On 13 September 2016, the new £5 bank note featuring Winston Churchill went into circulation. In selecting Churchill, the Bank of England's stated policy was to represent 'British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society' and 'avoid individuals who would be unduly divisive'. The selection, though, is deeply insulting to the Commonwealth and Britain's minority communities.
Like millions of others from the 'British Empire', my grandfather fought with the British in World War II. Churchill told them to 'brace themselves for their duties', saying this would be 'their nest hour'. Even while they were making their sacrifice to achieve Allied victory over Nazi Germany, though, Churchill betrayed them. Churchill proclaimed in 1942: 'I hate Indians. They are a beastly people, with a beastly religion', and in 1943, he helped engineer the Bengal Famine, in which 3 million Indians died of starvation while their harvest was hoarded for the benefit of Britain. When notified of the starvation, Churchill's only regret was that Gandhi was not among the deceased. Even Britain's Viceroy of India said: 'Churchill's attitude towards India and the famine is negligent, hostile and contemptuous.'
Moreover, despite the Kenyan contribution to Allied forces, Churchill stated that Kenya's fertile highlands should be the 'preserve of white settlers', approving the clearing out of the local 'blackamoors'. In the 1950s, he established 150 detention camps holding 150,000 Kenyans, where thousands were tortured.
In 2013, the UK finally expressed regret for Churchill's atrocities and paid compensation to victims. Churchill's views on race supremacy place him at odds with our position of tolerance of diversity and can be summarised by his 1937 statement: 'I do not admit that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.' In a move supported by several Green parties, therefore, I petitioned the Bank of England to remove Churchill from the £5 note and await their response. The petition can be viewed and signed at: tinyurl.com/jubu9ny