"The statue of the great but flawed Winston Churchill must stay"

12 June 2020, 16:48

By Fiona Jones

Lord Finkelstein explains why the statue of Sir Winston Churchill should remain in Parliament Square.

The Cenotaph and Sir Winston Churchill statue are among some of the memorials that have been boarded up to protect them from defacement during protests.

The Prime Minister has branded it “absurd and shameful” that the statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is at risk of attack from anti-racism protesters.

This response comes after tensions in an ongoing debate about historical figures in Britain; the statue of slave trader Edward Colston has been toppled in Bristol, protesters have campaigned for the a monument of imperialist Cecil Rhodes to be removed, and a statue of Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell has been given 24/7 security.

Shelagh Fogarty asked Conservative Peer Lord Finkelstein why Mr Churchill is "above" some of what he believed and the actions he took outside of World War II.

Lord Finkelstein said firstly there must be a distinction between thought and action: "I think if you were to value statues only what people thought you probably wouldn't have a statue of anyone."

"[Winston Churchill] did a very great thing, he was the leader that saved Western liberal democracy," he said, "because he did a great thing...for me he was a great man, and for lots of people he was a great man, that doesn't mean to say that he didn't think or even do some things that we disapprove of.

"I think if you were to value statues only what people thought you probably wouldn&squot;t have a statue of anyone," Lord Finkelstein told LBC
"I think if you were to value statues only what people thought you probably wouldn't have a statue of anyone," Lord Finkelstein told LBC. Picture: LBC/PA

"There can be no debate that Churchill was a racist and more so by the way than simply merited by his time. He had a difference of an opinion with some liberal Conservatives who otherwise would have been his allies because of his view on colonialism on race."

Lord Finkelstein referenced the Bengal famine of 1943 which was partially caused by Churchill's British policies on exporting Indian produce, according to studies.

However, he said, a statue of Churchill is in Parliament Square for a very good reason "and it is right on balance that he has the public respect that he does.

"It's good the more that we debate it, the more we understand that he was flawed because great people often are flawed," Lord Finkelstein said.

Lord Finkelstein told Shelagh his mother was a survivor of Belsen concentration camp and "she wouldn't have been a survivor in my view without Churchill and large parts of my family were devastated by the Holocaust and those who survived and finally made their way to this country without him."

"Somebody who says we shouldn't have a statue to him because of other things that he thought or said is saying they want to effectively erase that great contribution and all I'm arguing is people are complicated," he said, using George Washington as an example.

"It's not the answer for some statues but for great figures, you can't just erase their greatness, that's also actually in my view, that would be saying the things he did for my people and for my family didn't matter," Lord Finkelstein said, suggesting we take his values and flaws together.