Boris wages war on cancel culture

Boris wages war on cancel culture: PM is seeking new charities chief to stamp out ‘dangerous modern hysteria’ amid fears ‘vocal woke minorities’ have ‘hijacked public bodies’

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking a new charities chief who will wage a war on ‘cancel culture’ 
  • It comes amid fears some charities have been hijacked by minorities trying to ‘burnish their woke credentials’
  • Last week, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust removed pictures of the wartime leader from its website
  • It was forced to perform a partial U-turn amid a furious public backlash led by Number 10 Downing Street
  • Tory MPs called on Mr Johnson to ‘take a stand against this dangerous modern hysteria’ of cancel culture 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking a new charities chief who will wage a war on cancel culture amid fears that some charitable bodies in Britain have been hijacked by vocal Left-wing minorities trying to ‘burnish their woke credentials’.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has warned that some charities are ‘hunting for divisions’ in British society after a string of cases in which bodies including the National Trust have tried to erase their links with ‘controversial’ historical figures.

Last week, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust removed pictures of the wartime leader from its website and changed its name to the Churchill Fellowship, while carrying a statement on its website calling the wartime PM’s views on race ‘unacceptable today, a view that we share’. 

It was forced to perform a partial U-turn, reinstating his photograph but insisting the name change will remain and pointing out it has the support of Churchill’s grandchildren amid a furious public backlash led by Number 10 Downing Street. 

The charity said it believes the old name was ‘confusing’ and claims the change is not linked to his role in Britain’s imperial history or an attempt to ‘disown’ him. However, Mr Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, hit back, calling him a ‘hero’ who ‘helped save this country and the whole of Europe from a fascist and racist tyranny by leading the defeat of Nazism’.  

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph today, the Culture Secretary said that the Government has instructed those leading the search to test whether candidates would ‘restore charities’ focus to their central purpose and empower trustees to be robust’.

Mr Dowden said: ‘The Churchill Fellowship has now stated that it is not seeking to disown the reason that they exist, which is welcome. But I found it quite extraordinary that it got to the position where this clarification was required.’ 

He said the example was ‘not an isolated case’, adding: ‘This just another example of is a worrying trend in some charities that appear to have been hijacked by a vocal minority seeking to go out of their way to burnish their woke credentials. In so doing they not only distract charities from their core missions but also waste large amounts of time and money.’

It comes as 25 Tory MPs called on the Prime Minister to stamp out cancel culture, warning that the trend ‘risks fracturing the nation and ushering in a system of mob rule in which there are no winners.’

The letter, organised by Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the party’s Common Sense Group of MPs, highlights the formation of a new campaign, called Britain Uncancelled, which was apparently up to ‘take a stand against this dangerous modern hysteria’.  

‘We must begin the process of reversing cancel culture before it becomes institutionalised and steals a march over common decency,’ the MPs warn.


Boris Johnson is seeking a new charities chief who will wage a war on ‘cancel culture’ amid fears that some charitable bodies in Britain have been hijacked by vocal Left-wing minorities trying to ‘burnish their woke credentials’. Oliver Dowden has warned that some charities are ‘hunting for divisions’ after a string of cases in which bodies have tried to erase their links with ‘controversial’ historical figures

Last summer Black Lives Matter activists attacked the Churchill statue in Parliament Square and smeared graffiti on it

The new website has a page stating that the charity ‘stands in solidarity with those in the fight against racism and with our Fellows from minoritised racial communities’. It added: ‘Today there is controversy about aspects of Sir Winston’s life. Many of his views on race are widely seen as unacceptable today, a view that we share’

The original Winston Churchill Memorial Trust name was removed from the charity’s website, as was a picture of the great man

Yesterday the charity put up a new statement, with a picture of Sir Winston, praising him and denying they were cutting ties – although they will not be reverting back to the old name

By Harry Howard 

Wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, who led Britain to victory in the Second World War, has been criticised by some campaigners who say he was racist.

