The most recent of the two incidents occurred at Hove Town Hall on Thursday 5 August 2010. During a question and answer session, the prime minister, David Cameron, was forced to apologize for an almost treasonable faux pas, during a Sky News interview in America, when he had claimed that Britain had fought Hitler as a mere “junior partner” of the United States. He found himself ambushed by the very first question which was put to him by Kathy Finn, a pensioner.
“Who do you consider,” she angrily asked, “was the senior partner in the Battle of Britain when we were fighting alone in the first two and a half years of the war ?”
Keen to compensate for such a historical howler, Cameron conceded “You are absolutely right and I was absolutely wrong” and added that “we should all be incredibly proud of the fact that we stood alone against Hitler“. No one noticed that he forgot to mention the thousands of Commonwealth soldiers who fought alongside us or the hundreds of foreign pilots among the famous “few” of the Royal Air Force. That did not seem to matter.
What was newsworthy was the prime minister’s abject apology and his acknowledgement of his faith in the Battle of Britain legend. It was much commented on in the British press which was reluctant to forgive easily. The Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire was one of several commentators who had not yet recovered from his shocked astonishment at Cameron’s earlier ignorance, reminding readers that “every Battle of Britain hero, rescued Dunkirk veteran and survivor of the Blitz knew we weren’t America’s underling that year because Uncle Sam didn’t enter that war until December 1941 when Japan, Hitler’s ally, attacked Pearl Harbor.”
James Forsyth, writing in the normally pro-Tory Spectator, condemned the gaffe as a “quite spectacular mistake,” David Milliband, the Labour Party leader, called it a “slight” against Britain and former Defence Secretary Kevan Jones summed up the national mood of dismay. “David Cameron,” he asserted, “is guilty of talking down Britain and disrespecting Second World War veterans who know that Britain was fighting alone against Nazi tyranny while America was still putting its boots on.” 
The vital role of the Polish, Czech and South African pilots and the backing of the Commonwealth nations were conveniently forgotten but there was also another darker and more shameful historical elephant in the room. As correspondents reported back from Hove on the prime minister’s humiliation and profuse apology for appearing to doubt Britain’s proud history of resistance to Nazi aggression, no one mentioned that 75 years earlier the very same building had witnessed a shameful act of collusion with Nazi Germany.
1. “David Cameron Says Sorry to Pensioner over Gaffe over Second World War,” the Guardian, 5 August 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/aug/05/david-cameron-sorry-gaffe-war and see also “David Cameron Q&A – Live in Hove”, Helene Mulholland – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2010/aug/05/davidcameron
2. Keven Maguire, “Dunce Dave is Taking Britain’s Economy Backwards”, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/time-for-a-history-lesson-for-david-cameron-760827
14th March 2012.
3. “Not David Cameron’s Finest Hour”, James Forsyth in the Spectator, https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2010/07/not-david-camerons-finest-hour/ 21 July 2010 and ” David Cameron: UK “Junior Partner” to US”, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10719739, 22 July 2010.
4. “Cameron’s Historic Blunder”, the Daily Mail 22 July 2010
All text on this website is copyright Alisdare Hickson 2017. This is a first draft.