Churchill ‘villain’ comment sparks furious reaction

Posted By: February 15, 2019



Andrew Woodcock and Shaun Connolly, Press Association. Irish News. Friday, February 15, 2019

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has stood by his description of Sir Winston Churchill as a “villain.”


The Labor heavyweight made the comment in response to a sequence of quick-fire questions in an interview with Politico streamed live on the internet, one of which asked: “Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?”.


The Labor heavyweight’s comment sparked a furious reaction from Churchill’s admirers, with Sir Nicholas Soames – the grandson of the wartime prime minister – dismissing it as “foolish and stupid,” and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson demanding a retraction.


Prime Minister Theresa May declared her admiration for the “strong leadership, determination and unwavering personality” shown by her predecessor, whose portrait hangs on her study wall at 10 Downing Street.


But Mr. McDonnell, left, said that he welcomed the attention which his remark had drawn to Churchill’s role in sending in troops to break a miners’ strike in Tonypandy, South Wales, in 1910.


Despite the furor prompted by his comment, he told ITV News he would give the same answer again, adding: “You don’t want to upset people, but you want to be honest.


“If it’s prompted a more rounded debate about Churchill’s role, well I welcome it.”


In a sequence of quick-fire questions from the Politico website, streamed live on the internet on Wednesday, Mr. McDonnell was asked: “Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?”


He responded with two words: “Tonypandy – villain.”


Many on the left see Churchill’s reputation as tarnished by events in Tonypandy, where nearly 80 police and 500 civilians were injured, and one miner died.


The then home secretary’s responsibility for the clashes is a matter of fierce historical debate, but Mr. McDonnell’s response made clear that he held the former Tory leader to blame for deploying soldiers to assist police dealing with riots.