They highlight factors including his alleged inaction in the 1943 Bengal Famine in India; his views on Indian independence and the fact he was in favour of using chemical weapons against people he regarded as ‘uncivilised’.

Bengal Famine

Whilst some critics attribute blame to Churchill for failing to do enough to prevent the deaths of three million people in the Bengal Famine, which was triggered by a flooding and a cyclone, other historians disagree.

Blame has been pinned on him because he argued against re-supplying Bengal with food to preserve supplies for the ongoing fight against Nazi Germany.

His defenders point out that after receiving news of the spreading food shortages he told his Cabinet he would welcome a statement from Lord Wavell, the new Viceroy of India, about how he planned to ensure the problems were ‘dealt with’.

He then wrote a personal letter urging the Viceroy to take action.

Tirthankar Roy, a professor in economic history at the LSE, argues India’s vulnerability to weather-induced famine was due to its unequal distribution of food.

He also blamed a lack of investment in agriculture and failings by the local government.

‘Winston Churchill was not a relevant factor behind the 1943 Bengal famine,’ he told The Times in July.

‘The agency with the most responsibility for causing the famine and not doing enough was the government of Bengal.’

On Indian Independence

Churchill, who was strongly opposed to Indian independence, also derided the leader of the movement, Mahatma Gandhi, as a ‘half-naked holy man’.

He also said privately that he ‘hated’ Indians, branding them a ‘beastly people with a beastly’ religion.

The politician’s views were heavily coloured by the fact that he fought against rebellious tribes in the country when he was posted there as a soldier.

Advocated the use of chemical weapons

In defending the deployment of chemical weapons – despite the horrific way in which they killed and maimed enemy combatants – Churchill said he was ‘strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.’

Churchill had advocated the use of tear gas and poison gas against rebels in what was then Mesopotamia in 1920, during what was known as the Iraqi Revolt.

However, historians have since questioned whether the weapons were actually used in the region.

And in the 1919 memo in which he made the controversial comments, he went on to say that the ‘moral effect’ of the use of chemical weapons should be ‘so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum.’

His belief in racial hierarchies

In 1937, Churchill said he had no sympathy for Native Americans or Indigenous Australians, despite their mistreatment at the hands of white settlers.

He said: ‘I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.’

However, whilst Churchill did believe in racial hierarchies, historian Richard Toye said he was ‘not unique’ in having such as views at the time.

He added: ‘Although Churchill did think that white people were superior, that didn’t mean he necessarily thought it was OK to treat non-white people in an inhumane way.’

What about the Nazis?

In a 2002 BBC poll, Sir Winston was voted the Greatest Briton of all time for his role in defeating Nazi Germany.

When he took over as Prime Minister in May 1940, the only other real contender for the role was Lord Halifax, who advocated striking a peace deal with Nazi Germany.

He then led Britain through the rest of the Second World War and roused morale by famously vowing: ‘We shall never surrender’.

Despite this central role, left-wing critics have even derided this aspect of Churchill’s legacy.

Kehinde Andrews, a professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, said in an online discussion at Churchill College, Cambridge, earlier this year: ‘Was it Churchill out there fighting the war? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. I’m pretty sure he was at home.

‘I’m pretty sure that if Churchill wasn’t in the war it would have ended the same way.’

What Churchill’s defenders have said

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who wrote a well-received biography of Churchill in 2014, previously said it was the ‘height of lunacy’ to accuse the politician of racism.

He said Churchill ‘stood alone’ against a ‘racist tyranny that without his resistance would have overwhelmed this country and the rest of Europe’.

Fellow Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts said in the Mail on Sunday in June that it was important not to judge the former PM by modern standards.

He said: ‘To wrench historical figures out of their historical contexts and expect them to hold modern views on issues such as race is anyhow absurd.

‘People’s reputations are being trashed for holding opinions that a large majority of people held at the time – essentially for being insufficiently woke.

