Winston Churchill was not a paragon of humanity. Why are Tories pretending to be shocked?

Churchill: Don’t let the Tories insult history by pretending he was a saint.

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.

No Comments

  1. marie February 16, 2019 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Playing to the crowd. They are kept going on jingoism.

  2. Martin Odoni February 17, 2019 at 12:36 am - Reply

    Had some interesting arguments about this on social media myself recently. Put up a post on Facebook a couple of weeks back that got some furrow-browed responses from friends; –

    “During the Second World War, one of the main powers had a brutal, militaristic, racist leader who was emotionally unstable, hyper-aggressive and completely intolerant of differing shades of opinion, and whose only real skill, despite a reputation for strategic genius, lay in delivering impressive speeches.

    Meanwhile, the opposing power had a leader called Adolf Hitler, who was just as bad.

    I have long maintained that the only major difference between Churchill and Hitler was that the Governmental system in the UK meant that Churchill was not allowed to wield the same degree of power, and so couldn’t get away with the same atrocities. Even so, he still had spine-chilling numbers of deaths on what passed for his ‘conscience’. He cheerfully turned the army on striking workers during the 1920s, he slaughtered French mariners in their hundreds during the war to prevent them surrendering ships to the Nazis, he caused famine in Bengal by diverting food away to ‘more deserving’ i.e. predominantly white countries, and he routinely bombed the developing world.

    The most maddening part is that he wasn’t even a particularly good Prime Minister, be it in war or in peace. His lionisation in British culture is almost entirely because of his speeches. (Which was arguably Hitler’s only real strength too.) On closer analysis, Churchill’s worshippers have nothing practical to point to in his favour, because his policies were seldom better than mediocre. Even during the war, there is a very strong case for arguing that the effectiveness of Britain’s Unity Government was more down to the quiet shrewdness of Clement Atlee as Deputy PM than it was to Churchill’s drunken ranting at his colleagues, while in peacetime, Churchill’s leadership was a sad joke.

    A hideous man, and it says something about the sickness of British culture that it chooses to acclaim him rather than to apologise to the world for his barbarism.”

    My assertion that Hitler was merely “just as bad” received objections even from people who despise Churchill. Whether we want to quibble over their respective degrees of brutality, I don’t know, but I struggle to see exactly what was better about Churchill. He and Hitler were both mentally unstable, bad-tempered, violent, racist, and had little regard for the value of human life.Even if I had to qualify it, I would still say with confidence that the points of resemblance between Hitler and Churchill heavily outweigh the differences.

    • Jay February 18, 2019 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      It seems your just jealous of a man who is clearly greater than yourself. Sorry but why compare a great man who despised Hitler and used thousands of allied lives to destroy an evil and quite frankly real threat to Western civilization.

      • Martin Odoni February 20, 2019 at 7:46 pm - Reply

        “why compare a great man who despised Hitler and used thousands of allied lives to destroy an evil and quite frankly real threat to Western civilization.”

        That could just as easily be a description of Joseph Stalin. So am I ‘jealous’ of Stalin if I express utter contempt for him too?

    • Zippi February 18, 2019 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Aye, my mother says that both he and Margaret Thatcher were on their way out… until their respective wars.

  3. Pat Sheehan February 17, 2019 at 12:36 am - Reply

    Poor old, outraged Boris desperately trying to keep his ‘money-spinning’ bandwagon going as historians all around him continue to erode the myth that Winston Churchill somehow almost single-handedly managed to “save this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny and our debt to him is incalculable”!
    That was the unashamedly nationalist line that was being preached to me as a boy in school and the kiddies comics of the day were fully in support of all that stuff. Captain Hurricane and his batman ‘Maggot’ (to put him in his proper place) were at the forefront of this rampaging crusade against the HUN and giving FRITZ unending hell. Of course I swallowed it all – hook line and sinker but I had yet to take an interest in ‘our history’ and the search for ‘truth’. Then, very gradually, over time, the reality began to take a different shape as information percolated through regarding the ‘eastern front’ and what had happened there. Leningrad and Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk and a host of other awful struggles that began to make hell look like a cosy corner. Unbelievable millions died there in that terrible onslaught to halt the spread of fascism, that many in the UK had supported at the outset, and this monumental sacrifice simply dwarfs the tragic losses we sustained throughout the war and yet even now, after all this time, the debt we owe to them is barely recognised. For some, for other reasons, it is more important to maintain the myths: control the truth: maintain control!

  4. Moon Wolf February 17, 2019 at 6:38 am - Reply

    I have a loose awareness what is going on here, to which I form the following view.

    It is evident that the British way of life is under attack, entire towns and parts of cities are rapidly becoming foreign dominated to the point where English is not the primary Language.

    Our cultures have, and are still being eroded as a direct result of the EU project which is stands against Democracy and Nationality; except their own EU identity that is.

    Churchill is the not the first to come under attack, where all of his positive qualities are ignored and only his negative qualities are highlighted to create a forced narrative.

