Winston Churchill 'would not become Prime Minister today because his speaking style would be mocked'

Romola Garai, who stars in new ITV drama about the politician, says his eccentricities would rule him out in the modern era

Winston Churchill would not make it to Downing Street today because his unique oratorical style would be mocked, Romola Garai, who plays the wartime leader’s nurse in a new ITV drama, has claimed.

Churchill’s speeches rallied the nation during its darkest hour. But Garai, whose fictional nurse cares for the Prime Minister when he suffers a life-threatening stroke in Churchill’s Secret, said his eccentricities would rule him out of high office in the modern era.

“Churchill would not get elected today. His speech was very peculiar, quite mumbled in some ways,” the actress said. “But the deep resonance of his voice and this extraordinary articulation that he had, emphasising the words, was so individual to him.”

Politics has become a greyer trade. “Churchill was very idiosyncratic in the way he spoke. Today public speaking has become so monotone and peculiarity is something that rolling news is very afraid of,” said Garai, previously star of the BBC series, The Hour.

“It’s easy to pinpoint anybody’s idiosyncracies now, which I think is a terrible shame. Because some of the great orators were very individual in the way they spoke.”

Garai added: “Today it’s hard for people in politics to be themselves completely in the same way because of the way the media is now. I think that’s a shame. I like personalities. I don’t think people are belittled by being flawed. It was an easier time then to speak and behave as you were.”

Churchill’s Secret, screened next week, dramatises a conspiracy to cover up the serious stroke which the Prime Minister, then in his late 70s, suffered in 1953, during his second term. 

Believing only he can broker a détente with the Russians, Churchill refuses to accept his grip on power might be slipping and a plot is hatched with the leading press barons to keep his illness out of the papers.

However Bill Paterson, who plays Lord Moran, Churchill’s personal physician, said the great warrior would have had no trouble adapting to the modern age. “He was incredibly witty and a great one with one-liners,” Paterson said. “Sound bites would not have been difficult to a man who said, ‘Never in the field of human conflict etc,’ and, ‘Their finest hour...’ He was a soundbite guy. So I think he would have done fine. He had a twinkle in his eye.”

David Aukin, executive producer, said of the stroke cover-up: “Surely that could never happen now? But as we know from Chilcot, Snowden and Wikileaks it does. Of course it does. It is happening all the time.”