‘Even Mahatma Gandhi held what to us today are extremely offensive views about black Africans.’

The historian also pointed out that, unlike the father of Communism Karl Marx, Churchill ‘never used the N-word’, which he said ‘dyed-in-the-wool racists’ tended to use at the time.

Churchill’s grandson and former Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames previously said it was a ‘lunatic representation’ to call his grandfather racist. He told LBC: ‘All his life he fought fascism.’

Speaking last year after the statue of Churchill outside Parliament was covered up after being sprayed with graffiti, respected historian Tom Holland told MailOnline: ‘The sight of Churchill boarded up is to large numbers of Britons very sinister.’

He added that the move did not do ‘anti-racism campaigners any favours’ and said it would ‘turn people against them’.

They urged Mr Johnson to introduce a code of conduct to ensure that any bodies receiving public funding ‘operate in good faith’ and adhere to ‘the fundamental values of this country’.  

They also asked the Prime Minister to amend Labour’s Equality Act ‘so that it can no longer be used to attack free speech or shield malevolence.’ 

Sources at the Churchill Fellowship criticised their £100,000-a-year ‘woke Leftie’ chief executive Julia Weston for ‘rewriting history’.

Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, whose constituency is a redrawn version of Churchill’s old Woodford seat, told MailOnline that the rebranding was ‘ridiculous’.

But Sir Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson who served as a Conservative MP from 1983 until the 2019 general election, dismissed concerns this was part of the snowflake agenda as ‘b******s’.

He said: ‘The Churchill family is wholly and unreservedly supportive of the wonderful work done by The Churchill Fellowship. Its record speaks for itself.

‘It is not woke, it is not anything. It is not the abandonment of anything.

‘It is called The Churchill Fellowship. It is exactly what it always has been – a living memorial to Winston Churchill, and a very, very successful one.’

In an interview on LBC radio this morning, Mr Dowden said of the charity’s move: ‘I found it quite extraordinary.

‘I read their explanation and they say there are various reasons for this but the bottom line is, you look at the website before and after, and there is a lot less Churchill on it after than there was before.

‘I do really worry, and you see this in relation to many charities, that they pander to a noisy woke brigade who are trying to challenge all aspects of our history.

‘They would not have the freedom – no-one would have the freedom – to make these kinds of decisions were it not for Churchill in the first place.

‘I do really worry when we start to question the sort of values that have made this such a wonderful country.’

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was set up after his death in 1965 to fund academic research and help British citizens to travel and learn about the world.

Sir Nicholas’s brother, Jeremy Soames, 69, is its chairman, and is understood to support the rebrand.

The charity insisted it decided to change the name because of ‘confusion’, with some wrongly believing it was a historical organisation set up to remember Churchill.

Fellowship communications director Jonathan Laurie said: ‘There are a lot of people saying that we have tried to cancel Sir Winston, but that’s absolutely not the case.

‘I mean, his grandson is our chairman. The family are absolutely happy with this and don’t think it’s a betrayal or anything like that.

‘I was very happy to put the photo back up and show we don’t have a problem with Sir Winston.

‘We do one thing, which is offering fellowships, but the old name didn’t say that, so we changed it so that it says what we do on the tin.

‘It was a mundane, administrative reason. We decided to take the short biography down in the summer of 2020 because we took the view that we are not historians and shouldn’t be publishing accounts of Sir Winston’s life.

‘So all these small things have been taken to mean something, when in reality they are all low-level administrative changes.’

The charity uploaded a post titled ‘Our Connection to Sir Winston Churchill’ yesterday, which said: ‘We are proud of his contribution to saving the world from Nazism and of our connection to him.’

But it also referenced the 2020 race post and said: ‘There is also controversy about his views on race.

‘We acknowledge the many issues and complexities involved on all sides.’

It comes after a series of attacks on Churchill’s legacy by Left-wing activists who have even compared him to Adolf Hitler.

The BBC was forced to apologise earlier this month after not challenging the view that Churchill’s attitude to the Bengal Famine was racist.

