The grandson of Sir Winston Churchill is marking the 50th anniversary of his death today by launching a £6,000 prize to cement his legacy as a founding father of the European Union.
Sir Nicholas Soames, a Conservative MP and former Armed Forces Minister, will fuel the debate over whether the Prime Minister who led Britain to victory in the Second World War was a Europhile or Eurosceptic.
Pro-Europeans often cite a 1946 speech by Churchill calling for “a kind of United States of Europe.” But sceptics, including the Ukip leader Nigel Farage, accuse the Europhiles of “hijacking” one sentence by Churchill. They quote him as saying: “If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always chose the open sea.”
Writing for The Independent, Sir Nicholas announced that the annual prize from the pro-EU British Influence group will go to young people who create the best campaign to “make Churchill the European statesman relevant to a new era.” He added: “In these difficult times, Britain needs a European vision to promote its values and inspire its people.”
Peter Wilding, the director of British Influence, said: “We are really excited about this project and proud that Churchill's own grandson has given it his seal of approval. All too often in the past few years, Churchill's monumental legacy has been hijacked by Europhobes and defeatists calling for retreat, surrender and a Little England. We want to see his legacy revived and reclaimed by the leaders of tomorrow. We are not going to be that country if we cut ourselves off from the rest of Europe and sit sulking on the edge of things, punching below our weight."
Mr Wilding added: “Leadership is not wrapping yourself in the Union Jack and invoking Churchill's name. Patriotism is not about pulling up the drawbridge. Young people instinctively know that - and polls show they regard Ukip as a ridiculous throwback. We want to challenge them to rediscover Churchill's European legacy and come up with a positive vision for a Britain that can continue to be Great, in a globalised world.”
The Churchill Prize will award £3,500 to under-30s who want to run local or social media campaigns on what Churchill’s legacy means for the European debate. A further £2,500 will go to charities or groups working to promote British leadership in Europe.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies