On the banks of the Thames, a 40-foot bust of Churchill

South Bank sculpture: War leader's family back plan to use Millennium cash to revive the bulldog spirit with giant statue
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A giant head of Churchill, the size of a house and perched on the banks of the Thames, could become Britain's answer to the Statue of Liberty.

The 40ft by 35ft bust of the war leader, housing a cafe in its plinth, would be sited on London's South Bank if an application to the Millennium Commission is successful.

The project is the inspiration of Oscar Nemon, favourite sculptor of the Royal Family and the political establishment. The Queen, the Queen Mother, the Princess of Wales and Sigmund Freud sat for him, as did Truman, Eisenhower, Baroness Thatcher and Sir Winston.

One of his statues of Churchill stands in the Guildhall and a second in the Members' Lobby of the House of Commons, where MPs have touched its toe for luck so often that the bronze patina has worn off. Mr Nemon originally suggested the idea to the Fine Arts Commission in the 1960s, but at that time the scale of the project was perceived as tasteless and overblown and it was turned down and forgotten.

The Yugoslav-born sculptor who fled to England during the Second World War died 10 years ago, but his son, Falcon Nemon Stuart, a record producer, has revived the proposal after finding details of the giant bronze bust among his father's papers. He is discussing the idea with Southwark council and the English Tourist Board before submitting an application to the Millennium Commission.

Mr Nemon Stuart has already won some powerful supporters. His allies include Lady Soames, Sir Winston's daughter, and his grandson, the MP Winston Churchill. He also has backing from the Churchill Society and John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, is understood to be in favour.

The "Giant Bust" would cost up to pounds 1.5m to create. It would be mechanically enlarged from Mr Nemon's original plaster bust of Churchill and then cast in bronze. Its size is an intrinsic part of the project's aim to reflect the emotional size and power of Churchill, who was famed during the war for his bulldog tenacity, reflected in his "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech and his promise to fight the Germans on the beaches.

Mr Nemon Stuart's first choice of site is the South Bank close to the National Theatre. But other possible locations include Tower Bridge, Greenwich and Hampstead - where his father's statue of Freud stands.

Mr Nemon's clay maquette of the giant bust, which survives only in photographs, showed the war leader's head jutting over three huge steps. Mr Nemon Stuart believes these should house a cafe and exhibition space filled with busts of former prime ministers.

With a nod toward the next millennium, the base of the head would also house computers connected to the Internet from which MPs could give on- line interviews each day. But the producer stresses the project should not be perceived as a political celebration of a Tory statesman, but as a monument to the spirit of a leader who saved Britain from Hitler.

Mr Nemon Stuart said yesterday: "The image of Great Britain is going down the tubes because we don't understand how to capitalise on our past. We are not used to the grand gesture. This could become a symbol of freedom in the same way as the Statue of Liberty. It would be a celebration of the man who saved our country from fascism and gave us democratic hope for the future."