Historians cautioned against the ‘crusade against the past’, with Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College, London, saying: ‘It’s no good using modern slogans to attack someone who lived in a different era.

‘We would all, for example, think it absurd to criticise William the Conqueror because he wasn’t a feminist.’

Referring to Churchill, Cambridge history professor David Abulafia said: ‘It is mind-boggling.

‘It is digging people out of their graves and burning them as the Spanish inquisition used to do.

‘He obviously held views about races that were very much of his time, but we shouldn’t be exhuming people from the past who are unable to stand up and explain their attitudes to people who live in a different age.’

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, said: ‘The reason why they are coming for Churchill is because more than any single individual, he personifies Britishness.

‘By destroying his reputation you are striking a blow against an individual who symbolised a particular way of life which was uniquely British.’

Mr Johnson, who wrote a well-received biography of Churchill in 2014, previously said it was the ‘height of lunacy’ to accuse the politician of racism.

He said Churchill ‘stood alone’ against a ‘racist tyranny that without his resistance would have overwhelmed this country and the rest of Europe’.

Fellow Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts said in the Mail on Sunday in June that it was important not to judge the former PM by modern standards.

He said: ‘To wrench historical figures out of their historical contexts and expect them to hold modern views on issues such as race is anyhow absurd.

‘People’s reputations are being trashed for holding opinions that a large majority of people held at the time – essentially for being insufficiently woke.

‘Even Mahatma Gandhi held what to us today are extremely offensive views about black Africans.’

The historian also pointed out that, unlike the father of Communism Karl Marx, Churchill ‘never used the N-word’, which he said ‘dyed-in-the-wool racists’ tended to use at the time.

Churchill’s grandson and former Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames previously said it was a ‘lunatic representation’ to call his grandfather racist. He told LBC: ‘All his life he fought fascism.’

Speaking last year after the statue of Churchill outside Parliament was covered up after being sprayed with graffiti, respected historian Tom Holland told MailOnline: ‘The sight of Churchill boarded up is to large numbers of Britons very sinister.’

He added that the move did not do ‘anti-racism campaigners any favours’ and said it would ‘turn people against them’. 

Senior figures have warned that the future of some of Britain’s top cultural institutions are ‘under threat’ from a ‘woke cult’. Simon Jenkins criticised the involvement of ‘left-wing politics’ in organisations such as the National Trust – which he chaired for six years between 2008 and 2014.

It comes after current chairman, Tim Parker, announced that he would quit amid a revolt over ‘woke’ policies.  

Volunteers at the trust said it was ‘rewriting history’ and pointed out the former prime minister (pictured) has frequently been voted the greatest Briton of all time

The National Trust’s policies and statements that have sparked outrage among members

Report on estates’ links to slavery 

Members, ministers and MPs had grown increasingly frustrated with Mr Parker’s chairmanship after the charity published a report last September which ‘blacklisted’ 93 of its estates with links to slavery.

Mr Parker, who took on the role in 2014, said the Trust was ‘committed to anti-racism and to creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment.’ 

The Trust’s 115-page report was called ‘Connections between colonialism and properties now in the care of the National Trust, including links with historic slavery.’

The document sparked a row as it listed 93 National Trust properties said to have links to colonialism and slavery – including Churchill’s home. 

Parker: BLM has ‘no party-political affiliations’ 

At last November’s virtual annual meeting, Mr Parker was slammed for describing Black Lives Matter as a ‘human rights movement with no party-political affiliations’ in a letter to a member. 

In the UK, BLM has described itself as a ‘Marxist organisation’ which has called for the defunding of the police following the murder of George Floyd last summer.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Parker said ‘we are not members of BLM’ and added that he hoped Trust members would see ‘that in no way the Trust has become a political organisation that has been taken over by a bunch of woke folk or anything of that nature’.

Mr Parker, who took on the role in 2014, said the Trust was ‘committed to anti-racism and to creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment.’

