POLITICS

Winston Churchill 'Was A Charlatan Who Would Be Unelectable Today', Says Jeremy Paxman

21/01/2015 12:27 GMT | Updated 21/01/2015 12:59 GMT

Former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill would not be electable today, broadcaster Jeremy Paxman has claimed.

Paxman believes the wartime leader would have struggled with the prevalence of spin in modern-day politics, as the 50th anniversary of his death approaches.

Paxman told Radio Times magazine: "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."

churchill cigar

Was Winston Churchill a 'ruthless egotist, chancer and charlatan'?

The former Newsnight host told the magazine: "He was a man of his time, a parliamentary one-off who'd be suffocated by the spinning and posturing that pass for politics today.

"Being both good and bad, adequate and inadequate, selfish and public-spirited is just being human."

Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames has dismissed Paxman’s claims about her grandfather, saying: “I just don’t think that’s true. I think that Churchill's virtues were so great."

In the same way that Boris (Johnson) is very popular, I think Churchill would be very popular because he has got an amazing gift of the gab and he has a genuine commitment to ordinary people, actually.

"He came from this very beautiful background but he felt himself to be very connected to ordinary people, and I think that was genuine. I don't think his understanding of them was obviously so great, but his consideration for them was immense."

jeremy paxman

Jeremy Paxman believes Winston Churchill would be unelectable today

Asked whether a Churchill was needed today, Jonathan Dimbleby, whose father Richard narrated the commentary on Churchill's state funeral for the BBC, told the magazine: "I'm not sure whether a Churchill would be appropriate for the complexities of peace-time politics.

"The greatness of Churchill was that he was, effectively, a democratic dictator. He ruled Britain.

"He had almost total power in the war. He was not only PM of a war cabinet that very rarely challenged him, he was also the defence minister, determining what the Army, navy and air force would do.

"That was an extraordinary power in the hands of one man. I don't think that would work very well today. The idea that a 'strong man' could wave a wand and everyone would automatically follow, and our problems would be over, seems to me to be an indulgence that should be left to the birds."

Dimbleby said that he did not think that there were any politicians today who could fill Churchill's shoes, but added: "In a way I rather hope that there aren't.

"Churchill is the greatest man of the last century, don't get me wrong. He was a very great leader with extraordinary energy, and he also had a much greater strategic sense than critics give him credit for.

"But I don't think people today would relish dictators, however democratically elected they might be."

Winston Churchill