Boris Johnson criticised purchase of Winston Churchill's diaries

Boris Johnson criticised purchase of Winston Churchill's diaries

12/30/2020

Boris Johnson criticised the nation’s purchase of Winston Churchill’s diaries, files reveal

  • Mr Johnson opposed the use of public money in an opinion piece written in 1995
  • The Daily Telegraph article landed on prime minister John Major’s desk
  • Piece paraphrased Winston Churchill’s famous 1940 Battle of Britain speech

Boris Johnson once criticised proposals to buy the private papers of Sir Winston Churchill.

Mr Johnson, then a newspaper commentator, opposed the use of public money to purchase for the nation the war-time leader’s diaries from his grandson, also called Winston.

His opinion piece from The Daily Telegraph, written in 1995, was among cuttings on the planned purchase which landed on prime minister John Major’s desk.

Boris Johnson once criticised proposals to buy the private papers of Sir Winston Churchill

He wrote: ‘Maybe the nation’s lottery punters, two thirds of the adult population, would have mourned if their collected stakes had not found their way into the pockets of Winston Churchill, MP and socialite, who will receive £12.5 million to keep the papers in this country.’ 

Paraphrasing his famous 1940 Battle of Britain speech, which coined the phrase ‘the Few’ to describe the nation’s debt to the brave RAF fighter pilots who defeated the German Luftwaffe, Mr Johnson added: ‘Maybe, as they look at the way the lottery cash is spent, they will conclude that seldom in the field of human avarice was so much spent by so many on so little; that this is the most elegant means yet devised of taking from the poor to give to the rich.’

Mr Johnson (pictured in 1998), then a newspaper commentator, opposed the use of public money to purchase for the nation the war-time leader’s diaries from his grandson, also called Winston. His opinion piece from The Daily Telegraph, written in 1995, was among cuttings on the planned purchase which landed on prime minister John Major’s desk

However, a media briefing note sent to the then-prime minister stated that the papers were valued at £25 million – ‘far higher’ than the National Heritage Memorial Fund paid for them, representing ‘enormous value for money’.

The documents were among the latest items released to the public at the National Archives, Kew.    

Mr Johnson, who became Prime Minister in 2019, has described Sir Winston as a ‘hero’, and is said to model himself on the former premier.

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