In his letter to members, he wrote: ‘We understand Black Lives Matter currently is a worldwide human rights movement with no party-political affiliations in the UK.

‘Our recent report aimed to give greater clarity and transparency about sources of wealth, to help deepen and enrich understanding of our remarkable places, art and objects.’

2017 gay pride scandal 

There was further controversy after it emerged that the Trust had tried to force volunteers at a Norfolk mansion to wear the gay pride rainbow symbol on lanyards and badges to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality – a demand later dropped. 

Critics claim the Trust is ‘virtue signalling’ and deserting the values of its traditional members.

Members of the charity were enraged after the trust published a 115-page report which ‘blacklisted’ 93 of its estates over their alleged links to slavery. Included on the ‘hit list’ was Chartwell, Churchill’s home in Kent.

The list, and a number of other policies, sparked a revolt from grassroots organisation Restore Trust.

The group threatened to table a no confidence vote in Mr Parker’s leadership at the charity’s AGM. However Mr Parker quit ahead of the meeting.

Speaking to the Spectator about the row, in a podcast named ‘Broken Trust: The Crisis at the Heart of the National Trust, Mr Jenkins said: ‘I do regard the sort of ‘Woke Cult’ at the moment as seriously threatening to many cultural institutions.’ 

On the row within the Trust, he added: ‘I do think this is a very odd controversy for the trust to find itself in. 

‘The National Trust’s relationship with the British Empire, let alone with slavery, is pretty tenuous. I don’t take this accusation against the Trust terribly seriously. This is just currently what I regard as a sort of cult.’

But Mr Jenkins added that he thought it was ‘appropriate’ that such discussions take place ‘even in institutions which are normally immune to this sort of left-wing politics’.

The comments come after Mr Parker announced he would quit the charity. The announcement came 24 hours after members launched a bid to depose him amid a growing row over his ‘woke policies’.

Members, ministers and MPs had grown increasingly frustrated with Mr Parker’s chairmanship, which critics said he used to take the charity in a ‘bourgeois’ and ‘politically correct’ direction.

Last September, the Trust published a 115-page report which ‘blacklisted’ 93 of its estates over their alleged links to slavery. The Charity Commission subsequently opened a regulatory compliance case and the heritage minister told Parliament that the report was ‘unfortunate’ and the Trust should go back to its ‘core functions’.

In a statement posted on the Trust’s website last month, the charity said Mr Parker had ‘informed trustees of his decision’ to step down. He will leave the role in October.

Mr Parker had served two three-year terms and had agreed to a ‘third exceptional term’ to provide stability during the coronavirus pandemic which hit visitor numbers.

Restore Trust, which was founded by members earlier this year in a bid to stop history being ‘demonised’ by organisations including the National Trust, welcomed the news.

In a statement published on its website last month, it said: ‘We are pleased that Mr Parker has decided to resign as National Trust, following the publication of our motion of no confidence in him that would have been put to this year’s Annual Meeting.

‘His position was clearly untenable given everything that has happened and the current crisis of confidence in the National Trust amongst its staff, volunteers and members. What the National Trust needs now is a chair with a deep understanding and appreciation of our nation’s heritage.

‘We also call on the Board of Trustees to make this an open and accountable process so that their shortlist of potential candidates is published and they present themselves and their proposals for the Trust to members in open events in the coming months.’

At last November’s virtual annual meeting, Mr Parker was slammed for describing Black Lives Matter as a ‘human rights movement with no party-political affiliations’ in a letter to a member. In the UK, BLM has described itself as a ‘Marxists’ organisation and called for the defunding of the police following the murder of George Floyd in the US last summer.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Parker said ‘we are not members of BLM’ and added that he hoped Trust members would see ‘that in no way the Trust has become a political organisation that has been taken over by a bunch of woke folk or anything of that nature’.

Mr Parker, who took on the role in 2014, said the Trust was ‘committed to anti-racism and to creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment.’

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