Ben Sixsmith

Winston Churchill was no angel, but he wasn’t a demon either

Winston Churchill can be blamed for many things. He was an essential figure behind the disastrous landings at Gallipoli. It was on his word that the thuggish ‘Black and Tans’ were sent into Ireland. His racial animus towards Indian people did not help Britain to formulate an effective response to the Bengal Famine. He was insultingly quick to abandon our Polish allies to the Soviet Union. Yes, Churchill can be blamed for many things.

Many British writers and politicians, in an effort to retain their national pride as Britain declined on the world stage, have tended to deify the old bulldog. As Peter Hitchens wrote:

‘As a child, I studied many patriotic accounts of the war, my favourite being a cartoon strip produced by the boys’ weekly The Eagle, called The Happy Warrior. This cast Churchill as a sort of superhero who was somehow always right amid an unending succession of disasters that mysteriously ended in a final triumph. It would be many years before I understood how wrong this treasured picture was, and I still find it painful to acknowledge.’

As unhelpful and unhealthy as this myth-making is, a modern counter-narrative is even more obnoxious. Corbyn’s sinister second-in-command John McDonnell has called Churchill a ‘villain’. One can learn a lot about people from their attitudes towards other people. McDonnell claims that Churchill is a ‘villain’ for his allegedly rough treatment of Welsh miners but has said that Lenin and Trotsky, who, among other crimes of the Bolshevik age, crushed the sailors at Kronstadt, were among his biggest influences.

Naturally, the Labour Party’s ebullient propagandist Owen Jones has chimed in to say McDonnell’s words ‘should not be controversial.’ He reels off a potted case for the prosecution.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.

Or

Unlock more articles

REGISTER

Comments

Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in