Just one in five of Generation Woke admire Churchill, poll reveals… Twenty years after he was voted the greatest Briton of all time
- Just one in five 18-24-year-olds say they view Winston Churchill positively
- This compares with 58 per cent of over-65s, a poll by Policy Exchange revealed
- Educational experts say this is down to how Britain is now portrayed in schools
He has been voted the greatest Briton of all time – a heroic wartime leader who took on Hitler against the odds.
But Winston Churchill, it seems, is no longer so universally admired.
Just one in five 18-to-24-year-olds say they have a positive view of the former Prime Minister, compared with 58 per cent of over-65s, a poll has revealed.
Educational experts say the findings are down to changes to the school curriculum, which have led to Britain’s past being portrayed in increasingly negative ways.
The survey, commissioned by the think tank Policy Exchange, revealed views of history depended not only on age but also political leanings. More than 60 per cent of Conservative voters in the 2019 Election admire Churchill, compared with just 22 per cent of Labour voters.
He has been voted the greatest Briton of all time – a heroic wartime leader who took on Hitler against the odds
Across all ages, 36 per cent of the public had a positive image of the wartime PM, down from 47 per cent in a 2018 YouGov poll.
In a 2002 BBC survey, Churchill was voted the greatest Briton of all time. But in recent years, Left-wing critics have increasingly focused on his apparent racism and his support for the British Empire, rather than on his stand against Hitler and the defeat of fascism.
The backlash has led to his name being removed from school houses, while the charity formerly known as the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has changed its name to The Churchill Fellowship and removed images of him from its website.
Views on colonialism in the poll, carried out by People Polling, also vary by age. Just 17 per cent of young people believe the British Empire did more good than harm, compared with 61 per cent of the 65-plus group.
Among 18-to-24-year-olds, 45 per cent think Britain should be more ashamed of its involvement in the Atlantic slave trade than proud of its role in ending it. For older people, the figure was less than a quarter.
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, who has been an adviser to the Department for Education on three National Curriculum documents, including the current one, said the survey findings demonstrated ignorance and ‘a victory for the mob’.
‘The curriculum does not require the teaching of Winston Churchill, or WWI or WWII – that was why I was a dissenting voice,’ he said.
‘The number of people who are not sympathetic to Churchill is growing. That represents a victory for history teachers who don’t, on the whole, treat Churchill with any sympathy or support; they don’t regard him as a heroic figure.
Chris McGovern (pictured), chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, who has been an adviser to the Department for Education on three National Curriculum documents, including the current one, said the survey findings demonstrated ignorance and ‘a victory for the mob’
‘If he’s taught at all, it is often in terms of the starvation and hunger in India and his racist views.
‘The views in the poll are based on ignorance. In the Second World War, he did more than anyone else to save this country.
‘Without Churchill, the government was prepared to compromise with Hitler. Churchill’s abiding achievement was his refusal to compromise and his determination to stand firm against fascism.’
Historian and author Sir Anthony Seldon said something had gone ‘very wrong’ when the greatest defender of freedom in Europe was seen in a negative light.
‘Churchill was the greatest Prime Minister this country has seen,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘He was, more than anyone, responsible for resisting the evil of Hitler and the threat this posed to Britain and Europe.
Historian and author Sir Anthony Seldon (pictured) said something had gone ‘very wrong’ when the greatest defender of freedom in Europe was seen in a negative light
‘Something is obviously going very wrong if young people think otherwise. Either they are not being taught about him, or they’re being taught the wrong things about him.
‘In truth every leader is a mixture of good and bad. But in Churchill, as in all great leaders, the balance was overwhelmingly positive.’
Jeremy Black, Emeritus Professor of History at Exeter University, said he suspected that the survey results showed ‘the unfortunate impact of poor history’.
The Policy Exchange poll also revealed widespread concern about how history is taught in schools. Just 19 per cent of the 1,260 respondents said they agreed that children today were taught about British history in a balanced way.
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