John McDonnell provoked a furious backlash when he described Winston Churchill (pictured in 1914) as a ‘villain’
John McDonnell could not be more wrong in branding Winston Churchill a ‘villain’ over his actions towards the striking miners of Tonypandy in November 1910, but his statement has far more profound implications than merely a long-standing historical dispute about Labour Party demonology.
This warped view of history says much about McDonnell himself and goes to the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s Marxist-inspired regime. McDonnell prides himself on his own anti-Fascism, but blinds himself to the contribution of the person who did more to fight and ultimately destroy the Nazis than any other Briton.
As The Mail on Sunday’s serialisation of Tom Bower’s searing biography of Corbyn proves, McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, is the driving ideological force behind the weirdly obsessive Labour leader. So his views denigrating genuine British heroes such as Churchill are a troubling glimpse into a cabal that has real designs on Downing Street and power.
First, some facts about Churchill and the episode commonly used to besmirch his name: in early November 1910, up to 30,000 miners went on strike in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales over pay. The Chief Constable of Glamorgan had 1,400 policemen there, but asked for more, and also for troops. Churchill, who was the Liberal Home Secretary, sent 300 Metropolitan Police officers, and although troops were dispatched, they were not deployed.
On November 7 and 8, serious rioting broke out in the town of Tonypandy, where 63 shops were damaged and looted. The police used rolled-up raincoats to control the rioting. Four hundred standby soldiers were dispatched, but on November 8, Churchill ordered that ‘in no case should soldiers come in direct contact with rioters unless and until action had been taken by the police’.
NO ONE at this point was accusing Churchill of using unnecessary force. In fact, the decision not to use troops was criticised by The Times for showing weakness and praised by the Manchester Guardian as having ‘saved many lives’. When the BBC interviewed the Tonypandy strikers 55 years after the riots, Will Mainwaring, an ardent Labour Party activist, said: ‘We never thought that Winston Churchill had exceeded his natural responsibility as Home Secretary. The military that came into the area did not commit one single act that allows the slightest resentment by the strikers.’
Lives were eventually lost at a strike in Llanelli in South Wales in August 1911, when events grew so out of hand that Churchill did send in troops. They shot dead two rioters who had attacked a train under military protection and beaten its engineer unconscious. But it was only during the General Strike of 1926 that Churchill was turned into a bogeyman. In the Labour Party mythology that followed, he was held personally responsible for brutally suppressing the innocent workers of Tonypandy through military action. (He has even been accused of sending in tanks, seven years before they were invented.)
There was also an unpleasant whiff of anti-Semitism to the story, to which McDonnell – perhaps because of the controversy in his party – made no reference. For the rioting in Monmouthshire and eastern parts of Glamorgan in late 1910 and 1911 took on a more disturbing aspect when a mob of 250 people attacked Jewish-owned businesses in what has been termed the ‘Tredegar pogrom’. Churchill and Lord Haldane, the Secretary for War, were quick to send troops there, to protect the Jews.
It has uncomfortable echoes of current Labour politics. Today’s extract from Bower’s book charts how anti-Zionism became a near obsession for Corbyn since his early days as a trades union researcher, leading him to believe in what Bower describes as ‘the malign collective power of Jews’.
The company Corbyn keeps is significant. Quite aside from welcoming bloodthirsty terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, he has played host to Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a man who described Jews as ‘bacteria’. He has also accepted a £2,000 donation from a London-based Hamas sympathiser who applauded the stabbing of Jews. Corbyn refuses to say what he has done with the money.
The Shadow Chancellor (pictured today) was accused of ‘blackening the name’ of the country’s ‘greatest hero’ in comments made during an interview in Westminster
It is true that all political parties have their own myths, but McDonnell could easily have educated himself over Labour’s rewriting of the past. A more honest appraisal would have been to acknowledge that Churchill’s role in defying and subsequently defeating Fascism in the Second World War made him a hero, regardless of any villainous role he played (or in this case did not play) in industrial relations before the First World War.
But then the Marxist Left has long loathed Churchill. In his seminal Winston Churchill: Myth And Reality, historian Richard Langworth points out that even following Churchill’s death in 1965, Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson found it necessary to remind Parliament of ‘the sullen feet of marching men in Tonypandy’.
Churchill was the earliest and most staunch opponent of the Leninists after their revolution in Russia in 1917, and wanted to use British troops to ‘strangle Bolshevism in its cradle’. He also denounced the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which McDonnell and Corbyn’s political heroes on the British Marxist Left supported at the time, only changing their minds when Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941.
THE great Labour leaders of the past – giants such as Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison, who served Churchill honourably in the coalition that defeated Hitler – must be turning in their graves to hear John McDonnell call their noble wartime leader a villain.
For McDonnell to have such a distorted warped view of history should tell the British people all they need to know about the man who might be even more powerful than the Prime Minister after the next General Election.
Protest: Miners who were locked out of a Welsh pit in Aug 1910, leading to a bitterest disputes
McDonnell and Corbyn stand in a long line of ruthless hard-Left operators deploying notorious communist tactics. As last week’s extracts from Bower’s biography made clear, Corbyn – with McDonnell at his back – has adopted a Leninist blueprint for taking and controlling power at Westminster, while playing the ‘nice guy’. Seize power, purge and crush dissent – this has been his guiding philosophy.
Since assuming the Labour leadership, Corbyn’s office has campaigned relentlessly against opponents – opponents, that is, in his own party. From his earliest days as a councillor in the ‘loony Left’ borough of Haringey, Corbyn has detested disagreement. There, he encouraged activists to do his dirty work for him.
In one telling episode, Ken Livingstone told Corbyn he was ‘too nice’ to be Labour leader. ‘No one’s scared of you,’ he said. ‘John McDonnell will do all the scary stuff,’ was Corbyn’s blunt response.
We have been warned.
As for Labour moderates thinking of leaving the party, I would urge them to use this opportunity to take – in the words of Winston Churchill – ‘action this day’.
Andrew Roberts’s Churchill: Walking With Destiny is published by Allen Lane