Today and all next week, as we mark the 50th anniversary of his death, this paper will be celebrating the man widely acclaimed as the greatest British statesman of the 20th century – some would say of all time.
To an astonishing degree, it was Winston Churchill whose single-minded sense of purpose inspired the nation with hope in 1940, when Britain and her empire stood alone against Hitler and all seemed lost.
Indeed, it is hard to exaggerate how much the free world owes to the vision, energy and determination of this one man, who mobilised millions and galvanised Whitehall with his red stickers demanding: ‘Action This Day.’
Now fast forward to the present day, as Sir Winston’s successors at Westminster jockey for position ahead of the election.
Mercifully, the challenges they face are of a far lesser magnitude than those we confronted in May 1940. And of course any comparisons with the great man are bound to be invidious.
But with the tectonic plates of geopolitics fast shifting – and the public finances in a desperately precarious state – might we not expect just a glimmer of Churchillian clarity and vision from today’s politicians?
Instead, we see them engaged in a puerile and self-serving spat about which of them should be invited to appear in the TV election debates, each concerned only with petty party advantage.
Meanwhile, the Opposition leader hastily turns his back on fracking and stakes our future on wind farms – not to further the national interest (far from it), but merely because he fears the threat to the Labour vote from the Greens.
And where Churchill offered only ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’, Cameron, Clegg, Miliband and Co promise us the moon – whether tax cuts or vast increases in public spending – while giving us hardly a clue where the money is to come from.
As for any Big Idea or sense of direction, we’re patronised instead by the politics of focus groups, Twitter, inane selfies and crude photo opportunities.
Yes, it is possible that Britain will muddle through. Our recovery may even continue (though it is hard to see how, if we put the economy back into the hands of the party that destroyed it).
But what if, God forbid, we should ever again find ourselves faced with a threat to our survival comparable with the fall of Europe in 1940?
Where, in our ideologically impoverished political class, is the statesman of even a quarter the stature of the national saviour we remember today?
One size doesn’t fit all
This was the week when, little noticed by most commentators, the guardians of the euro made a colossal admission of failure.
For if the eurozone were a viable currency union, under a single political master, the European Central Bank would be taking sole responsibility for the vast money-printing operation it launched on Thursday.
As it is, it will be printing only 20 per cent of the cash, leaving decisions on the rest to national banks throughout the zone. Put simply, it has been forced to acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all.
As for the effects of the bailout, experts predict that by this summer, British holidaymakers can look forward to more euros for their pounds than for 13 years.
But a cheap euro is bad for our exporters. And by decentralising the QE programme, the ECB is positively inviting debt-ridden countries to fall back into the fiscal recklessness that caused all the trouble.
Add the uncertainty of Sunday’s Greek elections, and the outlook for the currency is grim indeed. Doesn’t it become clearer by the day that the best long-term hope for all the peoples of Europe lies in dismantling it?