    Actually, aside from key figures. Anybody who stands firmly and strongly with their English identity is often attacked. We are called racist or facist for even speaking the truth that we are English and from England.

    It’s great for people to carry a bias, and then parade around online slating all those who stand against the EU; not against Europe, just the corrupt Anti-Democratic Superstate.

    I do not care about Churchill’s past problems. Times were different then and the British Empire had evident issues, such as racism towards outsiders and sexism. We have gone a long way since then, and trying to compare now to then is wrong.

    I loosely see a pattern right now where the British way of life is under attack, by those who wish to make British dirty and to tear apart those who made this country great, or who gave the world freedom.

    Me personally, I don’t care if there are large numbers of foreign nationals in medium and large sized cities. Tourism and skilled labour is key for growth and development.

    What bothers me, is that those in government in league with those in the EU. Have allowed large cultural blocks to settle in the smaller towns and cities. The resulting effect now is that English language is slowly being forced out of some of those smaller towns. Now, 6 out of 10 people in the centres speak Polish or another Eastern European language when walking around in the street.

    They don’t integrate, they build their own shops, have their schools, places of business and have successfully built their own communities.

    I don’t see them as the problem, they are just people. Rather the government and those who support the EU multi-cultural project are the problem for not promoting better integration and filtering out all those who cant speak English that wish to live and work here.

    P.S. I don’t care what you say about me. My wife is Chinese, my sister’s family is Mauritian and my other sister’s family is South African.

    I am not against Europe, or foreign nationals, just those neo-liberal policies and disrespect for the British culture structure, as well as English as a nationality.

  5. Marcus de Mowbray February 17, 2019 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Churchill was a good leader for the nine months of Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Also he liked building,painting, brick-laying and had a sense of humour. After WW2 he did encourage the idea of a United Europe, Human Rights and War Crimes Trials. These are his only good aspects

    The rest of his military and political careers were a disaster. Gallipoli, Italy (“The soft underbelly of Europe”) and his WW2 conferences with Roosevelt and Stalin were a total embarrassment: they knew he was a USELESS military commander and totally side-lined him. He is responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths and untold suffering. He fought tooth-and-nail against the NHS and Welfare State.

    Never deny his few good aspects and moments (in full above ^), but to make him out to be a world-class hero is absurd in the extreme! Only Tories could be daft and blinkered enough to think of him as a great person.

  6. Meryl Davids February 17, 2019 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Right man right place right time for ww2 the rest was pretty much a disaster

  7. Joy Stockton February 17, 2019 at 9:39 am - Reply

    The Beast is entitled to his interpretation as is anyone else . In Wales we know or did before the national curriculum, all about Tonypandy. He was human, a man of his time not ours and he rallied a wholeg country behind him. Some achievement no matter what you want to believe

  8. Dan February 17, 2019 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Nicely put, Mike. Churchill is an interesting figure from our history, neither entirely a hero or a villain, and as flawed as most of us are in some way or another. It’s important to remember that.

  9. nmac064 February 17, 2019 at 10:24 am - Reply

    In the 1940s the C-in-C Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, referred to Churchill as the most dishonest politician he had ever known. Never forget it was Churchill himself who wrote his own history.

  10. Justin Greenwood February 17, 2019 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Taking a copy from Churchill and modifying it a bit.

    “Never in the field of human stupidity
    has so little been done by so few
    that has affected many”

    I think that sums the tory party up quite nicely

  11. Michael McNulty February 17, 2019 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Though Churchill wanted to fight Hitler when most of the establishment wanted to appease him he was no friend of the working classes. He admired their wartime grit but said their peacetime demands for better conditions were tiresome.

    During the General Strike of 1926 he wanted troops to shoot strikers until advised they were working class too and could turn their weapons on their officers. This was less than a decade after the Russian revolution, and because a lot of strikers were trained soldiers from WWI they could use the weapons to start revolution here.

    Like many in the establishment he thought Mussolini’s fascism and Franco’s falangism might be the way to contain the working classes, so the west except for Germany had a policy of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Not until after Hitler had been in power for several years did Churchill grasp the true nature of fascism.

  12. Growing Flame February 17, 2019 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    McDonnell was right to begin the dividing up of Churchill’s life by saying “Tonypandy-villain”, leaving the rest of the man’s career to be assessed. I agree with most other writers on this page about the negative points but I think we have missed his chequered “leadership” in wartime. In the First World War, he became insistent that Allied troops invade the peninsular Dardenelles area of Turkey. I wonder if it was an aspect of his racism that led him to assume that Turkish defenders would be poor fighters. After months of horror and death, especially for Australian and New Zealand troops, this assumption proved false and the Allied survivors were withdrawn under cover of darkness.
    We might think that Churchill would learn the lesson that attacking narrow peninsulas is fraught with failure as it is easier for defenders to close narrow points of land rather than have to cover wide-open spaces. But, come the Second World War, Churchill was at it again. This time he insisted on an invasion of Italy, a long , narrow country. He called it the “soft, underbelly” of the Axis powers. (Another racist assumption about the fighting qualities of the Italians?)
    The whole thing drew much-needed resources away from the imminent invasion of Normandy but Churchill was adamant. In the end, at great cost, Allied service personnel fought their way north from Salerno, got stuck south of Rome and then, to try to break out, had to organise another landing at Anzio. By the war’s end, many were still stuck in central and Northern Italy playing little further role in the war. (My father landed on both beaches and eventually came to a halt in Florence. Where they waited for it all to end.

