Winston Churchill was voted as the greatest ever Briton of all time in 2002.
The person in second place was John Lennon. This is hardly surprising although if the two men had ever met each other they would have probably been at each other’s throats. Churchill the Great War hero, with his “We will fight them on the beaches” rhetoric against the man who sang Give Peace a Chance and indeed handed back his knighthood in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Vietnam War and the Biafra crisis.
We will fight them on the breaches
However, John Lennon isn’t the only person who would be disgusted by some of Winston Churchill’s views. Let’s get one thing straight, Winston Churchill may have been the right person for the Second World War but there is a reason why the country voted him out of office in 1945. His views on ethnic minorities were infamous, he once said, “I hate Indians, they are a beastly people, with a beastly people”. In 1911 when he was Home Secretary he elected to send troops to South Wales after miners had gone on strike.
It is greatly ironic that alongside the statue of Churchill there is a statue of Mahattma Gandhi. Whilst now Gandhi (as well as Churchill) is considered as one of the greatest men of the 20th century, Churchill did not hold Indian Independence campaigner, who inspired Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela in quite the same regard as himself. Churchill once said of Gandhi, We should be rid of a bad man and an enemy of the Empire if he died.”
We will fight our own people
There are various other examples of Churchill’s bad character and his illiberal views. There is little doubt that he was a supremacist and believed that white people were superior to Native Indians, Aborigines and black people. As well as sending troops to South Wales in 1911, he did the same in 1912 in Liverpool, and two people were killed after soldiers opened fire. Fear of a communist uprising once again led to him dispatching troops to suppress dissent in Britain, this time in Glasgow where 10,000 troops were deployed.
The Black and tans, infamous for the Croke Park massacre in 1921 were 13 civilians were killed as the Black and Tans opened fire on a crowd that had attended a Gaelic football match.
However, Churchill was not a monster. He may have believed in the racial superiority of white people, but he had more in common with the Anarchists, killed in the Sidney Street siege in 1911, than he did the Nazis who he despised. He may have used excessive force but he was also a key member in bringing about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He may have looked down on the working class, but he was part of a government that laid the foundations for the Welfare State and the NHS during a time of war.
He continued the NHS when he was elected in 1951. He may have the image of a war hero, yet one of his most famous quotes, advocates diplomacy over conflict, “it is to better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.”
As the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s funerals, there are ways in which we could emulate him, but many more ways in which we should behave in the exact opposite manner to the former prime minister.