After I wrote that I would not be going to see Darkest Hour, so many people told me I should that I did. The Kino cinema in the village of Hawkhurst was packed for the afternoon showing and the youngish man in the seat next to me wept copiously. The scene in which Churchill travels by Tube is as absurd as I had heard. But one can understand the purpose of the device: here is a man who has become prime minister without a popular mandate yet has a stronger intuition of the general will than most of the high-ups who surround him. So he moves among the people — rather as Shakespeare presents ‘a little touch of Harry in the night’ on the eve of Agincourt: ‘That every wretch, pining and pale before,/ Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks’. He also hopes to find support to buttress his own instincts. But the more interesting historical reality is that Churchill did not ask the people before acting: he asked their elected representatives. It was a parliamentary moment, not a populist, nor even an electoral one. It is on this note, in the House of Commons, that the film rightly ends.
Anyway, regardless of the film’s historical accuracy, its great current merit is that it is — possibly by accident — superb Brexit propaganda. The message is that it is sometimes both possible and necessary, if continental Europe is going one way, for Britain to go the other. One sub-message is that most of the important people in the country will tell you otherwise, but that they are mistaken. Another is that a leader who knows his mind and can wield the right words can win our parliamentary democracy to his cause. You would think this last lesson is blindingly obvious, but just now in our politics it is neglected, especially by the Prime Minister.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine