Woke academics at Cambridge’s Churchill College are forced to SCRAP group that held event where WW2 PM was called a ‘white supremacist’ and British Empire was branded ‘worse than the Nazis’ after furious backlash
- A group at Cambridge’s Churchill College decided to disband, it is understand
- Working Group was set up to examine links between Winston Churchill and race
- The group was organised in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May last year
- It comes as the group’s debate in February was slammed by Churchill’s grandson
A controversial group which was set up at a Cambridge college to examine the links between Winston Churchill, race and the empire, has been scrapped.
The team of academics and students at Churchill College decided to disband the group after heavy pressure to cancel a series of its events, it is understood.
The Working Group, which had been organised in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May last year, was to examine the former Prime Minister’s views on race – but was accused by critics of being stacked with left-wing academics intent on smearing the World War Two Prime Minister.
It held an event called ‘The Racial Consequences of Churchill’, during which a panellist said wartime leader Sir Winston was the ‘perfect embodiment’ of ‘white supremacist philosophy’.
The event also included claims that the British Empire was ‘far worse than the Nazis’.
Sir Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson accused the group of ‘trashing’ the wartime leader’s reputation and suggested suggested the college should not be allowed to use his grandfather’s name if it continues to ‘smear’ it.
Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts had also accused the college of ‘clearly premeditated malice and character assassination’ of the former Prime Minister.
Professor Priya Gopal, a member of the group, claimed she said the group might as well ‘disband’ after the college became ‘rattled’ from the event, but insisted that this had not happened and the college instead dissolved the group this week.
The Working Group, which was set up at Cambridge’s Churchill college to examine the links between Winston Churchill (pictured), race and the empire, has been scrapped
Following the scrapping, Prof Gopal launched into a furious Twitter tirade at the ‘entirely white’ College Council and said it has an ‘institutional’ problem when it comes to ‘race’.
But College Master Dame Athene Donald said she believed the Working Group had disbanded itself after taking the professor’s comment at ‘face value’.
In a statement, Churchill College Master Dame Athene Donald said the group, initially set up to ‘critically assess’ Churchill, seemed to have ‘changed direction’.
Dame Athene wrote: ‘The talks this year were intended to kickstart an ongoing discussion through different channels.
‘However, at some point the Working Group seems to have changed direction.’
It comes after the British Empire was branded ‘far worse than the Nazis’ during a controversial debate hosted in February by Churchill College and the Working Group about Sir Winston Churchill.
The online discussion on ‘The Racial Consequences of Mr Churchill’ looked at his ‘backward’ views on empire and race and was held as part of a year-long ‘inclusivity’ review.
Contributor Kehinde Andrews, a professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, said: ‘The British Empire was far worse than the Nazis. They lasted longer and killed many more people.’
It comes after an online event organised by the group came under criticism in February after academic Kehinde Andrews (pictured) branded the British Empire as ‘far worse than the Nazis’
On Churchill, he added: ‘There is no debate. His white supremacy is pretty much on record and the question here is why does Churchill still hold the level of popularity that he does? It’s almost like he’s been beatified – a saintly figure beyond reproach.’
Professor Andrews has previously accused Britain of being ‘built on racism’ and called RAF airmen who bombed Nazi Germany war criminals.
The comments at the debate were condemned as ‘execrable’ by the former leader’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames.
The former Tory MP said: ‘I think Sir Winston’s reputation will withstand, with some ease, this sort of rant.
Sir Soames said the event marked a ‘new low in the current vogue for the denigration in general of British history and of Sir Winston Churchill’s memory’.
He also questioned whether the college should continue to benefit from the association with Churchill after hosting the event.
Professor Priya Gopal, a member of the group, said the college was ‘very rattled’ after the event and told the group that there could not be another panel discussion.
She said attempts to organise a third event on commemoration looking at statues and memorials to historical figures were subject to a ‘back and forth’ with the college, which subsequently said it could not officially host the event.
Prof Gopal, professor of post-colonial studies, claimed: ‘People invested in myths of British imperial greatness have put pressure on the college not to have certain kinds of discussions around Churchill.’
She said due to ‘frustration at the veto exercised by [the college] council’ over future events, she said to the working group and the college master in May that the group ‘should dissolve itself’.
But she claimed that this had not happened and the college had instead disbanded the group on Thursday via an email thanking them for their work.
She explained: ‘They thanked us for our input and said our work was now over because we were never meant to be a long-term group anyway.’
The event, organised by the Working Group and hosted by Churchill College, came under fire by Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames (pictured) for ‘trashing’ the leader’s reputation
Prof Gopal also said she was ‘troubled’ at the decision and had been of the understanding that the group would continue into 2022.
She added: ‘It’s deeply disappointing and very troubling in terms of what it means for academic freedom and for honest discussions around empire and race.’
Prof Gopal also claimed she was told ‘the pressure from the family is immense’, which she interpreted to be the Churchill family, and that ‘one of them threatened to resign as a trustee’ and ‘would take the donors with him’.
But in a statement, Churchill College Master Dame Athene rejected the suggestion Churchill’s family were involved in any decision around the Working Group’s future.
She instead claimed the group was ‘intended to have a finite lifetime, in this case the current academic year’, and added that she believed the group had disbanded itself.
She explained : ‘Despite there being some contact with Churchill’s family, whose support (not least for the archives) has always been very important to the College, they are not involved in the College’s governance processes, and the implication made in some quarters that they, Policy Exchange or the national press might have been steering matters, is to misunderstand our governance arrangements.’
Dame Athene said she had been told the group had decided they would not make recommendations on a third event, and that Prof Gopal said the group might as well dissolve itself.
She said: ‘Rightly or wrongly, as master, I took that statement at face value: that they had in fact disbanded themselves.’
Dame Athene insisted that Churchill College will continue engaging in debates on historical figures, including Churchill himself, despite the disbanding.
She explained: ‘Unfounded allegations are now being levelled both at the broad College community and at me personally.
‘I would nevertheless stress that the College will continue engaging in debates, examining the actions of important historical figures including Churchill himself, and working on challenging attitudes.
‘It will not stop us looking at all aspects of our community and our work to ensure we create an environment welcoming to all. Our work here has only just begun.’
College Master Dame Athene Donald said she believed the Working Group had disbanded itself and added that Churchill College (pictured) will still hold debates on historical figures
Responding to the college’s statement in a furious Twitter thread, Prof Gopal said: ‘I stand by my claims, and reject the tendentious and false rationale given for the dissolution today of the Churchill working party.
‘It is true that several members of the working group had intended to resign.
‘The disbanding today was a way for the college to pre-empt that imminent embarrassment.’
She added: ‘Churchill College’s Master, Athene Donald has disbanded the Working Group on Churchill, Race, and Empire.
‘The third event in the series-on commemoration-did not get held due to pressure from the Churchill family and Policy Exchange, and the college taking fright after the backlash to the second event in February.
‘Members of the Working Group (I was) were told that they had dissolved themselves (untrue) and that in any case, they had been constituted for a limited time (also not something they had been told).
‘Cancel culture is real & disgraceful. Giving in to it is worse.
‘NO PASARAN. Stand up to them. You and I will have to be cause the establishment will cave. And remember-activists for gender equality are not necessarily allies in the battle for racial justice.’
She also tweeted: ‘I will say now publicly what I have said in multiple emails to the Master & College officers.
‘Churchill College has a serious institutional problem when it comes to race, & the hagiography and mythologies around its founding figure contribute directly to that problem.’
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