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Saturday 7 January 2012
Letters: Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill, a flawed giant
Gallup Polls showed at least 78 per cent support for Churchill during the war, even at its worst (letters 31 December, 3, 5 January). In 1945, he was the first choice for PM of 48 per cent of the population; the highest-scoring Labour politician was Attlee with 13 per cent.
That year, Labour and other socialist parties received early 50 per cent of the votes but some 65 per cent of the seats, showing the undemocratic nature of our electoral system. I doubt if a Conservative victory in 1945 would have made much difference, but that's another matter.
I once wrote an article on the Churchill-bashers, dealing with inaccuracies in books by John Charmley and David Irving. They have of course been joined by politically correct Clive Ponting and various left-wingers. I know Churchill made mistakes but I still regard him as the greatest Briton of them all, and his detractors as malcontents.
Dr Gavin Lewis correctly questions the assertion that Churchill was admired by the overwhelming majority of the population (letters, 3 January). Growing up in a working-class area in Cardiff in the late 1940s/early1950s I remember that whenever Churchill appeared on the cinema newsreels he was noisily booed. Also my wife's father was a Rhondda miner all his working life and she tells me that he and his fellow workers didn't have a good word to say about him.
Historical memories such as the Tonypandy riot and General Strike were factors but also, such was the intensity and heroic nature of their own work effort to dig coal for victory, that they had little left to "admire a national icon".
Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan
JES Bradshaw makes a fair point (letters, 5 January), that the widespread marketing of Churchill and our Second World War heritage industry of the later 20th century may not have had an influence on allocating him a state funeral in 1965.
But even now the decisions of our political elite very rarely reflect the concerns of ordinary citizens – take Iraq, Peter Mandelson's peerage etc – how much less representative of widespread sentiment were establishment decisions made on the back of a feudal class system in 1965. Richard Welch's letter suggesting that by this time Churchill was forgiven for past sins doesn't include the man's full CV. To Gallipoli, and the General Strike, we can add unleashing a brutal, undisciplined military force on Ireland's civilians with the dreaded Black and Tans.
Also at a time when those on the progressive left were trying to form positive relations with the Commonwealth and between ethnic groups, Churchill was clinging to "dog in the manger" attitudes to race, empire and indigenous peoples that would have ostracised him from decent company in our own era of post-Stephen Lawrence complacency. It's also doubtful whether those interested in the Palestine/Israel situation were thinking positively about his contribution.
Churchill made great wartime speeches and at a time when it's possible the Nazis might have sued for peace he belligerently stumbled on to the only decent response to genocidal madmen: no compromise. But to claim he was universally loved or a genius is something else.
Dr Gavin Lewis
Today's generation is standing up against racism
Since the murder of of Stephen Lawrence, racial tensions have improved throughout the UK. We now have the largest ever number of MPs and peers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and the largest ever number of police come from BAME backgrounds. It is also true that most young people today fully respect those who come from BAME backgrounds.
When I was doing my GCSEs a couple of years ago, I studied the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, in which the stable-hand, Crooks, is left isolated by the other ranch workers because he is black, and was often referred to as a "nigger". This displays the racial tensions in society at the time the book was set in. But when studying the book the whole of my class was totally outraged by how Crooks was treated.
Young people today are willing to stand up against racism, and are quite happy to mix with those of other races. There are also now many more organisations fighting racism, including the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which campaigns against all types of persecution, the National Assembly Against Racism, Show Racism the Red Card, and others.
So I applaud the hard work that has already been done in fighting racism, and catching some of the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence. As Mr Justice Treacy has urged, I hope the police will hunt the remaining murderers.
The furore over Diane Abbott's racist comments tell us three things: one, she will not be arrested or lose her job, but if it was a white person making generalised negative comments about black people, then prosecution or sacking would be possible; two, she was responding to a valid point: why talk of a "black community" and have self-appointed leaders of supposed community?
We don't talk of white, straight or Christian communities so why talk about black, gay, or Muslim communities?; and three, apologising for causing offence means a person still believes in what they said or did that caused offence, they just want a controversy to go away.
