John McDonnell has called Sir Winston Churchill a “villain” over his role in dealing with striking miners in 1910.
At a Politico event, when asked to give a one-word answer on whether Churchill was a hero or villain, the shadow chancellor said: “Tonypandy – villain”.
During the Tonypandy riots of 1910, troops were sent out to control striking miners who wrecked town centre shops and mine owners’ property.
Churchill was voted the greatest Briton in a BBC poll in 2002.
Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames, grandson of Churchill, told The Telegraph: “Frankly it’s a very foolish and stupid thing to say, surely said to gain publicity.
“I think my grandfather’s reputation can withstand a publicity-seeking assault from a third-rate, Poundland Lenin. I don’t think it will shake the world.”
In response to Mr McDonnell’s comments, Labour MP Ian Austin posted a picture of the wartime leader on social media, calling him “a real British hero”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that Churchill “was one of the greatest ever to have lived”.
The Tonypandy riots took place on the evenings of 7 and 8 November 1910 and involved violent clashes between striking miners and the police, with soldiers arriving on the second day.
One miner was killed.
The incident haunted Churchill for the rest of his career and many of his critics saw it as an anti-trade union stance.