As first published: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanraab/2018/03/07/what-three-kangaroos-reveal-about-winston-churchills-leadership-philosophy
Tucked away in attics and basements around the world are historical treasures, and some are stranger than others. This was certainly the case when my firm, The Raab Collection, examined a collection of the heirs of one of the closest politicians to Winston Churchill during World War II: Viscount Stuart, Conservative Party Chief Whip and Cabinet member.
Passed down from generation to generation was a small sheet of paper, the Prime Minister’s war-time letterhead, and some strange drawings purportedly by Churchill, of three kangaroos, each varying in size. What were these? Did Churchill himself draw them? If so, why?
The answer lay in a long-out-of-print book, one that had to come to us from the United Kingdom, the memoirs of Stuart himself. It turns out that Churchill was not simply indulging his love of art, or his appreciation of Kangaroos, with some capricious sketching. He had a broader scheme in mind, one underpinning the unity of war-time England.
This unity of the major political parties during World War II was paramount. Maintaining a unified front showed the world that England was together in its determination to win. Independent candidates who did not subscribe to the agreed-on unity of those parties threatened to disrupt the public unified front that Britain so badly needed to carry on such a global conflict. So, in a cabinet meeting in 1942, Churchill proposed a joint public statement to be signed by four major party leaders, saying, in essence, that independent candidates objecting to Churchill’s policies were outliers, even if they got a lot of press.
Churchill used these kangaroo sketches as a metaphor for his entire theory of coalition government. Churchill and his Conservative Party (the largest kangaroo) would have the power and influence to “carry” the minority parties in the pouch of his Conservative Party. But this message was also a bit of the carrot and the stick, as it showed how Churchill and his party would, and could, protect the smaller parties from would-be predators nibbling at their heels. That was the carrot. Now the stick. It was also a reminder that he was the big kangaroo and could bring those parties to adhere to the coalition and not jump ship should they consider straying.
So what do the kangaroos show us? Churchill knew:
1 – He needed the support of minority parties
2 – That domestic unity was key to winning the war
3 – He needed to provide protection to those minority party leaders
4 – A picture, and a humorous one, would illustrate his point better than any words
5 – He knew he was the biggest kangaroo and wanted others to understand that