Here’s more fake outrage from Conservatives – this time at John McDonnell’s, entirely accurate, assertion that Sir Winston Churchill was a wrong ‘un.
I’m glad my brother, Doctor of History David Sivier (also known as Beastrabban), is around to give a learned historical perspective on this matter.
Mr McDonnell was answering quick-fire questions on the Politico website, including: “Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?” McDonnell replied: “Tonypandy – villain.”
Here’s the Beast:
This referred to the Tonypandy riots of 1910, when striking miners were shot down by the army after clashing with the police. According to the I’s article on the controversy on page 23 of Wednesday’s edition, Churchill initially refused requests to send in the troops, instead sending a squad of metropolitan police. Troops were also sent in to stand in reserve in Cardiff and Swindon. Following further rioting, Churchill sent in the 18th Hussars. He later denied it, but it was widely believed that he had given orders to use live rounds. There’s still very strong bitterness amongst Welsh working people about the massacre. The I quoted Louise Miskell, a historian at Swansea University, who said that ‘He is seen as an enemy of the miners’.
So there’s precedent for Margaret Thatcher’s behaviour in the 1980s, then.
Apparently Boris Johnson was outraged about this. He has written a biography of Churchill, and claimed the former prime minister “saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable”.
It’s certainly the popular interpretation of Churchill’s contribution to history.
But if we look into his career, we find that perhaps “Winnie” was only saving Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist German tyranny, as he was regularly willing to impose his own brand of barbarism and racism wherever he could.
As Mr McDonnell said, Churchill was undoubtedly a hero in the Second World War, but other moments in his life let down his memory.
The i newspaper has provided a list of incidents in Churchill’s life, some of which corroborate the allegations of villainy. For example:
* According to his biographer, John Charmley, Churchill believed in a racial hierarchy and eugenics, and that at the top of this were White Protestant Christians.
* He said it was ‘alarming and nauseating’ seeing Gandhi ‘striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.’ He also said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’.
* Three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943, in which Churchill refused to deploy food supplies.
On the Bengal famine, the Beast continued:
The Bengalis starved because their grain had been sequestered as back up supplies to feed British troops. In the end they weren’t needed, according to one video I’ve seen on YouTube. Churchill also said that the famine was their fault for having too many children.
He also supported the brief British invasion of Russia to overthrow the Communist Revolution, and the use of gas on Russian troops. Just as he also wanted to use gas to knock out, but not kill, Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia when they revolted in the 1920s against British rule.
He also said that ‘Keep Britain White’ was a good slogan for the Tories to go into the 1951 general election.
As for World War II – the Beast says that, according to historian of fascism Martin Pugh, Churchill wasn’t opposed to fascism in itself; he was simply concerned that Nazi Germany threatened British interests in the North Sea.
The Beast goes on to say that Peter Hitchens has pointed out that Churchill wasn’t interested in saving the Jews; he was simply honouring treaties with Poland and France.
Visit the Beast’s own site for his opinion on other issues in which Churchill exposed his own villainy.
None of this is to deny Churchill’s contribution to WWII – which Mr McDonnell fully acknowledged. His leadership saved millions.
But don’t let the Conservatives whitewash history. He was no saint, and Mr McDonnell was right to straighten the record.