    So, my assessment includes Tonypandy-villain
    Dardanelles–inept villain
    Salerno and Anzio-inept and cloth-eared villain.

  13. Jay February 18, 2019 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I respect Vox. But why go on a rampage against a clearly influential man who led people in an age where what he did was acceptable. I’m not saying what he did is right but surely defeating tyranny and bringing prosperity to the world is worth talking about more than the type of mindset that he had along with millions of other citizens.

    • Mike Sivier February 18, 2019 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      You think deliberately starving people because they belonged to a subset of humanity that is different from one’s own was acceptable in the early 20th century? If so, you must agree with my appraisal of Mr Churchill’s behaviour as barbaric. He led a country that contributed hugely to the defeat of Hitler’s tyranny, despite being tyrannical himself in many ways as demonstrated. He did not bring prosperity to the world.

      • Zippi February 18, 2019 at 9:49 pm - Reply

        Subset of humanity? Did you forget the inverted commas?

        • Mike Sivier February 19, 2019 at 9:19 pm - Reply

          No. What makes you say that? It’s not racist, if that’s what you’re implying.

    • Zippi February 18, 2019 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      What he did was acceptable to whom? Not to those on the receiving end. As far as the mindset that he shared with others goes, did Hitler also not have his supporters yet we rightly criticise those who followed him and carried out his bidding. That people went along with it doesn’t make it somehow right. remember the words of Dr. Martin £uther King Jr.: “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws.”

  14. Zippi February 18, 2019 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Aye, this most certainly is a dig a John McDonnell who didn’t merely state that Churchill was a villain but he made a qualified choice, under pressure. Churchill was both hero AND villain, as most people are; it depends on who you ask as to which answer you get. There are many who will laud Nelson Mandela and others who will vilify him; black South Africans. He is not considered an hero universally.
    Andrew Neill did a sterling job of singing his praises, on This Week, last Thursday, almost in an effort to drown out any possible criticism of the man but you can’t change the facts; he did some good and he did some bad and unless you were subject to the bad, you won’t hear of it. Sadly, such selective deafness doesn’t make the bad any less true.

    • Mike Sivier February 19, 2019 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      I think it’s the mindset behind the decisions that is important. We may draw our own conclusions.

      • Zippi February 25, 2019 at 1:32 am - Reply

        £ike I said, it’s a subjective question and the answer that you get depends, entirely, on who you ask.

  15. Robbie February 19, 2019 at 4:57 am - Reply

    Of course this isn’t really about Churchill but an ill judged comment from McDonnell who has made a semi apology for another of his offensive and unnecessary gaffes and which did not shock Conservatives but rightly made many angry. Mike, McDonnell did not “straighten the record”, it has been available for over fifty years since the great man’s death…he was just attention seeking..

    • Mike Sivier February 19, 2019 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      Fair enough. So you agree that he presented the facts and the Tories who so publicly took offence were distorting them unacceptably. Thanks for clearing that up.

      • Robbie February 20, 2019 at 4:25 am - Reply

        Don’t try and deliberately twist what I say, please, Mike, it is unworthy of you. My point was that the kerfuffle was about McDonnell’s ill judged and misuse of the word “villain”. History has already recorded the input that Churchill had..there was no record to be straightened. McDonnell presented his version of an event that Churchill (who actually sympathised with the miners) had no option as Home Secretary but to oversee the quelling of the riots.

        • Mike Sivier February 20, 2019 at 8:33 am - Reply

          But Robbie, you twist what others say. For example, John McDonnell was asked: “Winston Churchill – hero or villain?” So your complaint is about the interviewer’s ill-judged misuse of that word, if anything. And it’s only your opinion that it was ill-judged misuse at all. As is the reinterpretation of history that you present here, which will not fool anybody.

      • Robbie February 20, 2019 at 9:36 am - Reply

        I agree the question was rather pointless as with such a complex character a one word answer is nigh on impossible Perhaps McDonnell when asked “hero or Villain?”…Answer – “Neither and both”. My opinion I suggest is as valid (and supported byfact) as the next person’s and, in this instance is one shared by the many not the few.

        • Mike Sivier February 20, 2019 at 1:07 pm - Reply

          I disagree.

  16. Robbie February 20, 2019 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Your choice, of course…I maintain my opinion is just as valid as thre next person’s, even if that’s you!

    • Mike Sivier February 20, 2019 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      And other readers will decide for themselves if that is true.

      • Robbie February 21, 2019 at 3:07 am - Reply

        Their choice – hope they consider all the facts, as I have.

Leave A Comment