The second most senior member of the UK opposition Labour Party has caused a huge uproar by branding Britain’s World War ll era prime minister Winston Churchill a "villain" amid a growing public debate about the true personality of "great British leaders".
John McDonnell, known as shadow chancellor in the parliament, said Thursday in an interview with the Politico website that Churchill had used troops to stop massive riots in a Welsh mining village in 1910, making him a villain who could use force everywhere to advance his objectives.
Churchill, viewed by many Britons as the nation’s savior against the Nazi Germany, has repeatedly been criticized for his imperialistic and supremacist policies against people in poor countries in Asia and Africa during his reign.
The most notable of his crimes documented in history is a decision to divert food from starving Indians in Bengal during a famine in 1943, which led to death of at least four million people.
Churchill said famously at the time that the famine was Bengalis’ own fault “for breeding like rabbits” as he prevented tens of thousands tons of food from reaching the starving people and diverted them to British soldiers and people in European countries like Greece.
A BBC poll in 2002 found Churchill the greatest Briton ever. However, experts and campaigners say ordinary people in Britain have never found an opportunity to know the true face of the former Conservative Party leader.
McDonnell’s comments about Churchill are expected to renew public discussions about "great British leaders" like Churchill. They also come amid growing fury about a decision to erect a statue of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in her home town in eastern England.
The statue is planned to be erected on a 10-foot-high plinth to prevent activists from defacing it.