Churchill the Villain

Doubtless John McDonnell will get a lot of stick from ‘patriots’ for expressing the opinion in a TV interview that Winston Churchill was a ‘villain’: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-47233605. He made it clear that he was referring specifically to his conduct as Home Secretary during the 1910 ‘Tonypandy Riots’ in South Wales – Churchill is supposed to have set the military against the strikers – and not to his career more generally. But the right-wing press is unlikely to make that distinction. For them, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, by attacking ‘the Greatest Ever Englishman’ in this way, has uttered something very close to blasphemy. I’m sure we’ll be reminded of it several times during the course of the next General Election.

No serious historian will dispute that Churchill had his ‘villainous’ sides. Everyone is a mixture of good and bad, although perceptions of which are the good and which the bad bits can change over time. India is, in my opinion, another huge stain on Winston’s escutcheon. And his policies and strategies even during the years of his greatest glory – World War II – are not without their critics. I’ve written about these, in two review essays: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n02/bernard-porter/over-several-tops, and https://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n16/bernard-porter/mule-races-and-pillow-fights. (They may be behind pay walls. You’ll just have to subscribe.)

But oh! His rhetoric, when it mattered! As a child of the War – quite literally – I’m afraid I can’t be persuaded to loathe his memory as some older and younger Leftists seem to do today.

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2 Responses to Churchill the Villain

  1. TJ says:

    I cant quite share a sanguine view of Churchill, and not just because of Tonypandy but even after 1940 ( Bengal famine), and despite his enormous popularity as war leader, millions saw through him as a peacetime leader in 1945. Their is a case against, but is rarely heard because of his canonisation by the Tory Party, adoption by ambitious politicians (B. Johnson) who see themselves as his heir, and a patriotic media. But as we know Churchill was a very semi-detached Tory, and was quite sceptical about the Party and its establishment.

    Liked by 1 person

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