| Winston Churchill
London, Nov. 25: Winston Churchill won the BBC Great Britons poll last night after a late surge of voting in his favour.
The war leader secured some 410,000 telephone and internet votes, beating the Victorian engineer Ismabard Kingdom Brunel with 350,000, and Diana, Princess of Wales, with 211,000.
On Saturday, Churchill was only 15,000 votes ahead before Mo Mowlam, the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, championed him as the Greatest Briton in the last of 10 BBC2 programmes.
The result may dampen criticism of the competition, in which well-known figures were asked to promote their hero or heroine.
Brunel’s surprisingly strong showing was attributed by some to a campaign by students at the university in west London that bears his name.
Ladbrokes suspended betting on Brunel on Friday for the second time in a fortnight after a flurry of bets. But Emma D’Almeida, of the BBC, denied that the poll, which attracted more than 1.2 million votes, could have been rigged by supporters of a particular candidate.
She said: “We have kept a good eye on the voting and can say that there has been no cheating. Brunel students have been very organised and engineers generally have been organised. But running an enthusiastic campaign is not the same as vote-rigging.”
Churchill’s victory will probably be applauded by most Britons, although not in Germany, where he has recently been branded a war criminal.