Lisa Nandy in new ‘wokery’ row as toe-curling video emerges in which she refuses to say if Winston Churchill was a hero or a villain

  • Nandy asked about Second World War prime minister on Question Time in 2019
  • Came after then shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he was a villain
  • She said is was a ‘stupid question’ that ‘reduce things to yes or no, good or bad’

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy was embroiled in a new wokery row today over a video in which she was unable to describe Winston Churchill as a hero.

The Labour frontbencher was asked if the Second World War prime minister was a ‘hero or villain’ in an appearance on Question Time, and branded it a ‘stupid question’. 

It came after John McDonnell, Labour’s then hard left shadow chancellor, had branded Churchill a villain for sending soldiers to suppress a miners’ strike in South Wales in 1910. 

Ms Nandy has been embroiled in controversy this week after she accused Boris Johnson of ‘trying to start a culture war over a statue of Churchill’ outside Parliament that was vandalised during an anti-racism protest.

The shadow foreign secretary claimed the Prime Minister has ‘managed to trash our reputation’ as a ‘values-driven’ country as she praised the new US President. 

The statue was sprayed with graffiti during a Black Lives Matter protest last June and was then boarded up ahead of more protests. 

Ms Nandy’s suggestion that Mr Johnson had attempted to start a ‘culture war’ on the issue was blasted by some fellow Labour MPs and Tories who said ‘Labour may think it’s wrong to stand up to mobs attacking a statue of our great wartime leader, we do not’.

Appearing on Question Time in February 2019, on a panel that included Jacob Rees-Mogg, now the Tory Commons Leader, Ms Nandy was asked about Churchill off the back of Mr McDonnell’s criticisim.

She replied: ‘I really do think this is a stupid question and I think this is why you are getting a stupid answer. Frankly I am sick to death of a political debate that tries to reduce things to yes or no, good or bad.

The Labour frontbencher was asked if the Second World War prime minister was a ‘hero or villain’ in an appearance on Question Time, and branded it a ‘stupid question’

Ms Nandy has been embroiled in controversy this week after she accused Boris Johnson of ‘trying to start a culture war over a statue of Churchill’ outside Parliament that was vandalised during an anti-racism protest. 

Who is shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy?

Lisa Nandy, 41, has been the Labour MP for Wigan since 2010 and she saw her political profile surge after taking part in the party’s leadership contest last year. 

Ms Nandy ultimately finished third behind Rebecca Long-Bailey and the winner Sir Keir Starmer. 

But she was immediately appointed by Sir Keir to the key role of shadow foreign secretary – one of the four most important positions in the shadow cabinet. 

She was the only leadership candidate in the final run-off who was not at the time in the shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn. 

Ms Nandy was a vocal critic of the handling of the anti-Semitism crisis that blighted the party in recent years, accusing her rivals of not doing enough to speak out while serving in Mr Corbyn’s top team. 

She comes from political stock, with her maternal grandfather having been a Liberal MP while her father, Dipak Nandy, is a Marxist racial equalities campaigner.

Before her election in 2010, Ms Nandy worked for the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint and The Children’s Society. 

Having founded the Centre For Towns think tank, she has been outspoken about the need to win back Labour’s former industrial heartlands where voters switched in their droves to the Conservatives at the last election. 

She was elevated to the Labour frontbench for the first time in 2013 as she served as a junior education minister and then as a Cabinet Office minister when Ed Miliband was leader.

She became shadow energy secretary in 2015 but departed the role in 2016 and stayed on the backbenches for the remainder of Mr Corbyn’s leadership. 

‘This is really dangerous stuff, we have seen it with the Brexit debate, we are seeing it with many of the conversations that we have in our political discourse at the moment. It is poisoning it.

‘I happen to think, like probably most people in this country, that there are some decisions that Winston Churchill made that I wouldn’t agree with at all. But at a critical moment in British history he stood up and made the right judgement call that has profound implications for all of us still now today.

‘This debate that seeks to divide us has done, is it has allowed people in politics, on Jacob’s wing of the Tory party, to try to invoke the spirit of Winston Churchill, somehow, as if we are still in this war era and as if we should still be engaged in war.’ 

The row erupted when Mr McDonnell was asked at an event hosted by the Politico website whether Churchill was a ‘hero or villain’, he replied: ‘Tonypandy. Villain.’

This was a reference to the Welsh mining village where Churchill ordered in troops to help police quell riots in 1910. The then home secretary sent 200 Metropolitan Police officers into Tonypandy, while a detachment of Lancashire Fusiliers was held in reserve in Cardiff.

The soldiers were eventually sent on to the streets of the Rhondda Valley village to control striking miners who had vandalised town centre shops and mineowners’ property. Around 80 police and more than 500 civilians were injured in the disturbances.

The move left much bad feeling towards Churchill in the area, although it was largely forgotten after he led Britain to victory over the Nazis.

Mr McDonnell later doubled down, saying he had been ‘honest’ but adding that Churchill was a ‘hero in the Second World War but in many ways for working class families not someone they looked up to’. 

Churchill is a divisive figure on the left of politics. While he is praised for his wartime leadership, his pre-war record is hotly contested.

As well as the Welsh strike he is also criticised for his role in the bungled Gallipoli invasion of Turkey in the First World War, His reintroduction of the Gold Standard while chancellor in 1925 is also seen as one of the contributing factors behidn the following year’s General Strike.

Left wing activists also hold Churchill responsible for the 1943 Bengal Famine in which as many as three million Indians died. His War Cabinet at the time refused to send grain to feed the people because of the war effort.

At the weekend the Shadow Foreign Secretary faced ridicule after praising a report which suggested replacing Britain’s Armed Forces with a ‘gender-balanced human security’ corps.

She helped to launch a report by the Open Labour group which said the main job of the forces should be to ‘dampen down violence rather than intervene on one side or the other’.

Ms Nandy, 41, said she was ‘inspired’ by the pamphlet, which included the argument that that ‘the UK is no longer a great power’ and cited ‘countries like [the] Scandinavians’ as a model for the UK’s role in the world.

She told last month’s launch: ‘I hear it a lot on the Tory benches, this idea of a country that ruled the waves.

‘Rule Britannia… I think that’s given way to a nostalgia rooted in the history of the Second World War that somehow says that we’re a small island nation that goes out punching above its weight, without ever really stopping to ask why on earth it is that we’re punching at all.’

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