21 October 2018   |  Last Updated 30-01-2015 11:45

      Saturday 24, January 2015

      How working in Manchester shaped Winston Churchill: 50 years on from his death

      Credit: Churchill Archives Centre: Churchill Additional Papers. 

      FIFTY years ago today, war time Prime Minister an ex Oldham MP Winston Churchill died at home aged 90.

      Half a century later Vicky Barker is looking back at what impact Churchill had on Manchester-a place where he “learnt his political skills”.

      That’s the opinion of Allen Packwood, director of The Churchill Archives Centre. The centre is just one of a number of organisations taking part in ‘Churchill 2015’, a series of events to mark Churchill’s passing.

      In 1900 Winston Churchill was elected MP for Oldham, which is where the future war-time leaders political skills were learnt, says Allen.

      “It provided him with his first elections, provides him with his first real political controversy when he crosses the floor and leaves the liberal party and joins the conservatives. This is where he learns his political skills and sort of starts to make a name in politics”.

      So, it’d be safe to say that Oldham was privileged to have such a renowned leader as MP for their town?

      “I think probably Oldham made more of an impact on Churchill than the other way round”

      Churchill was, by all accounts born into a life of privilege, and was someone who had never experienced such destitution until he came to Victorian Manchester.

      “I think the other impact Oldham and Manchester would have had on Churchill is in introducing him to poverty. You know this is someone who had been born at Blenheim Palace; you know he’d attended upper class boarding schools, so this is really the first time that he would have seen the slum conditions in which many people lived in at this time. And that clearly did have an impact on him I mean I think it shaped him”.

      Indeed, Churchill worked closely with Lloyd George on welfare reforms and unemployment insurance which impacted the nation not just Manchester.

      Above: Some of Churchill's most famous sayings

      I’m keen to tackle the controversial issue that has been bought up this week: whether Churchill would have been elected in, if he were standing for MP today.

      In an article published this week in the Radio Times, journalist Jeremy Paxman suggested Churchill would not be voted in today.

      Paxman said: “Any rounded assessment of Winston Churchill’s life has to acknowledge that he was a ruthless egotist, a chancer, and a charlatan at times. Would he be electable now? I fear not.”

      Speaking to me prior to these comments being made, Allen Packwood disagreed saying:

      “You suspect he [Churchill] might destroy political careers of today”.

      “He had the most amazing roller-coaster of a career with ups and downs but of course didn’t give in and was able to come back from things.

      “To what extent you can say those characteristics are there now I think that’s a much more difficult question to answer. You are operating obviously in a very different context and time you know not least because of these 24/7 rolling news and the amount of press scrutiny that these figures are in. What you have to hope is that cometh the crisis, cometh the leader really”.

      Last Tuesday David Cameron, who is Churchill’s twelve times successor, spoke at the launch of one of the commemorative events, saying:

      “His words and his actions reverberate through our national life today”.

      So why does Allen think it is important for the nation to mark the death of Sir Winston Churchill?

      “He is an iconic figure and was an inspirational leader for this country and led this country at a pivotal moment in the twentieth century.

      "The second reason which follows on from that is why should we do this now-fifty years on-and I think the reason for that is we’re at an interesting moment when the generation that can remember the Second World War, the generation that participated in the Second World War is sadly passing from the stage”.

      Allen is referring to the recent death of Lady Soanes, who was Churchill’s last surviving daughter, early last year.

      Organisations across Manchester are being invited to take part in Churchill 2015. If you want to attend an event to mark Sir Winston Churchill’s death, you can visit https://www.churchillcentral.com/ for the full list of events.

      By: Vicky Barker