Revisiting Winston Churchill’s record
25 June, 2020
‘Winston Churchill was an imperialist, and he had some racist ideas, but he had no sympathy at all with fascism’
• JESSICA Baldwin accuses Winston Churchill, as home secretary before the Great War, of “setting tanks on strikers in Tonypandy”, (What Churchill’s legacy means for the country now, June 18).
The tank wasn’t invented until 1916, the British Army’s first examples going into action on the Western Front in September that year.
The Tonypandy incident, when striking Welsh miners engaged in rioting, occurred in November 1910.
Churchill sent 200 officers of the Metropolitan police to assist the Welsh police in restoring order. He also sent troops, one infantry and one cavalry unit, to Swindon and Cardiff so they were on hand if needed.
The troops were actually sent in to Tonypandy by the local magistrates not by Churchill. They took no action and hurt no one because the rioters calmed down as soon as they appeared.
Jessica Baldwin also blames Churchill “for the partition of Ireland, the Black and Tans, and everything that resulted from the creation of the British border…”.
Churchill, at the time, was a member of the cabinet, but partition was agreed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty between the British government, principally David Lloyd George as prime minister, and the Irish leadership. Churchill had no decisive influence in this.
And the recruitment of the Black and Tans, that is the emergency reinforcements for the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1920-21, was at the instance of the RIC’s own Inspector-General, who did not report to Churchill at the war office but to Sir John French, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and to the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
Dragging Churchill into it is an ahistorical, ignorant and bad-faith argument.
Jessica Baldwin goes on to blame Churchill for “the starvation of Bengal”. The Bengal famine occurred in 1943 due to a cyclone destroying the December 1942 rice crop. The Indian provinces had been self-governing since 1935.
The entire war cabinet in London, not just Churchill, took the decision not to try and divert desperately needed Allied shipping to the Bay of Bengal, where much of it was certain to be sunk by the Japanese, simply to pour further supplies into an administrative system which could not cope.
And Baldwin claims that, during our “lone stand” in 1940-41, when Britain was the only country in Europe that was not enemy, enemy-allied, enemy-occupied or neutral, we somehow had “help from the 8.5 million colonial forces.” This is ludicrous.
Baldwin accuses Churchill of “fascist ideas and statements”. This is an absurd claim. Churchill was an imperialist, and he had some racist ideas, but he had no sympathy at all with fascism.
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