How did Britain become so divided?

How did British society become this fractured and its history so polarised and what did Winston Churchill have to do with it, if anything? Dominic Selwood explains

Monday 08 November 2021 00:01 GMT
Great Britain: a nation that doesn’t know what it stands for
Great Britain: a nation that doesn’t know what it stands for (Getty/The Independent)

Like maypole and Morris dancing, defacing statues of Winston Churchill is now a rite of spring and summer. Whether it is coiffing him with a green Mohican, spraying blood-red paint around his mouth, or simply aerosoling the word racist on to him, the appearance of the first bluebells tells us it will not be long before there are photographs of a police cordon around a jowly Churchill.

Anyone now over the age of 56 was alive for Churchill’s funeral. On that day The Times described the solemnities as a “moving tapestry of history”, highlighting the palpable affection of the thronging crowds. Everyone, it enthused, was “bound together … by a shared intimacy in personal memories of this great and lovable man. It was as if they were taking their own father to his burial.”

Over half a century on, whenever a Churchill statue is defaced, the nation splits into hermetically sealed clans. In one corner are those on a spectrum from shocked to incandescent. In the other are a coalition ranging from those who note that Churchill – like everyone – had some serious flaws, to those who want no part in a Britain where he is venerated as father of the nation.

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