John McDonnell gets MPs worked up about 'villain' Winston Churchill
Just in case you were wondering what MPs thought of the wartime PM…
John McDonnell is being criticised by plenty of Tories and a fair few Labour types for calling Winston Churchill a "villain" over his role in dealing with striking miners in 1910. But where exactly did he go wrong in the eyes of his detractors?
Health secretary Matt Hancock led the attacks on the shadow chancellor by talking up the former PM. “Churchill was one of the greatest ever to have lived. Courageous, compassionate & principled. Flawed too, but human enough to admit it. Saved our country, to boot. To say he was a villain says more of the smallness of the speaker than the great man,” he said.
The angriest Tory MP on social media was Rachel Maclean, who fumed about the shadow chancellor’s “grotesque lies about Churchill” that apparently show his “anti-British and unpatriotic values”.
Meanwhile Robert Courts – aka the man who replaced David Cameron as Tory MP for Witney – seemed most upset by the shadow chancellor’s failure to do thorough research before speaking out. He tweeted: “The story John McDonnell quotes is part of Labour mythology - and untrue. Shame he didn't check facts before commenting."
Elsewhere Labour MP-turned-Independent John Woodcock had a theory. “The real reason John McDonnell could never praise Winston Churchill is surely his role against the IRA with whom Mr McDonnell associated so closely,” he reckoned.
Unimpressed Labour MPs included Ian Austin who tweeted a photo of a fetching figurine of “the greatest-ever Briton” on his mantelpiece. But not all Labour politicians were so keen to join in the chorus of condemnation after McDonnell's comments hit Twitter on Wednesday evening.
One-time rising star MP and friend of the Corbynites Clive Lewis said that McDonnell was "right to acknowledge the complexities of people like Winston Churchill" and that "we should choose our heroes with an understanding of the full-spectrum of their humanity".
Even a few of the Corbyn critics in Labours ranks spoke up for the shadow chancellor. Chris Bryant has not been afraid to criticise the Labour leadership in the recent past. But not on this one. He tweeted:
“As MP for the Rhondda I agree with @johnmcdonnellMP on Tonypandy. The Rhondda was the only seat where Churchill was never welcome. He was wrong about India, too, but without his leadership and ability to reach out to Labour in 1940 we wd never have fought and defeated fascism.”
Steve Reed is another Labour MP who certainly cannot be described as a Corbynista. He said:
“My grandad hated him and wouldn’t hear his name spoken because he sent in troops to shoot striking miners.”