Former prime minister Winston Churchill’s grandson has condemned an event held by a college named after his grandfather as “idiotically sloppy” and accused the institution of allowing panellists to “smear [Churchill] unchallenged”.
Sir Nicholas Soames criticised an event titled The Racial Consequences of Churchill, which was held at Churchill College in Cambridge, claiming that it featured “many factually incorrect, deeply offensive and ignorant remarks” made by “pseudo-academic detractors”.
The event was held virtually on 11 February as part of the college’s series on “Churchill, Empire and Race” and was joined by 500 people.
The panel comprised of Professor Priyamvada Gopal, of the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of English; Professor Kehinde Andrews, of Birmingham City University’s School of Social Sciences; Dr Madhusree Mukerjee, author of Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II; and Dr Onyeka Nubia, a writer, historian and law lecturer at the University of Nottingham.
The research paper published by the think tank examines remarks made by the panellists.
Sir Nicholas wrote that Churchill College, which was named in his grandfather’s honour, “should be defending [Churchill’s] remarkable legacy” and was an institution that “one would hope and expect would give Churchill a full and fair hearing”.
“I am very worried, given these circumstances, about the direction Churchill College seems to be taking,” he added. “Above all, that the master of the college and governing body could be facilitating this kind of historical illiteracy is a travesty of what the institution is for; especially given the fact that this conference about history was composed largely of non-historians, as was made clear by the dismal confusion between Aneurin Bevan and Ernest Bevin.
“The college benefits enormously from Churchill’s name. If they traduce it, should they be able to have their cake and eat it?”
According to Mr Roberts, the event featured “factually incorrect and profoundly offensive remarks” and presented “just one side of an argument”. He accused the college of “premeditated malice and character assassination” of Churchill.
In a statement, Churchill College said the event “highlighted the depth of feeling on this issue on both sides of the debate”.
The college “encourages a plurality of views but as an institution it exists to convene and facilitate discussion, not to censor or endorse”, adding: “As a memorial to Churchill and an academic institution, we recognise our responsibility to engage carefully on these issues.
“The purpose of the series and the role of the college as home to Churchill’s papers is to support an honest reckoning with the past in all its complexity and nuance.”