take issue with Bagehot’s remark, in his column on Boris Johnson, that the Tories punted and “won big” when they chose Winston Churchill, another “maverick”, as their leader (May 25th).
Churchill became prime minister not because the Conservatives thought he could lead them to electoral success, but because he was the only figure who could form a national coalition to tackle the worst crisis in British history.
Britain did “win big”, but the Conservatives did not.
At Churchill’s first electoral test, in 1945, they spectacularly lost. Churchill, like Benjamin Disraeli, another Tory leader mentioned in the column, achieved greatness by service to their country, not to their party. Their biggest accomplishments were cross-party in nature: leading the wartime coalition for Churchill, passing the 1867 Reform Act with the support of radical Liberals for Disraeli.