Shadow chancellor John McDonnell calls Winston Churchill a 'villain' for role

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has labelled Sir Winston Churchill a “villain” over his role in dealing with striking miners in Wales when he was home secretary in 1910.

In an interview with the Politico website, Mr McDonnell was asked: “Winston Churchill, hero or villain?”

After a moment’s pause for thought he replied: “Tonypandy – villain.”

He was referring to Churchill’s role in dealing with a strike by miners in the Rhondda Valley village of Tonypandy in November 1910.

Striking miners in South Wales in 1910
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Striking miners in South Wales in 1910

The initially peaceful strike had become more fractious after the strikers discovered the mine owners were intending to bring in workers from outside the area to keep the colliery machinery working.

Winston Churchill as home secretary in 1910
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Winston Churchill as home secretary in 1910

The local authorities asked the Home office for help and Churchill eventually agreed to send 200 metropolitan Police officers and a detachment of troops.

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On the night of 8 November 1910 the situation deteriorated leading to running battles in which one miner died and hundreds of people were injured.

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Police officers deployed to Tonypandy during the miners' strike of 1910
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Police officers deployed to Tonypandy during the miners’ strike of 1910

Responding to Mr McDonnell’s comments Churchill’s grandson, Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames 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.”

Churchill led a coalition government during WW11
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Churchill led a coalition government during WW11

The reputation of Britain’s wartime leader has been increasingly called into question in recent years.

The man voted the greatest Briton in a 2002 BBC poll has been accused of being a racist and misogynist.