A charity set up in the name of Sir Winston Churchill has been in the headlines today amid accusations that it changed its name due to the former prime minister’s “unacceptable” views on race.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust faced criticism after announcing it was renaming itself The Churchill Fellowship and removed images of the former prime minister from its website.
An unnamed volunteer told The Sun that Churchill “is now erased from his own charity by the woke brigade.” Images of Churchill have since been republished on the website’s homepage.
Churchill has been celebrated for his wartime leadership he has also been accused of racism over his support for the British Empire and his attitude towards people from India and other races.
But the charity – which awards grants for Britons to pursue social and community causes – has denied that it was seeking to disown the wartime leader’s legacy and said the name was being “simplified” because the original title was “confusing” to people and “did not explain what we do”.
Speaking to indy100, Jonathan Lorie of The Churchill Fellowship said: “Our change of name has no connection to Sir Winston’s views on anything, it is solely intended to explain what we do as a charity, which is to award Fellowships for UK citizens to learn overseas. Our previous name did not explain that."
In a statement published on the charity’s website today, the organisation said: “Today there is international admiration for Sir Winston’s wartime leadership in saving Britain and the world from Nazism.
“There is also controversy about his views on race. We acknowledge the many issues and complexities involved on all sides. Our statement from 2020 is here.
“None of this takes away from Sir Winston’s enormous contribution to the world as we know it today. Nor from the life-changing work that Churchill Fellows are doing every day across the country, in every area of national life.”
The 2020 statement referred to in the latest statement, titled Racism is Unacceptable, noted that “aspects” of Sir Winston’s life were the subject of present-day controversy.
“Many of his views on race are widely seen as unacceptable today, a view that we share,” it said.
“At the same time, he is internationally admired for his wartime leadership in saving Britain and the world from Nazism.
“We acknowledge the many issues and complexities involved on all sides, but do not accept racism of any kind.”
Sir Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson and chairman of the charity, said: “I and the rest of my family, fully and unreservedly, support the remarkable work of the Churchill Fellowship, which is the truly wonderful living memorial to Sir Winston Churchill.”
However Prime Minister Boris Johnson – a long-time Churchill admirer – accused the charity of “airbrushing” Churchill’s achievements and appealed to the organisation to rethink the move.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister believes that Winston Churchill was a hero who helped save this country and the whole of Europe from a fascist and a racist tyranny by leading the defeat of Nazism.
“It is completely absurd, misguided and wrong to airbrush his giant achievements and service to this country. The trust should think again.”
Sir Winston was Conservative prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.
He died in 1965 and was honoured with a state funeral.
The idea for the charity was developed during the final year’s of his life with his approval. On his death, a nationwide appeal led to an outpouring of donations from the public.
In the years that followed it enabled the charity to award more than 5,800 fellowships to people to study practical subjects and then share what they had learned with their community or profession in the UK.