Winston Churchill was a ‘villain’, says shadow chancellor John McDonnell

John McDonnell has called Sir Winston Churchill a “villain” over his role in dealing with striking miners in 1910.

At a Politico event, when asked to give a one-word answer on whether Churchill was a hero or villain, the shadow chancellor said: “Tonypandy – villain”.

During the Tonypandy riots of 1910, troops were sent out to control striking miners who wrecked town centre shops and mine owners’ property.

Mr Churchill’s decision to send troops to support police quelling riots in Tonypandy has long been a subject of historical debate. In a question and answer session with website Politico, Mr McDonnell was asked: “Winston Churchill, hero or villain?” The shadow chancellor replied: “Tonypandy – villain”.

The comment referred to when Mr Churchill ordered 200 Metropolitan Police officers into Tonypandy, with a detachment of Lancashire Fusiliers held in reserve in Cardiff. The soldiers were eventually called into the Rhondda Valley village to help deal with the situation.

The wartime leader, who was later knighted, was voted the greatest Briton in a BBC poll in 2002. During the live Q&A in London, he also suggested Labour is still pursuing a snap general election, rather than a second Brexit referendum. “We’re still in the hope of a general election, but it’s unlikely, so, yeah, I think [Starmer was right],” Mr McDonnell said.

Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames, grandson of the former Conservative prime minister, told the Daily Telegraph: “Frankly it’s a very foolish and stupid thing to say, surely said to gain publicity. “I think my grandfather’s reputation can withstand a publicity-seeking assault from a third-rate, Poundland Lenin. I don’t think it will shake the world.”

Labour MP Ian Austin made it clear he disagreed with Mr McDonnell’s comments by posting a picture on social media of a figurine of the wartime leader he keeps at home.

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