent new movie Darkest Hour reminds us what Levy is talking about. It focuses on the watershed period before and immediately after Winston Churchill became Britain’s Prime Minister. And shows how, in 1940, the last man standing against Hitler came perilously close to suing for peace – and changing the course of history.

Churchill’s mind was changed by fellow passengers on London’s underground who made it abundantly clear they would never accept what would have been tantamount to surrender. Their spirit put fresh steel into the bulldog’s backbone, gave him the courage to go against his peace-seeking party leadership, and deliver his masterful “We will fight them on the beaches…” speech.

It’s a timely reminder for occupants of political ivory towers everywhere. Living as they do in their equivalents of blue light convoy bubbles, they are often divorced from reality through good news filters and the prejudices of their fellows. For leaders, there is no substitute for hitting the streets – and listening. Something which politicos and corporate executives have been doing far too little of late.