Posts Tagged ‘Farewell’

Churchill: the Nation’s Farewell, BBC One review: ‘bland’

January 28th, 2015

Jeremy Paxman’s regular commute to totemic moments of British history continues. He’s done the British Empire and the Great War, and for this trip in the time machine, he journeyed back half a century to the state funeral of Winston Churchill.

Churchill: the Nation’s Farewell (BBC One) was part reconstruction of the big day, part tour of a gigantic personality. But it also attempted to measure his lingering relevance to notions of nationhood, and wondered what Churchill might have made of the modern Britain in defence of whose future freedoms he stood alone in 1940.

Beyond bromides about the symbolic passing of an older Britain, there were rather more questions than answers. Could this be because Paxman has had quite enough of listening to other people’s opinions? Or is it becauseit’s difficult for us to stomach the new nice post-Newsnight Paxman? Among those he blandly quizzed were participants in the funeral – trumpeters, pall-bearers, a bell ringer, the verger where Churchill is buried in Oxfordshire. For some reason Paxman seemed keen to know whether everyone had cried (yes, though knees also knocked).

Guest star was Boris Johnson, Churchill’s latest hagiographer, who attested that Winston would be “a terrific blogger and a self-Googler of epic proportions”. Various descendants remembered the day – “We were swept along on this tidal wave of splendour,” blubbed Nicholas Soames – but they weren’t interviewed by Paxman.

In the end, Paxman nailed his colours to the mast and said what no one else could (or, in the case of Johnson, would): that for all Churchill’s flaws, “in this age of political miniatures there is no one who can hold a candle to him”. After an entire career grilling “lying b——-” (Paxman’s famous words), he should know.

Not that everyone revered the saviour of the nation. The programme’s coup was an interview with one of the Port of London dockers who dipped the jibs of the cranes as the coffin was taken up the Thames. It remains a moving image 50 years on. But the dockers wanted no part of it, and had to be paid to make this spontaneous gesture. The only union rep at the funeral was from the National Union of Bricklayers.


World War Two

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