London Diary: Of Churchill being racist, Brexit bullies and the filthy rich

Britain has been plunged into debate on whether Churchill was a racist, hardline Brexiteers are bullying MPs and a survey shows Britain to be the most friendly place for the filthy rich across Europe

London Diary: Of Churchill being racist, Brexit bullies and the filthy rich

Hasan Suroor

Was Churchill a racist?

He was rabidly anti-India, mocked Mahatma Gandhi, and faced accusations of being responsible for the Bengali Famine of 1943 by preventing aid from reaching three million starving Bengalis.

So, was Winston Churchill a racist and white supremacist? Britain has been plunged into a heated debate on the issue after a Green Party member of Scottish Parliament Ross Greer described him as a “white supremacist and mass murderer”. Churchill, he argued, was a “racist because he hated Indians with a passion and branded them a beastly people with a beastly religion”. He also “advocated using poison gas against uncivilised tribes” in Africa.

Many agreed with him pointing to his defence of British imperialism as good of “primitive” and “subject races’”. He also supported the theory of eugenics which advocates segregation of “feeble-minded” people.

Others, however, have leapt to Churchill’s defence arguing that his remarks should be seen in the context of his time when such views were deemed acceptable. Interestingly, Randhir Singh Bains from Essex claimed that Churchill was not a racist because he “despised Hindus but not Indian Muslims, although both belong to the same race”.


Brexit bullies

It has split families, soured friendships and stoked racism. And now the Brexit divide is fuelling bullying and intimidation of MPs from hardline Brexiteers. Tensions have become so toxic that some women MPs have been “forced to move house and hire bodyguards” to protect themselves, according to media reports.

“One female parliamentarian has been advised by police not to travel at night on her own, another has been told not to drive herself and a third has been advised not to run in her local park,” The Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Bank of England, Mark Carney, has admitted that he’s having sleepless nights over the possibility of Britain crashing out of the European Union without a deal causing food shortages and grounding flights. Asked by reporters if he woke up each morning worrying about the future, he said: “I don’t wake up in the morning any more. I wake up in the middle of the night.”

And, no, he was not joking. He warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster not only for the British economy but have global implications. His warning has since been backed by a study showing that thousands of people across Europe could lose their jobs in the event of a no-deal.

It would also have a cascading effect on countries outside Europe, including potentially India which relies heavily on Britain as a gateway to the European market.

Filthy rich

There are the rich, and then there are the “filthy rich” with their penthouses, yachts and holiday homes on exotic islands. Think of their Indian cousins, and you think of the Ambanis, the Adanis and the Modis (the Nirav clan).

Once upon a time, the filthy rich were the most hated class in Britain —up there with snake oil salesmen and highway bandits. In 1998, Peter Mandelson, the then Business Secretary with close ties to the Hindujas, caused widespread outrage when he said the Labour Party under Tony Blair was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes”. A remark that gave the Blair government the dubious reputation for being in hock to the rich.

Twenty years later, much of Britain appears to have come round to Mandelson’s view. A survey shows it’s the most friendly place for the filthy rich across Europe. Asked to imagine a scenario in which a millionaire had lost a fortune through a risky investment, Brits, especially millennials, appeared to be most sympathetic.

German academic Rainer Zitelmann who conducted the survey described the results “extraordinary”. Ironically, Mandelson himself has rowed back on his infamous remarks.

Third World Britain

“The arrival of driverless cars is being held back by potholes and low-quality broadband...”

No, this report is not about a Third World country, but about Great Britain. Just days after the British Government announced plans to let loose driverless cars on public roads by 2021, auditing firm KPMG had some bad news for it. In a report, it warned that the plans were likely to be scuppered by the poor quality of infrastructure, crucially the low speeds of Britain’s mobile networks, which enable cars to communicate with each other and traffic systems.

Britain lags behind as many as 25 countries in its 4G coverage. The problem is compounded by its potholed roads and the general quality of other necessary infrastructure. No wonder, the level of public scepticism over driverless cars is much higher in Britain than any other country covered by the report.

And, lastly, an old myth has been busted: there’s no such thing as “tactical” drinking, or the “right” way of chasing a drink to avoid a hangover. Whether you drink wine before beer or vice/versa, there’s no escape from the “morning sickness” after a night of pub crawling, according to research.

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