Statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in straitjacket (photo: Eastern Daily Press)
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, recently voted the “Greatest Briton” ever, is being remembered this month in England with a statue of him in a straitjacket.
“It’s not only insulting, it’s pathetic,” Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames, a member of Parliament, told the Sun newspaper. “It is grossly offensive to Sir Winston and his millions of admirers.”
The statue of a straitjacketed Churchill in the town of Norwich is the product of Rethink, a mental-health charity looking to draw attention to the stigma surrounding those suffering from mental disorders.
Churchill was selected for the exhibit since he dealt with symptoms of manic depression during his life, was able to become prime minister, led the country through World War II, and was voted top Brit in a national poll.
“We chose the former prime minister to show that mental illness should not be a barrier to leadership, historic significance and popularity,” Rethink’s chief executive, Cliff Prior, told the Eastern Daily Press. “If the general public’s negative views on mental health held sway, Winston Churchill would never have been an MP, let alone prime minister.”
Another Rethink spokesman, Paul Corry, told the BBC the statue was not meant to be offensive.
“The message we want to portray is that it is possible to recover from mental illness and overcome it and be successful, because Churchill is an example of someone who was able to do that,” he said. “We are not intending to undermine Churchill or denigrate the efforts of anyone involved in the Second World War in any way whatsoever.”
Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, said while he could understand the reasons for putting up the statue, he disagreed with the portrayal of Churchill.
“It does highlight the fact that even the most famous individuals, the most iconic, are human, do suffer from human frailties … and I think it is quite right that that does not diminish him, it heightens his achievements,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
“What I would question is whether his depression was ever really a straitjacket for him,” he added.
Soames commented on Rethink’s effort, telling the Sun, “This is probably a good cause in search of publicity and they have let some idiot ruin their case.”
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