The Home Office is reviewing the notorious Section 5 of the Public Order Act that deals with "insulting" and "abusive" words and behaviour. People can fill in the questionnaire and add comments on the Home Office website, under the heading, Consultations.
James Lawton (2 January) wrote, "... if Luis Suarez is not a racist – a belief accepted by his accuser, Patrice Evra – the crime he was charged with is the first ugly resort of those who are". He thus allows that a racist comment might not indicate a racist. Would Diane Abbott agree?
Diane Abbott says her Twitter comment, "White people love playing 'divide & rule'. We should not play their game" was taken out of context. Since you can tweet only 140 characters and the quote is 72, one wonders what the other 68 characters said which made such a sweeping generalisation acceptable?
I noted with interest the comments made by leading black professionals about their worst racial experiences, as detailed in Paul McKenzie's article (Life, 3 January).
As someone of Indian/Fijian descent, whose childhood was through the 1970s into the early 1980s, my experiences were littered with unsavoury incidents. One that always comes to the forefront of my mind is this one, which epitomised the ignorance and bigotry that still exists.
I had just played Sunday League football and was having the customary pint after the game. One of my teammates started telling a story about a "nigger" he had met. Another teammate said, "You can't say that in front of Daren". His response was "It's all right, Daren's not black black, he's a macaroon (coon)". It would almost be funny if it wasn't so sad.
Human survival is based on what you look like. In the heat of the hunt or the battle, basic appearance is what triggers the "attack" or "not attack" reaction. In battle, we shoot the man with the grey uniform and the square helmet and not the man in the kilt with a bonnet. In football, we pass to the man with the same-coloured shirt.
It requires a conscious intellectual effort to overcome these basic survival tools. I raise the question of whether we are all capable of the required intellectual effort. I hope I am.
Demonising the poor
Are there no steps this Government will not take to demonise the poor? I heard that Cameron intends to make sub-letting of council housing illegal. It has always been illegal to sub-let council housing without permission. So why does Cameron feel the need to repeat this?
I suggest it's because he wants to deflect attention from the lack of a coherent social housing policy by the Coalition. If there was sufficient social housing for this country's needs, rising prices for already over-priced private renting and the increasing homelessness due to job losses would be eradicated.
Where is the rebuttal from the left? Ed Miliband is strangely quiet. While David Cameron is attacking the working poor, there is a lack of vigorous opposition from the left. This is allowing David Cameron to consolidate the ideas he is proposing on any subject, while the effects of the Tory cuts make their presence felt mainly amongst working people.
Although some might say that Cameron's leadership is not as robust as it should be, compared to Miliband's it is positively presidential. Who is to rouse the left?
Democracy is what you make it
I would like to applaud our Foreign Secretary for his visit to Burma (report, 5 January) and show the UK's support for democracy as he did over Libya, Tunisia, Syria and Egypt. The Palestinians are looking for recognition, but what did our man do? Abstain. In the Arabian Sea, our navy is deployed to protect our commercial ships against pirates, yet when our countrymen sail to break an illegal blockade what protection do they get? Nil.
Mr Johnston (letters, 4 January) may not be so keen on supporting the £9,000-a-year tuition fees when he realises that the Government will be lending every student £9,000 a year for courses that cost on average less than £6,000 a year to teach, and every pound lent will increase the UK's deficit. The ceiling was set too high and most loans will never be repaid.
In referring to numbers of black council employees in Liverpool, Bill Boyle (letters, 6 January) appears to ignore all the other BME boxes on job-related forms. His omission of "mixed race" is particularly pointed, given Liverpool's long and distinctive history of "intermarriage" between black and white (often Irish) working-class people.
The mangled English in television sub-titling has given no little amusement. Just before Christmas, the following appeared on my TV screen, "A lot of dead be on the streets". It should have read "A lot of debris on the streets".
Chew this over
Passing the road sign "Slow Zebra Crossing", Neil Cooke (letters, 6 January) wonders why our local ones are so sluggish compared with their speedy Serengeti cousins. Perhaps it is because they feed on the Heavy Plant that a sign near our home here warns could be crossing the road.
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